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Understanding Illinois’ Dog Bite Law

aggressive-dog-300x200Many of us love our furry friends and would never expect a dog to hurt us. Unfortunately, however, dog attacks do happen, and the resulting injuries can be serious. So, who is liable when a dog bites someone? In many states, owners are only responsible if they have a reason to believe that their dog might hurt someone, for example, if their dog has bitten someone before. In Illinois, however, dog owners are liable if their dog hurts someone, regardless of whether the owner had any forewarning that their dog might be dangerous.

What Does Illinois Law Say About Liability in a Dog Attack?

 When it comes to dog bites, Illinois is a strict liability state, which means that a dog bite victim does not need to prove that the dog owner acted negligently. Under 510 ILCS 5/16, “If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages.” A dog owner does not need to believe that their dog might be aggressive. If their dog bites someone, even if it is the first time this has happened, they are liable. This would not apply if the victim provoked the dog or was on the dog owner’s property illegally.

Who Is Considered a “Dog Owner” Under Illinois Law?

Under the Illinois statute, a dog owner is defined as: “any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian, or who knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by him or her.” That means that you don’t have to be the owner of the dog to be held responsible. For instance, if your parents are babysitting your dog and your dog ends up hurting someone, your parents can be held responsible for any injuries that occur.

What Can Dog Owners Be Held Responsible For?

 Dog owners can be held liable for: physical damages and emotional distress. Physical damages can include things like medical bills, lost wages, disability, and disfigurement. Emotional distress claims can also be brought along with physical damage claims after a dog attack. Serious psychological and emotional distress can result from dog bite injuries—especially if the victim is a child– and these victims deserve compensation.

Homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies will typically cover dog bite legal expenses up to the policy limits. However, some insurance companies are now trying to limit their liability, asking homeowners to sign a dog bite waiver for their dog or refusing to insure homeowners who own certain “bully” breeds.

What Are Common Dog Bite Injuries?

 Injuries from dog bites can drastically range in severity, but permanent disability and disfigurement are not uncommon. Below is a list of the most common dog bite injuries:

  • Broken bones
  • Bruising
  • Death
  • Emotional and psychological trauma
  • Lacerations
  • Loss of limb
  • Neck injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Puncture wounds
  • Rabies
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries

As you can see, some of these injuries are much more serious than others. To learn more about dog bites, visit our dog bite lawyers page here.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations in Illinois for personal injury claims is 2 years, and this includes dog bites. If you’ve been injured by a dog, time is of the essence. We recommend that you speak to an experienced dog bite attorney as soon as possible.

What to Do if You’ve Been Injured by a Dog

 If you or someone you love has been injured in a dog attack, you should contact the experienced dog bite attorneys at The Collins Law Firm as soon as possible. Our experienced team of Naperville personal injury lawyers will fight to get the maximum compensation available to you and will be by your side every step of the way. Dog bites can cause serious physical and mental injuries, and you deserve justice. Fill out our contact form or call us at (630) 527-1595 for a free consultation.


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