Dog bites are considered one of the most traumatic events a person can experience. In addition to the emotional trauma and physical injuries you sustain, you may also find your life significantly affected by the financial expenses associated with your injuries. If you or your child has been attacked or bitten by a dog and you do not know where to turn for help, meet with an experienced dog bite lawyer in Illinois from Mike Agruss Law.
Our Illinois personal injury attorneys will carefully evaluate the circumstances of your case to determine whether the dog’s owner should be held accountable and how to maximize your recovery.
The Impact of a Dog Bite Injury
The consequences of a dog attack are undeniable. The injuries could have a significant impact on your life for years to come. Some of the most common ways dog bite victim’s lives are affected include:
- Development of an intense fear of leaving the house
- Embarrassing scars and disfigurement
- The development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Flashbacks that cause severe stress and anxiety
- Developing an extreme fear of dogs for the rest of their lives
Children Can Suffer Severe Trauma After a Dog Bite
It is not only adults who dogs attack. In fact, dog bite injuries occur with alarming frequency to children. Children’s lives are often turned upside down by dog attacks. They may find it more difficult to express their thoughts and feelings, which can lead to an increase in emotional distress. Children have been known to develop extreme symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and become intensely afraid of dogs and other animals.
Some of the other symptoms a child may experience after a dog bite include:
- Increased clinging to parents
- Severe anger and outbursts
- Unexplained crying spells
- Trouble falling asleep
- Refusing to speak
Your child’s physical injuries and emotional reaction to this traumatic event could cost you a substantial amount. The dog’s owner should be held accountable and ordered to compensate you for these expenses and your child’s diminished quality of life.
Illinois’ Dog Bite Laws
It is important to understand how a dog bite case works in the state to pursue your dog bite injury claim. In some states, dogs get a “free pass” for their first bite. This is known as the one-bite rule, and injury victims may not be able to file a claim against the dog owner’s insurance company if this is the first time the dog has attacked.
However, Illinois follows strict liability dog bite laws. Here, dog owners are held liable for the actions of their pets. It does not matter if the dog has previously attacked or if this is their first bite. As long as the dog’s owner did not maintain control of their pet, they can be sued for the victim’s damages. According to the Illinois Animal Control Act, there are only specific and limited situations in which dog owners may be able to escape culpability.
Dog Owner Liability Exclusions
Dog owners are generally liable for their dogs when they bite or attack. However, when certain circumstances arise, dog owners can avoid liability. For example, if you or your child provoked the dog, the owner may not be responsible for your medical expenses and other damages. Examples of provocation could include:
- Hitting or kicking the dog
- Yelling or screaming at the dog
- Throwing things at the dog
Essentially, any action that may cause an adverse reaction from the animal could be considered a provocation. You may also find it difficult or impossible to file a dog bite claim against the dog’s owner if you were trespassing on their property or committing a criminal act. Of course, you can expect the dog’s owner to attempt to blame you for causing your injuries, as it will reduce their financial liability. For this reason, having our dog bite lawyers by your side as you navigate the personal injury claims process is crucial to protect yourself from being taken advantage of.
What to Do After a Dog Attack
Immediately after the dog attack, it is important to remain calm. Whether you have severe injuries or a few scrapes and bruises, it is crucial to maintain your composure. The dog may be excitable, aggressive, and unpredictable at this time.
Do what you can to maintain distance from the dog, but be sure to obtain the contact and insurance information and the name of the dog’s owner.
You can take time to document the accident scene, take photos of your injuries, and collect valuable evidence that could be used to help prove the dog owner’s liability.
Make sure you seek medical attention immediately and reach out to a dog bite attorney for help so they can begin investigating the incident and building a case on your behalf. Do not post anything about the dog bite on social media, as these details could be misconstrued, manipulated, or otherwise used against you.
Illinois Dog Bite Statistics
Although you may not hear about dog attacks very often, they occur far more frequently than you might think. According to a State Farm Insurance Report from 2022, Illinois ranked #2 for the total number of dog bite cases. More than $12 million in claims were paid out, and over 250 claims were filed.
Illinois also ranked #6 for the greatest number of postal service worker dog bites across the country, according to the USPS Dog Attack National Rankings.
How to File a Claim for a Dog Bite in Illinois
If you are ready to take action against the dog’s owner in Cook County or other Illinois locations, the initial steps you take are critical. You should be ready to file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance company first. Many dog owners have purchased renters’ or homeowners’ insurance coverage. However, there are two major issues you should plan for.
- The insurance company may explicitly prohibit coverage for specific types of dogs and dog bites. This means if the homeowner has coverage, but it does not extend to their American pitbull, the insurance company is unlikely to pay.
