Illinois Dog Bite FAQ


If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of a dog bite or attack, there are several questions you may have about your dog bite claim. The knowledgeable dog bite attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Malm have answered some of the most common questions regarding dog bite and animal attack claims below. If you have additional questions about your dog bite claim, contact our office at (630) 527-4177 for a free consultation today.

What are the most common types of dogs to bite and attack?

Some of the most popular dog breeds are the most common types of dogs to bite and attack humans. The dog breeds most likely to bite and attack are:

  • Pit bulls
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • Rottweilers
  • American Bulldogs
  • Mastiffs
  • German Shepherds
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Great Danes
  • Schnauzers
  • Dachshunds
  • Chihuahuas

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What injuries can result from dog bites and animal attacks?

You should consult a physician if you have experienced the following injuries after being bitten or attacked by a dog:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Lacerations
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Bone Fractures
  • Broken bones
  • Infection

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What type of medical treatment will I need if I have been bitten or attacked by a dog?

Treatment of dog bites and dog attacks varies depending on the severity of the bite and/or attack. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Stitches
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Surgical intervention
  • Plastic Surgery

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What if my injuries did not heal well and I need future medical treatment?

Lacerations, puncture wounds, and crush injuries to soft tissue that result from dog bites and attacks are painful and can be difficult to treat due to the nature of the wounds. 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 raised or hyper-pigmented scar in the process. Often patients discover that a disfiguring scar from a dog bite will be permanent. Dermabrasion (a procedure to improve the look of facial skin left scarred by accidents) and revisional scar surgery (surgery to minimize the scar tissue and make it appear more consistent with surrounding skin tone and texture) may be considered as an alternative treatment. Before settling your case, our team of experienced Naperville dog bite lawyers at John J. Malm & Associates encourage clients to obtain an opinion from a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to know whether costly future medical treatment will be needed.

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How do dog attacks most often occur?

The truth is that most dog bites and animal attacks happen at home, with the majority of bite victims being friends or members of the dog owner's family. At least 60% of reported dog bites are reported to have occurred at home, and approximately 75% of bite victims are actually close friends or family members of the dog owner. Only a very small percentage of reported incidents of animal attacks involve unidentified or stray animals.

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How are dog bite/attack lawsuits handled?

In Illinois, a plaintiff may pursue multiple theories of liability against the dog owner in a dog bite or dog attack case. Dog bites cases may arise under strict liability or negligence.

  1. Strict Liability

    In Illinois, a dog bite victim may utilize strict liability as a cause of action against the dog owner under the Animal Control Act. Under the Animal Control Act, a dog owner is strictly liable to the dog bite/attack victim. Under the Animal Control Act, a plaintiff merely has to prove that 1) he or she was injured by the dog and 2) the dog was not provoked in any way.

  2. Negligence

    A dog bite victim may also utilize negligence as a cause of action against the dog owner. However, many courts restrict a negligent cause of action to impose a duty on the dog owner only if the dog owner fails to prevent the dog bite/attack. As a result, it is difficult to prove a breach of the duty on the theory that the dog owner failed to supervise and/or control the dog prior to the attack.

The Naperville dog bite lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Malm & Associates have successfully recovered settlements for our clients’ injuries using both theories. Contact us to learn more about how attorney John J. Malm and his team can help you obtain a financial settlement for your dog bite injury, getting you the compensation you deserve.

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Can I recover for a dog attack if the dog did not bite me?

Under Illinois law, you may recover compensation for a dog attack even if the dog did not bite you. The Animal Control act provides that persons injured due to a dog attack, or even an attempt to attack, may receive compensation for the dog’s owner. For example, you may recover compensation for your injuries when a dog jumps on you and causes you to fall over and hit your head.

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What steps should I take if I’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog?
  1. Seek medical attention in a hospital emergency room.
  2. Report the incident to the local animal control and the local police department.
  3. Keep records of the dog’s vaccinations, including Rabies vaccinations.
  4. Be careful not to speak to any insurance representative before consulting with legal counsel.

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What types of monetary “damages” can be recovered in dog bite and dog attack claims?

