Illinois is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites and other animal attacks. A dog bite victim does not need to prove that the dog owner was negligent; the victim need only prove: (1) that he or she was harmed by the animal; and (2) that the animal was not provoked. The owner of the animal can be held responsible for all damages resulting from the attack, including medical expenses, disfigurement, loss of a normal life, and even emotional injuries.
Dog attack, negligence. Kane County, Illinois. Settlement for $285,000 was reached on behalf of a victim of a dog attack by attorney John J. Malm. The claim was settled with property owner’s insurance carrier after two pit bulls, which had been kept on the property, attacked a woman causing her to a fall down a set of stairs. In addition to suffering numerous bite injuries, the victim suffered a head injury and two ruptured cervical vertebrae; she underwent fusion surgery.
The Animal Control Act provides that "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 to such person for the full amount of injury proximately caused thereby." The Act provides that persons injured due to an attack, or even an attempt to attack, may seek redress against the animal's owner. This means that if a dog jumps on you and causes you to fall over and hit your head, you could seek medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages or lost income, and other damages arising from the fall-down caused by the attack.
The Act eliminates the requirement that the owner have prior knowledge of the animal’s vicious or dangerous propensity. Steinberg v. Petta, 114 Ill.2d 496 (1986). The Act encourages strict control over animals by imposing liability on their owners for injuries (Partipilo v. DiMaria, 211 Ill.App.3d 813 (1991) and eliminates the “one bite rule,” which used to require plaintiffs to prove that the dog owner previously knew that their dog had a propensity to injure people. Docherty v. Saddler, 293 Ill.App.3d 892 (1997).
Some of Our Firm's Current Cases Involving Dog Bites:
Plainfield Boy Bitten by Pit Bull While Riding His Bike
A Plainfield family has retained personal injury lawyer, John Malm, to represent them after their son, age 7, was recently attacked by a pit bull near his home. The boy was suddenly attacked in front of a neighbor’s house when the animal charged toward the sidewalk. Incredibly, the dog’s chain was long enough to allow it to reach the sidewalk. The boy suffered multiple laceration wounds requiring emergency medical attention. A claim against the dog’s owner is pending, and the Will County Animal Control Department has found the animal to be dangerous.
Pitbull Attack in Naperville Results in Numerous Injuries to Naperville Boy
A Naperville family has retained personal injury lawyer, John Malm, to represent them after their son, age 13, was attacked by a pit bull at a friend’s home. The boy was suddenly attacked when the animal was let through a back door into the yard where the boy was playing. The boy suffered multiple, severe laceration, and puncture wounds requiring surgical intervention. A claim against the dog’s owners is pending, and the Will County Animal Control Department is investigating the attack.
Plainfield Girl Attacked by Dog at Friend’s Home
Dog Bite lawyer John Malm is pursuing a claim against the owner of a home in Plainfield where a teenage girl was recently attached by a German Sheppard that was being kept there. The girl suffered laceration injuries to her face, requiring stiches and dermatologic laser treatment to reduce scarring. The animal is believed to have bitten at least one other child at the home before the incident.
Child Injured in Pitbull Attack in DuPage County
DuPage County dog bite lawyer, John Malm, has been retained by a Lisle, Illinois family whose son, then 10 years old, was attacked by a friend’s pit bull. The young boy was viciously attacked during a play date at a friend’s home. The boys had been playing the back yard when the animal suddenly chased the boy and attacked him without provocation. The animal then dragged the boy by his head, biting him. The boy suffered multiple severe bite and laceration injuries as a result of the attack. An investigation into the attack was performed by DuPage County Animal Control. The lawsuit against the owners of the pit bull is pending in the 18th Judicial Circuit Court in DuPage County, Illinois.
Naperville Man Attacked by Mastiff/American Staffordshire (“Pit Bull”)
A Naperville man was recently bitten when he tried to save his own dog from an attack by a mastiff/American Staffordshire mixed breed dog that wandered onto his property. John Malm is representing the man in a claim against the owner of the dog. A settlement in lieu of a lawsuit is being pursued with the insurance carrier for the owner of the vicious animal.
Woman Bitten by Dog on Jogging Path in Kane County
A St. Charles, Illinois woman has retained Naperville personal injury attorney, John Malm, to file a lawsuit against the owners of a dog who attacked her on a jogging path near her home in Kane County, Illinois. The attack occurred near the home of the dog owner, who also witnessed the attack. The woman suffered multiple dog bite injuries as a result of the attack. Owners of the dangerous animal have stated that the dog may been acting in a “protective” manner. The lawsuit filed on behalf of the injured woman is pending in the 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Kane County, Illinois.
