Calling every dog “man’s best friend” can be a dangerous oversimplification. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five people need medical treatment for a dog bite. When the bite wound is serious and requires extensive treatment, the medical bills can pile up quickly.
If a dog bite seriously injured you or a loved one, you may be entitled to compensation. Learn whether you can claim compensation for a dog bite injury in Illinois and how Nessler & Associates can help you settle your claim.
Who is Liable for Dog Bites in Illinois?
Under the Illinois Animal Control Act, if a person or animal is injured by a dog, the dog’s owner is liable for the injury. The state’s strict liability clause means that dogs don’t get a free bite: even if the dog owner was unaware that their dog would bite or could act aggressively, they are still responsible for compensating you for your damages.
There are a few exceptions in which the dog’s owner will not be held liable. The owner is not responsible for a dog bite if the person or animal bitten:
- Was trespassing on the owner’s property
- Was committing a crime
- Was abusing the dog or its puppies
- Provoked the dog into attacking
- Was threatening the dog, its owner, or its property
- Caused the dog some form of pain or injury
Dogs that bite may be labeled dangerous dogs or vicious dogs. Illinois law requires that owners of dangerous or vicious dogs take appropriate precautions to protect other people and pets from their dogs.
Under Illinois’ comparative negligence statute, the victim of an injury can hold partial liability for their injury. While you will still be able to recover damages if you are considered less than 51% at fault, being declared partially at fault can reduce your settlement.
For example, you walked up behind the dog before it bit you. The dog’s owner could argue that you are partly liable for being bitten because you walked up behind the dog and startled it. If the judge agrees and declares you 10% responsible for the bite, your settlement will be reduced by 10%.
It can be difficult to argue who was liable without strong knowledge of the law. A dog bite injury lawyer at Nessler & Associates can help you argue that you were not at fault in a dog bite case.
Who Covers Compensation for a Dog Bite Injury?
While Illinois law holds a dog owner liable if their dog bites someone, the owner typically doesn’t compensate dog bite victims themselves. You’re more likely to be compensated by their renters’ or homeowners’ insurance policy. The insurance company will cover your expenses related to the dog bite, regardless of where the policyholder’s dog was located at the time.
However, not every insurance policy covers dog bite claims because certain breeds, like pit bulls, are considered dangerous. Additionally, if the dog’s owner doesn’t have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, they will be responsible for compensating your damages.
There are also a few situations where another form of insurance may compensate you. For example, if your dog bites a member of your household, you would be compensated by health insurance, not homeowner’s insurance. Similarly, if a dog bites you during work, you file a workers’ compensation claim instead.
What Damages Can I Recover After a Dog Bite?
Depending on how badly you were bitten and the financial damages you suffered, you may be able to recover a variety of damages from the dog’s owner. A law firm with experience handling dog bite cases can review your case and determine what damages you are owed.
After being bitten by a dog, you may develop an infection at the bite site or need stitches to close the wound. Depending on the circumstances and the severity of your wound, you may also require a tetanus or rabies vaccination, physical therapy, or surgical treatment. You may be able to recover the cost of your medical bills from the dog’s owner.
If the dog bite has kept you from working at full capacity, you may be able to sue the dog’s owner for the wages you were or are unable to earn. For example, if you are a tattoo artist and your hand is bitten by a dog, you could recover wages from the dog’s owner since your hand injury prevented you from working.
Pain and Suffering
Dog bites can cause severe physical injury and lasting pain. Additionally, they can also leave significant emotional scars. For example, a dog bite victim can develop anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, become fearful of dogs, and require intensive therapy to manage their condition. Seeking damages for pain and suffering can help you recoup the cost of other expenses, like therapy.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
Most people document the scene and seek medical treatment after a car accident, but fewer people would do the same after suffering a dog bite. However, getting treatment and following the appropriate steps can significantly affect the validity of your claim.
Seek Medical Treatment
It’s crucial to seek medical treatment as soon as a dog bites you. Dog bites can severely damage your muscles and lead to infection, and negligent dog owners may not keep their animals up-to-date on their rabies vaccines. Getting medical treatment protects you from dangerous diseases and ensures you recover as quickly as possible.
Quickly seeking medical attention will also benefit you if you pursue a dog bite lawsuit. The longer you wait to receive treatment; the more likely the dog owner’s lawyer will argue that your injuries must not have been that serious, which could cost you your claim.
Contact Animal Control
Contact your county’s animal control division to alert them to the bite. Animal control officers will monitor the dog for up to ten days to watch for signs of rabies, even if the dog has been vaccinated. They can also capture the dog if the dog is unmonitored and running loose.
Document Your Injuries
While you will receive some documentation of your injuries by getting medical treatment, medical bills don’t tell the full story. Take pictures and videos of the injuries caused by the bite and ask your doctor to supply a note to your workplace. Back up all documentation on your computer and a cloud storage service, so they don’t get lost.
Talk to Witnesses
It’s common for negligent dog owners to lie and claim that you provoked their dog into biting, and without witnesses or security footage, you may be unable to refute them. Talk to anyone who witnessed the bite or attack and ask if they would be willing to provide a witness statement. If they agree, exchange contact information so that you or your attorney can get in touch with them later.
You must prove that you suffered damages from the dog bite to gain compensation. Additionally, gathering evidence makes it more difficult for the dog’s owner to lie and say you provoked their dog. Evidence that you can provide to your lawyer includes:
- Pictures or security footage of the scene of the bite
- Medical records of your injuries
- Records of financial damage
- Testimony of emotional damage
- Evidence that the dog is dangerous, neglected or allowed to run loose
It can be difficult to obtain some forms of evidence. For example, some cities and counties (like the City of Bloomington) keep records of dangerous or vicious dogs, which may not be publicly accessible. Similarly, you may not be able to get security footage from cameras off your property. A skilled personal injury attorney can get copies of the evidence and use them to build a strong case.
Contact Nessler & Associates to Build a Strong Case
If you or a loved one have suffered a dog bite injury in Illinois, Nessler & Associates is ready to help. We have plenty of experience with Illinois law and will fight to help you earn the compensation you deserve.
Since our law firm works on contingency, you won’t owe us any payment until we settle or win your claim. When you have the support of Nessler & Associates, you can rest assured that our attorneys will build a strong claim and help you maximize your settlement.