You should be aware of the types of damages that are legally compensable for your injuries, and what amount of damages a court or jury is likely to award. If you have suffered a dog bite or attack, you may be entitled to:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Value of lost time (wages) from work
  • Scars and painful disfigurement
  • Loss of a normal life, and
  • Pain and suffering (past, present and future)

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How can I find out of there is liability insurance to cover what happened to me?

Because most dog bites occur in the home, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance or renter’s policy should be placed on notice of the claim as soon as possible. Dog bite settlements are paid by insurance, so the primary legal consideration will first be the availability of liability insurance coverage. Such coverage benefits the dog owner in the event of a claim or lawsuit filed after an attack. Liability insurance for dog bite cases in Illinois is similar to that of an automobile liability insurance policy, which may provide coverage to a negligent driver in the event of a collision. Proper legal notices must first be issued, demanding that an insurance carrier open a claim and investigate the dog bite incident. Ordinarily, we can proceed to an eventual settlement without filing a lawsuit. In some cases, a lawsuit must be filed initially to determine wither a dog owner (or homeowner) is covered by liability insurance. Some insurance policies have exclusions, so it is best to carefully investigate the claim with a lawyer as soon as possible. Your counsel should be experienced in analyzing and resolving potential liability insurance coverage issues.

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If I do not wish to sue the dog owner, can I still get compensation for my injuries?

The personal injury lawyers at John J. Malm & Associates understand that close relationships often exist between a dog owner and a dog bite victim. Understandably, our clients may feel uneasy about pursuing a claim against a family member, neighbor or close friend. Clients explain that they simply do not want to “sue” a friend. We understand. Your dog bite claim, if handled correctly, can be settled confidentially with your neighbor’s insurance company, often without a lawsuit filed.

Our experienced dog bite attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve for the harm caused by a dog bite, without punishing the dog’s owner. We will take steps to ensure that a successful settlement in your dog bite case can be paid by the available liability insurance coverage (for example, from a homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s policy, and not directly by the friend or family member whose dog was involved in the unfortunate incident). The dog bite attorneys at John J. Malm & Associates understand and respect the personal or family relationships that may exist between a dog owner and victim, and we will act professionally in bringing and settling your claim.

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My child was injured as a result of a dog bite or attack. What can I do to help her?

Children are most often the victims of a sudden dog bites. Parents must consider their child's needs when seeking legal and monetary redress for injuries that could have life-long consequences. Be careful and do not make quick decisions about settlement that could reduce the value of your child’s claim. Do not accept a settlement for medical bills alone, when damages for past and future pain and suffering and disfigurement should be compensated. We encourage our clients to carefully consider the prospect of painful or disfiguring injuries in the months and years to come, especially when a child has been injured in an animal attack. You should be aware that Illinois law requires a parent seeking damages for a child to legally demonstrate that any settlement being considered is “fair and reasonable”-- before agreeing to settle. Court approval will be required in most cases involving minors, even if no lawsuit was ever filed. A physician’s report may be needed, even after treatment is completed. You should consult with the knowledgeable Naperville dog bite lawyers at John J. Malm & Associates, who can help you manage the legal issues in your child’s claim and help you get your son or daughter the highest possible settlement.

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The insurance company has tried to call me. Should I speak with them?

No. You should not speak to insurance adjusters or investigators who will call you. The insurance company’s sole job is to defeat or minimize your claim. Remember, your dog bite claim is a contested legal matter, even if it may be settled without filing a lawsuit, and even if you are familiar with the owner of the dog. Insurance adjustors and defense lawyers are not permitted to speak to you if you are represented by your own legal counsel. You should avoid volunteering any information to the insurance company 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 requirements that should be addressed soon in order to avoid an unnecessary contest over insurance coverage later. Beware of the insurance carrier, and speak to a lawyer.

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Contact Attorney John J. Malm

After seeking prompt emergency medical attention, you should report any dog bite incident or attack to local animal control. Then, consult with the Naperville dog bite lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Malm & Associates, an experienced personal injury law firm representing individuals and families who have suffered an injury or loss due to an accident. You may be entitled to a substantial settlement if you have been injured. Call 630-527-4177, or 312-422-6855, and speak with Attorney John J. Malm and his team today.

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