Being bitten by a dog is a traumatizing and emotional experience. You are probably wondering what to do after a dog bites you in Illinois. Dog bites can cause physical and mental marks that require expensive medical treatment to resolve.
However, the medical treatment may be much more extensive than a simple set of stitches. Bacteria from inside a dog’s mouth can transmit zoonotic infections causing serious illness or death; dogs are the primary source of rabies transmission in humans. This can delay the healing process and add to the overall medical expenses of an attack.
What should I do if I’m bitten by a dangerous dog?
Call 911 & Report the Incident
The first thing you should do following a dog bite is call 911. It is important that you contact the police to assist you in exchanging information with the dog owner, as well as generating an incident report. This will allow the authorities to contact Animal Control and report the bites.
Once reported, the owner is required to have the dog evaluated by a veterinarian within 24 hours of the incident, who will confirm the dog’s health and whether they have been inoculated against rabies.
Obtain Insurance Information
While the police are on scene, it is also important to obtain any insurance information from the dog owner. Dog bite claims are typically processed through homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, and so it is important to obtain this insurance information with the assistance of the police. Many people may be reluctant to share their insurance information without an officer present, but you are entitled to this information as an injured claimant.
Seek Medical Attention for Dog Bites
Once a report has been generated and information has been exchanged, your next step should be caring for your wounds and going to a hospital for evaluation. There is a risk of infection even if the wound appears superficial. Prevent infection by washing with soap and water and applying a sterile bandage. A dog’s mouth is filled with bacteria and if the skin is punctured or penetrated, you run the risk of infection.
Seeking care for your wounds will also document your injuries with a medical professional. This document trail is essential when presenting a dog bite claim or lawsuit. Be as detailed as possible when being evaluated by a doctor – if you are missing time from work as a result of being bitten, mention this to your doctor. If you are experiencing trauma or emotional distress as a result of being bitten, ask about counseling options.
You should not feel embarrassed or reluctant to pursue medical treatment if you need it. Your doctor will provide medical advice along with diagnosis or treatment as needed as soon as possible. In fact, delaying or hesitating to seek medical treatment may be used against you as evidence that you were not seriously injured.
Obtain the Report of the Bite Wound
In addition to medical documentation, you should also obtain a copy of the dog bite report generated with your nearest Animal Control Agency. This report will be generated by the responding police officers, or by your treating physician, depending on your county.
To obtain a copy of this report, you will have to submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act, commonly known as a FOIA request. The county where the incident occurred will maintain the dog bite record.
You can request these records through the links to animal control services in Chicago and other Illinois counties below:
If your County is not listed above, search for local animal control or sheriff’s department. Sometimes the City, Village or town you live in may also maintain the incident report.
Should you sue after sustaining dog bite injuries?
Under the law, you are entitled to certain types of damages beyond the base medical expenses. These damages can come in the form of lost wages as a result of seeking treatment, the intangible pain and suffering that is associated with dog attacks, and most importantly, disfigurement and scarring of tissue.
Disfigurement is what sets dog bite cases apart. Dog bites can cause scarring of tissue that is many times worse than any other recoverable item in a lawsuit. Severe bites by larger dogs can tear flesh and leave extensive scarring. Many wounds caused by dogs are difficult for surgeons to close because bite wounds can leave irregular patterns.
A straight laceration left by a sharp object can be effectively stitched and closed by a surgeon. In contrast, bite wounds can be broad with irregular edges and leave visible scarring. Pain and suffering from dog bites can be temporary, but sometimes pain can linger or even be permanent. Lost wages can be valued concretely and reimbursed. Disfigurement is often lifelong and the damage can often be irreversible.
In these situations, bite wounds are permanently life changing, and it is imperative that you find an experienced attorney who can effectively present these losses. A knowledgeable lawyer, like those at The Kryder Law Group, understands that a dog bite is much more than just a simple hospital bill.
Who is at greater risk of being a victim of a dog bite?
The statistics suggest that children are at a greater risk of being involved in a serious animal attack incident. Many of the bite wound cases handled by The Kryder Law Group have involved minor children. Adults are generally more aware of the dangers an unfamiliar dog presents. Adults generally approach dogs with more caution.
Conversely, many children are drawn to dogs and may approach dogs without apprehension. Some dogs that are normally docile, but unaccustomed to children, may react aggressively. Many children may also lack the ability to defend themselves as adults may have. All of these factors contribute to a higher rate of dog bites among children and higher rate of severe dog bites among children.
Should I file a dog bite insurance claim?
After you have sought medical attention, your lawyer can help you with an insurance claim. A skilled personal injury lawyer who has experience handling dog bite claims can help you document your claim to ensure maximum compensation.
File within the Reporting Window
Many insurance policies will have reporting windows where they must be notified of a dog attack within a certain amount of time after the incident. This is why it is important to exchange insurance information at the scene of the bite, so that you have this information readily available. It is also why you need to consider legal action immediately after an attack.
Have Your Documentation Ready
Understandably, it may not be your first concern, but in instances where serious injury has occurred it is something you must consider. If you are the victim of a dog bite, you have the legal right to bring a claim in Illinois.
You have the right to seek compensation and you should consider all options available to you. Additionally, insurance claims can be lengthy, and so it is in your best interest to report the claim as soon as possible. It is also likely in your best interest to consult with a lawyer right away. At minimum, you will need the following information when filing the claim:
The name and address of the dog owner
The name and breed of the dog who bit you
The time and location of the incident
The police report number or report number documenting the attack
Any photographs of your injuries
Any medical information you have received
An Attorney Can Assist You
Once this information is provided, this will start of the investigative period where the insurance carrier will assess the incident, determine if coverage exists, and determine who is at fault. An attorney can assist you with the negotiations to ensure that you maximize your recovery with minimal investment.