Batavia Girl Bitten by Dog During Visit to Naperville Home
Naperville dog bite attorney, John Malm, has been retained by the family of a young girl to pursue a claim for damages arising out of a dog bite that occurred in the back yard of a Naperville home. The Kane County child and her family were visiting with friends at the time she was bitten. The young girl suffered bite injuries to her face, requiring surgical attention to address her wounds.
Dog Bites Occur Most Often at Home
Despite popular fiction about stray dogs attacking joggers, the reality is that most dog attacks occur at home. In fact, the majority of bite victims are friends or members of the dog owner's family. At least 60% of reported dog bites occur at home, and approximately 75% of bite victims are close friends or family members. Only a very small percentage of reported incidents of animal attacks involve unidentified or stray animals.
Given the likelihood that personal relationships will exist between a dog owner and a dog bite victim, my clients understandably may feel awkward pursuing a claim against a family member or friend. I encourage my clients to think carefully about their situation and consider what their injuries could mean over time, especially when a child is injured. Children are most often the victims of a sudden dog bite or animal attack, and parents should carefully consider their child's needs in seeking customary legal and monetary redress for injuries that may have life-long consequences. Laceration injuries caused by dog bites are painful and difficult to treat, often resulting in infection. Even the most capable surgeon or experienced emergency room physician will agree that it is nearly impossible to close and suture a patient's wounds without leaving a scar. Raised or hyper-pigmented scarring often occurs. Dermabrasion and revisional scar surgery is available as an alternative treatment, but many patients discover that disfiguring scarring is, nonetheless, permanent.
Identifying Liability Insurance Coverage is Key
After seeking prompt emergency medical attention, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney about your claim. A primary legal consideration will be the availability of liability insurance coverage. Because most dog bites occur in the home, a homeowner's insurance policy may afford liability coverage to the pet owner in the event of a claim or lawsuit following an attack. Such coverage is similar to that of an automobile liability insurance policy that provides coverage in the event of a collision. Remember, your dog bite claim is a contested legal matter involving an insurance carrier. This is no less true simply because you know or are related to the animal's owner, however awkward you may feel about bringing a claim. There are important legal notice and claim notice requirements that should be addressed by an attorney now, to avoid an unnecessary contest over insurance coverage or evidence later.
A successful settlement or judgment for monetary damages in your dog bite case will likely be paid by the carrier's available liability insurance coverage, not directly by the friend or family member of the dog involved in the unfortunate incident. It is, therefore, important that an attorney representing a dog bite victim understand and respect the personal or family relationships that may exist between a dog owner and victim, and act professionally in bringing your claim. Your counsel must also be experienced in analyzing and litigating the potential liability insurance coverage issues that can arise.
Dog Bite Statistics:
- An estimate 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. Centers for Disease Control (2003).
- Nearly 800,000 dog bites require medical attention every year. Centers for Disease Control (2003).
- Approximately two-thirds of all dog bites occur on or near the victim’s property, or the property belonging to the dog owner.
- The insurance industry (homeowners insurance) pays more than $1,000,000,000 in dog bite claims each year.
- Approximately 58% of human deaths from animal attacks involve unrestrained dogs on the dog owner’s property. Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998, JAVMA, 217(6), 836-840.
- Nearly 71% of all dog bites occur to the extremities (arms, legs, hands, and feet). American Humane Society (2012).
- 70% of dog bites are suffered by children.
- The majority of all dog bites occur to people who are neither strangers to the dog, nor its owner. MSPCA.org (2012).
- 71% of all deaths are caused by pit bulls, an animal which accounts for less than 5% of the total U.S. dog population. http://www.dogsbite.org (January 4, 2012).
- Among all breeds, pit bulls consistently account for the majority of all attacks producing bodily harm, death, or maiming of victims. http://www.dogsbite.org (2011).
- Dog bit injuries occur most commonly to the arm and hand (45.3%), leg and foot (25.8%), and head and neck (22.8%).
- The majority of injuries to the head and neck are sustained by children under the age of 4 (64.9% of all such injuries occurring to children under the age of 4).
- Dog bite injuries are most often associated with puncture wounds (40.2%), laceration wounds (24.7%), contusion, abrasion, and hematoma injuries (6.0%), and with a small minority resulting in infection, fracture, and amputation.