Dog bites are a traumatizing event that can result in severe injuries. According to a study published in the Injury Epidemiology Journal, over 4.5 million people are bitten by canines in the United States each year. Of these, more than 855,000 incidents (about 1 in 5) required medical attention, and over 337,000 cases (approximately 7.5%) were severe enough to require a visit to the emergency room.
A 2020 study examining the demographics behind dog bite incidents across a four-year period revealed that stray dogs comprise less than 10% of all dog bite cases. In other words, 9 out of 10 dog bites are preventable incidents caused by owned animals.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries from a dog attack in Champaign or anywhere else in the state of Illinois, you may be eligible for compensation from the dog’s owner with a personal injury claim. Contact an experienced Champaign dog bite lawyer for a free consultation to discuss your claim and learn what steps to take to get compensation for your injuries.
Types of Injuries Caused By Dog Bites
Dog bite injuries are similar to those caused by other types of animal bites. The most common physical injuries include:
- Abrasions: Scraping and other types of non-penetrating damage that often result in scarring.
- Lacerations: Cuts and tears penetrating the skin, often causing bleeding.
- Puncture wounds: Damage caused by teeth piercing the skin deeply.
In rarer cases, an animal attack victim may sustain the following complications:
- Aggravated physical damage: Severe dog bites may result in significant scarring, crushing injuries like fractures and other bone damage, and avulsions such as skin or muscle tissue ripped away.
- Nerve damage: Occasionally, a dog bite may damage the nerves, potentially causing a loss of ability in the bitten body part. For example, nerve damage in a bitten hand can result in a loss of hand dexterity. The severity of the bite also often determines whether the damage is temporary or permanent.
- Infections: According to data compiled by dog bite wound experts, 15% to 20% of dog bites result in a microbial infection requiring antibiotic treatment. The most dangerous types include sepsis, staphylococcus, streptococcus, rabies, and tetanus.
Who is Liable in a Dog Bite Injury Case?
According to the Illinois Compiled Statutes (510 ILCS 5/16), the owner of any dog or other animal is responsible for any attacks or injuries caused to any person peaceably conducting himself or herself.
This statute asserts that Illinois is what is known as a strict liability state; the owner is liable for all injuries caused by their animal, regardless of whether they were aware of the animal’s behavior at the time or the dog’s behavioral history. The owner is also liable if the dog caused a non-bite-related injury, such as causing the victim to fall and break an arm.
How to Prove a Dog Bite Claim
Due to Illinois’s strict liability statute, proving the dog owner acted negligently is unnecessary. An injured individual only needs to prove three elements to build their case:
- The dog bit them or injured them
- They had a legal right to stand or walk through the area (e.g., they were not trespassing)
- They weren’t fighting or provoking the dog or its owner at the time of the incident, meeting the peaceable conduct condition
What is the One Bite Rule?
Many states have what is commonly referred to as a one bite statute, meaning that liability does not apply to the owner if their dog has no prior history of aggression or biting other individuals. However, the one bite rule does not apply in Illinois due to the strict liability statute.
How Long Do I Have to Sue for a Dog Bite?
If you or a loved one was bitten or attacked by another person’s dog, you may have a viable personal injury case. Under Illinois law, you generally have up to two years from the date of the incident (735 ILCS 5/13-202) to open a lawsuit against the dog’s owner.
However, it is crucial to contact a qualified dog bite injury attorney as soon as possible. Experienced personal injury lawyers know Illinois laws and regulations regarding dog bites and have the resources and expertise to collect evidence on your behalf, build a robust case, and obtain the compensation you deserve.
What to do Following a Dog Bite
If you or a loved one has been bitten or injured by another person’s dog, it is crucial to take immediate action and follow the proper steps to ensure the victim’s safety and ensure a smooth claims process. Here’s what you can do:
- Seek medical attention promptly. The most severe infections occur in bites that have been left untreated.
- Contact law enforcement to report the incident. After the incident, request a copy of the police report to include in your personal injury claim.
- Get the owner’s contact information. If possible, obtain the dog owner’s name, address, and phone number.
- Take images. Gather pictures or video footage of the dog that caused the injuries. The best-case scenario is footage of the incident as it happened.
- Document injuries. Take photos of the injuries as soon as possible.
- Locate witnesses. Obtain the contact information of as many parties that witnessed the incident as possible.
- Keep any evidence. Preserve articles of clothing, accessories, personal belongings, etc., damaged or broken during the incident, and take pictures of these items
- Contact a lawyer. Contact an experienced personal injury law firm specializing in dog bite cases.
- Don’t communicate directly with the dog owner. Never accept communication from the dog owner or their insurance company. Accepting compensation may waive your right to sue for additional damages.
What Damages Am I Entitled to in a Dog Bite Case?
In most cases, the dog owner’s home insurance or renter’s insurance pays your damages, so you shouldn’t hesitate to file a claim if you were bitten by a family member or neighbor’s dog. Our skilled dog bite lawyers can help you recover damages for the following losses:
- Medical expenses, including costs of surgical treatment
- Lost wages (if the injury has caused you to miss work or become unable to work)
- Long-term medical expenses
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
Contact Nessler & Associates Today to Start Your Case
Dog bites can cause significant damage and severe trauma. If you, a family member, or another loved one sustained dog bite injuries, taking action as quickly as possible is critical.
At Nessler & Associates, our team has decades of combined legal experience representing the residents of Champaign County and numerous other communities in Illinois, Texas, Colorado, and Florida. We will represent you in a court of law, hold the animal owner liable, and recover the damages you deserve. Contact us at (800) 727-8010 for a free consultation.