There are subtle nuances to this negotiation process that a skilled Illinois dog bite attorney will recognize – even if an insurance company accepts liability, there is a specific order in which information needs to be received in order to maximize your claim. Having an attorney who knows the process of negotiating with an insurance company is a delicate art that comes with experience.
If the Insurance Company Denies Your Claim
If the insurance company denies your bite wound claim, your only option becomes filing a lawsuit against the dog owner. There are a multitude of reasons why an insurance company will deny a claim:
The dog owner may not be current on their insurance payments.
It may be a newly adopted dog that was not listed on the insurance policy.
The dog owner may have recently moved and forgot to notify their insurance.
The insurance may even determine that you provoked the dog.
Even worse, the insurance may accept that they are liable, but then refuse to reimburse you for the fair value of your damages. You may feel like you’re trapped into accepting an unjust offer or giving up on pursuing your case, but it is important to remember that this is just the beginning of the lawsuit.
It is imperative that you hire an attorney who can assist you in moving your case forward. The Kryder Law Group handles cases of this nature on a contingency fee basis meaning there are no up front fees or costs to you. It also means you only pay the attorney when there is a recovery on the case.
Do I need to file a dog bite lawsuit?
If you reach an impasse with the insurance carrier, you will need to file a lawsuit against the dog owner.
Dog Bites Lawsuit Stages
A lawsuit operates in 3 essential stages:
Once a lawsuit is filed, you must serve the dog owner with your legal papers naming a lawsuit against them, and allow them a period of time to retain their own attorney to defend the action.
The defendant must then file an answer to the allegations in your complaint. The defendant may be asked to admit or deny ownership of the dog and has the opportunity to assert any legal defenses such as provocation.
This is a deceptively simple stage and oftentimes, the pleadings stage can take up to 6 months to complete. Service of process (where the Sheriff serves a copy of your lawsuit on the Defendant) may take months by itself. This may be due to the dog owner moving, having outdated contact information, residing in two states at the same time, or if they were simply visiting the state when the incident occurred.
Once Service is effectuated and the Defendant has answered the allegations of the lawsuit, a lawsuit moves into the Discovery phase, where information and evidence is exchanged between both parties. The more evidence you have to support your case, the better, which is why it is important to be so thorough in the initial stages of a dog bite when you are receiving treatment from a doctor.
Photographs of your injuries, off-work documentation from your doctors, photos of any scarring, and your actual medical records are all relevant in supporting and proving your case. All of this information needs to be provided to the dog owner’s attorney, who will similarly produce any documents they have in their possession, such as inoculation records for the dog, the veterinarian’s assessment following the bite, ownership records, or insurance policies.
Finally, once information is exchanged and both sides have had a chance to review everything, your attorney will present your case to a panel of judges who will assess the facts, and determine a monetary value that you are entitled to.
Again, this is why it is so important to have an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney who knows dog bite law on your side. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney who handles bite cases can articulate your specific expenses and maximize your recovery. This may seem simple, but a dog attack claim can be much more complicated and nuanced.
How much can I recover from a dog bite injury case?
The average cost of a dog bite case in Illinois is estimated at $33,000, with State Farm paying out nearly $14 million in damages in 2016. Across the country, the average dog bite claim is estimated to be worth approximately $37,214. It is important to emphasize these are averages which include insignificant claims to severe claims. The specifics of your case will determine its value.
Factors that Determine Your Recovery for Dog Bites
There are several key factors which will weigh on how much you can recover from a dog attack. The first, and perhaps most obviously, is the actual injury. The severity of the injury and the overall cost of medical expenses to treat the injury form an important baseline for your claim. This is not to say that small injuries cannot recover.
For example, a small bite causing scarring on the face may recover much more than a severe leg laceration requiring stitches. Another factor, as previously mentioned, is the existence of insurance. Some insurance companies may be sympathetic to dog bites claimants and have an interest in resolving them without issue; others may put up a significant fight and require formal arbitration or litigation. Some insurance companies will deny a claim even if they think they are liable, just to frustrate the process for the claimant. Every insurance company has a bit of a personality that can weigh on the outcome of a dog bite lawsuit. It is important to be mindful of how an insurance will likely respond to a claim when assessing recovery.
A host of other factors can affect the recovery depending on the unique circumstances of the plaintiff and defendant. A victim working in the entertainment industry may have a strong claim for lost future earnings if they sustained a facial scar; a minor child will likely have psychological trauma stemming from the attack; an athlete may be forced to sit out a season while their tissue heals and incur significant wage loss.
Every case is different and will have its own contours and expenses unique to the injured party. It is important that you identify your own expenses and intangible losses in order to receive fair compensation. Because each case is unique it is important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer who has handled pet bite cases evaluate your claim. Having an experienced lawyer handling your claim can ensure your case is presented properly and all damages are presented.
How can The Kryder Law Group and its Illinois Dog Bite lawyers can help with your injury claim?
The days and weeks after a dog or other animal attack can be chaotic. You may be in the hospital, out of work and have medical bills piling up. You may find that so much has changed in a short time that you do not know where to start first. Having the proper guidance is very important.
Focus on Healing while We Focus on Your Case
Obviously, you know that restoring your health and focusing on needed medical treatment should be your number one concern. But if you have been injured from a dog attack you also need to make financial compensation a priority. If you are hurt because of someone’s negligence, Illinois law entitles you to recover your economic damages and money for pain and suffering.
Having experienced Bloomington personal injury lawyers who are knowledgeable about Illinois dog bite laws and can advocate on your behalf is essential. Our team at The Kryder Law Group is here to assist you with your case with a no-cost consultation today.