Illinois Dog Bite Claims in the News
Last May, a Markham grandmother and her granddaughter were attacked by a dog while they were on a walk together. They both sustained numerous bites to their legs. Allegedly, the dog ran out from a neighbor’s yard and charged at the two without any provocation. Dog attacks are a serious matter that can cause serious injuries. With warmer weather approaching, more people and their dogs will be enjoying the outdoors but that also means greater risk of a possible dog attack. If you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog, it’s important to know your legal rights and whether you should pursue legal action. Below you’ll find some important information on what it means to file a dog bite claim and what that process might look like for you:
- Should I sue after a dog bite?
- Can I get compensation for a dog bite?
- Are dog owners liable for damage?
- How do you prove ownership of a dog?
- Should I get a lawyer for a dog bite?
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Should I sue after a dog bite?
If you are considering filing a claim after a dog bite or attack, you should first consider whether you meet the criteria for a successful claim. Illinois has a statute that specifically covers dog bites and pet-related injuries. This statute, commonly known as the “Illinois Dog Bite Statute,” states 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 the injury proximately caused thereby.” 510 ILCS 5/2.16 (West 2020).
This statute points out several important factors for establishing a successful dog bite claim:
- The dog must attack and cause injury;
- You must be lawfully on the premises where the dog attacked; and
- You must not have provoked the dog.
Can I get compensation for a dog bite?
If you have been attacked by a dog, the first step is to identify the owner or owners of the animal. Unfortunately, in many cases the “parent” or primary owner and caregiver of the dog will have limited or nonexistent insurance coverage which can make obtaining a recovery for your injuries challenging. For this reason, it is important to examine who is considered an “owner” under Illinois law. As we will see, the definition of “owner” is quite broad in Illinois and extends well beyond the “parent” or primary caregiver for the animal.
Are dog owners liable for damage?
The Illinois Dog Bite Act defines “owner” as “any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in their care, or acts as its custodian, or who knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by him or her.” 510 ILCS 5/2.16 (West 2020). Therefore, the Act defines “owner” broadly enough to encompass those who care for, have control over, or house a dog.
This broad definition of “owner” is essential because it means that many people may be legally liable for a dog’s behavior, even if that person is not the primary “parent” or caregiver. More importantly, this means that property owners and landlords who allow dangerous dogs to be housed on their land may be found to be the legal owners of the dog and can be justifiably pursued in your lawsuit. The benefit of including landlords and property owners in a dog bite lawsuit is that landlords and property owners are far more likely to have applicable insurance coverage than those renting or residing on their property.
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How do you prove ownership of a dog?
Several Illinois cases demonstrate how those with tangential or secondary relationships with an animal can be found to be a legal owner of the animal. For example, in Meyer v. Naperville Manor, the Court found that a person taking horseback riding lessons using a borrowed horse, who was injured when she was thrown from the horse, was an “owner” of the horse at the moment of the accident. 634 N.E.2d 411 (1994). In Docherty v. Sadler, the Court found that a minor who was taking care of his neighbor’s dog for five days was a legal owner of the dog during those five days. 293 Ill. App. 3d 892 (1997). Finally, in Hassel v. Wenglinski, the Court found that a paid dog walker who was injured by the dog she was walking could not sue because she herself was the “owner” of the dog at the time of the accident. 612 N.E.2d 64 (1993). What these cases demonstrate is that the person who bought and usually cared for the animal is not necessarily the only legal “owner” of the animal, and that those who have any substantial relationship to the animal should be evaluated as potential defendants. Furthermore, what these examples demonstrate is that a landlord can be found liable as the “owner” for a tenant’s dog when they exert control over the dog by feeding the dog, caring for the dog, or by establishing particular rules about the dog’s presence on their property.
Should I get a lawyer for a dog bite injury?
Having experienced legal counsel on your side can help you identify all potential owners of the dog that attacked you and guide you through the process of filing a claim and getting the compensation you deserve. After a dog bite incident, it is essential to identify all owners of the dog. Of course, the primary caregiver or “parent” of the dog should be immediately identified. However, it is also important to evaluate whether landlords, property owners, or other parties had any control over the animal because they could be considered legal owners of the animal under Illinois law, and should then be added as defendants. If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite incident or other animal attack, please contact the lawyers at The Kryder Law Group for a free consultation at (312) 598-0870.