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Dogs are part of our families. We love dogs and care for them like they are our children. But unlike children, dogs are animals and can cause serious injuries to others. Sometimes, personal injuries are caused out of anger, temper, or aggression. Other times, the injuries people sustain by dogs are totally accidental.

If you are injured by a dog in Illinois, an Illinois dog bite lawyer in Schaumburg can do many things including explaining your rights, explaining the law so you can have a better understanding of it, and recovering money for damages related to your injuries.

The following is a short explanation of what the law says as well as the rights that victims have when they are injured by dogs.

Damage By Dogs

Regardless of a dogs’ motivation or intentions, dogs can do a lot of damage to a child or adult. Dog bites can cause:

  • Skin and tissue damage, massive bleeding, and related infection to skin and tissue
  • Nerve damage
  • Scarring and deformity
  • Fractures to limbs
  • Damage to tissues
  • Septicemia
  • Crushing-type injuries

How Common Are Dog Bites?

There is a lot of debate as to why a dog bites. Some dogs are genetically prone to biting. Others may bite out of play, fear, being sick. Some dogs bite because of poor socialization or exposure to society at a young age.

Although dogs are man’s, and women’s, best friends, dog bites are still very common in Illinois and Nationally. Sometimes it’s an aggressive bite, and sometimes it’s a playful nip. Those teeth in your dog’s mouth can do severe and real damage to the human body.

The statistics bear out how dangerous dogs can be. There are between 4-5 million dog bites every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A study by the U.S. Postal Service ranked attacks on postal workers as a good indicator of dog bites in general. The study found that Chicago, Illinois had the fourth-highest number of attacks on postal workers.

Most of those dogs are not spayed or neutered, according to the ASPCA.

According to a CDC study, pit bulls are the dogs most responsible for dog bite deaths. Then, Rottweilers, Shepherds, and Huskies are also all high on the list for breeds that can inflict deadly bites.

Controlling a Dog

Like many states, Illinois requires that all dogs be leashed when out in public. However, the law goes beyond that. It also requires that dogs on private property, like a private home, be contained by a fence or wall that is at least six feet high.

The owner of a dog that escapes a leash or enclosure is liable for damage caused by the dog. This is true even when property damage results that is unrelated to any kind of personal injury.

Strict Liability

Often when someone’s dog bites another person, the owner’s first reaction is that the owner never knew the dog would bite. Or the owner may explain the dog has never bitten anybody else. The dog may even look sweet and harmless. However, in Illinois, none of this is a defense.

That’s because unlike in some states, and popular myths, Illinois dog bite laws have no “one free bite rule.”

This “one free bite rule” is a rule that allows a dog owner to escape liability if this is the first time the owner’s dog bit someone. This doesn’t apply in Illinois. You do not need to prove that the victim had any prior knowledge, or that the owner should have known, that the dog was dangerous, or that the dog could bite.

It doesn’t matter what the owner of the dog did or didn’t do, or what the owner was doing at the time of the bite. The owner is automatically liable for injuries caused by his or her dog. This is called “strict liability,” and it makes a dog bite case easier to prove for an injured victim.

It also doesn’t matter what kind of dog, the dog’s size, or what the dog’s breed is.

Criminal Liability

Although in civil court and in a personal injury case, there is no need to prove someone knew in advance that their dog was dangerous, that knowledge does matter in criminal court. Illinois dig bite laws say that someone who knows their dog is dangerous and still allows the dog to bite someone can be convicted of a felony.

However, someone does not have to have broken any criminal laws, to be liable to pay you damages for a dog bite in civil court.

More Than Bites

We all know that dogs can injure people in ways other than their mouths and teeth. Sometimes, dogs are just being playful such as when they jump on someone and knock them over. Illinois dog bite law holds owners responsible for all injuries caused by a dog, not just bites.

That means that the owner is liable, and may owe you money damages for your injuries, so long as the dog did something that caused your injury. The dog may not have even touched you. Imagine a situation where a dog chases you, even playfully, but as you run away you slip and fall. You could still sue and seek compensation for your injuries under Illinois dog bite law if the dog’s chasing caused you to run and fall.

Even if the dog is on a leash, the owner is still liable. Just like with actual bites, what the owner knew in advance, or what the owner was doing at the time the dog caused injury, doesn’t matter. An Illinois dog bite lawyer in Schaumburg can help you determine if your injury was caused by a dog.

Who is the Owner?

When someone gets sued for allowing their dog to bite or injure someone, a common defense, or attempted defense, is that the person sued doesn’t own the dog.

At the time of the bite, the dog may have been under the control of a friend, relative, or dog sitter. Maybe the dog is shared between spouses, significant others, or parents and adult children.

Under Illinois dog bite law, victims do not need to prove who was the actual, legal owner of the dog. That would be near impossible, given that dogs don’t have ownership titles the way that other property, like cars, often do.

So long as someone is watching a dog, handling a dog, or has the dog in the person’s possession at the time of the bite or attack, that person is liable. It is no defense that the person is not the actual legal owner of the dog.

Where there is both an owner, and someone different that was controlling or who possessed the dog at the time of the accident, both the owner and the other person controlling the dog, may be liable to you for your personal injuries.

The dog does have to have an “owner,” as defined by the law. In other words, the dog can’t be a stray dog. Although if you are bitten by a stray dog, you could have a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the property that may have allowed stray dogs to roam free.

Defenses to Dog Bite Cases

There are some defenses to a dog bite case under Illinois dog bite law. These are things you can expect the insurance company or the defendant to argue in your dog bite case.

The first common defense is that you did something that provoked the dog, or which caused the dog to bite or injure them. Sometimes this is obvious. There are things that we do that can antagonize, taunt, or rile up an otherwise non-dangerous animal.

Other times, this defense requires a bit of “dog psychology.” Your Illinois dog bite lawyer in Schaumburg may hire an expert witness to prove testimony, as to what exactly is provoking behavior and what isn’t.

Also involving a bit of dog psychology is the defense of protection. If a dog is acting to protect itself, its offspring, or another human, you cannot sue for injuries caused by a dog bite.

As in other types of personal injury cases, if you are a trespasser, even if you were not a trespasser, but were doing something illegal on someone else’s property, you cannot sue if a dog injures you.

Time Limits

You only have two years to file a lawsuit for any injury caused by a dog. You should act quickly, as often, your Illinois dog bite lawyer in Schaumburg attorney will need to do some research before simply filing your case. Also, you want to make sure that there is time to do that before a lawsuit is filed. An exception to the two-year rule is when the victim is a minor.

Compensation

Remember that if you are a dog bite victim, you can receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, or other financial losses you’ve suffered.

You can also recover from fear, anxiety, pain, suffering, or other mental or emotional trauma that was caused. These are all-natural reactions to being attacked by an animal. Illinois dog bite law, and in fact, Illinois personal injury law in general, allows victims to recover compensation for mental pain and trauma, including PTSD, where there is also some type of physical injury suffered by the victim.

Have you been bitten or injured in any way by a dog? We can help. Contact an Illinois dog bite lawyer in Schaumburg to help investigate your case and see if you are entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, and other damages.

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