- The insurance company will lose money by paying out on your claim. This means they will do everything they can to deny you the benefits you are otherwise entitled to. Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company for the settlement you are entitled to from the dog’s owner.
It is important to remember that insurance will only cover specific types of losses. If your damages exceed the insurance company’s obligations, you should prepare to bring your dog bite injury claim to trial so you can maximize your financial recovery.
Dog Bite Victims Deserve Full and Fair Compensation
You have the right to be compensated for every loss you experience when someone else is responsible for causing your injuries. When a dog attacks, the dog’s owner should compensate you for your damages accordingly. You might be surprised at how much your claim is worth.
Dog bite victims have the right to compensation for a combination of economic and non-economic damages, collectively referred to as compensatory damages.
You can receive compensation for your financial losses and the various ways your injuries have affected your life. Examples of economic damages after dog bites include:
- Rabies treatment or vaccination
- The cost of your ambulance trip
- Reconstructive surgery costs related to your physical injury
- Medical treatment and care
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of employee benefits, including health insurance, retirement savings contributions, and paid or sick time off
However, you also have the right to be compensated for non-economic damages that are more difficult to quantify. Examples of non-economic damages for dog bite victims include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Shock and fear
- Shame and embarrassment
- Disfiguring scars
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of protection, advice, and support
- Diminished quality of life
Punitive damages may also be possible in your dog bite injury lawsuit. However, this may only be the case if the dog has previously attacked or bitten someone, is considered to be a dangerous dog, or the dog owner’s conduct is grossly negligent, intentionally malicious, or abhorrent. Only a judge or jury can award these damages.
Although you should never count on punitive damages being awarded for dog bites, such an award could substantially increase the amount of compensation you recover for your case.
Illinois Dog Bite FAQs
After enduring a traumatic experience such as a dog bite, you may be unsure of what your next steps should be, how to hold the liable party accountable, and what legal options are most suitable for your case. During this difficult time in your life, you should not have to spend hours online looking for answers.
For that reason, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about dog bite claims in Illinois. If you have additional questions we do not cover on this page, be sure to contact our dog bite attorneys to discuss your concerns further.
What is the statute of limitations for dog bite injury claims in Illinois?
Time is limited to file your injury claim. You need to take action on your personal injury cases within two years. Otherwise, the court system will refuse to hear your case. Although time may be limited, when you have an Illinois dog injury lawyer working for you, you do not need to worry. Our law firm will work to ensure your dog bite lawsuit is filed before time runs out.
We will also determine whether extenuating circumstances allow the statute of limitations to be extended or temporarily paused in your case. This is generally only available in instances where the dog bite victim is a minor child or is diagnosed with an injury related to the accident days, weeks, months, or years after the incident.
To avoid losing your right to compensation, make sure you get an experienced attorney working on your case as soon as possible.
How does modified comparative negligence work?
Modified comparative negligence laws will apply when you are partially responsible for causing your injuries. Illinois follows a modified comparative fault system. This means if you provoked the dog in some way or are otherwise partially at fault for the dog attack, you may still have the right to compensation for your damages—but at a reduced amount.
For example, if you and your child were walking by a dog and your child accidentally stepped on the dog’s tail, thereby provoking the bite, the judge might find your child 5% responsible for the injuries.
If the jury returned a verdict awarding your child $3 million for damages, the settlement may be reduced by 5%. Your $3 million settlement would be reduced to a payout of $2.85 million. This is still a considerable amount of money. However, sharing fault still resulted in a $150,000 loss. The best way to maximize your compensation is to ensure that your dog bite attorney correctly evaluates liability in your case.
What are the most common dog bite injuries in Illinois?
No matter what type of injuries you are diagnosed with, you may be able to file a claim against the dog’s owner or another liable party as long as your injuries have significantly or are expected to significantly impact your life. Some of the most common types of dog bite injuries include:
- Internal bleeding
- Puncture wounds
- Emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones
- Neck injuries
- Shoulder injuries
Don’t lose hope if you were diagnosed with an injury not described in the list above. It is not your medical diagnosis that determines whether you have the right to take legal action.
Instead, what matters is how substantially your life has been affected by the injuries you suffered. For this reason, it is crucial to go over every way your life has been affected by your dog bite injuries so you can receive full and fair compensation.
Connect With an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer for Help Today
You should not be expected to cover the costs when a dog owner’s negligence causes substantial and traumatic injuries and damages. Ensure the dog owner is brought to justice and demand the compensation you or your injured child deserves.
Meet with a dedicated Illinois dog bite lawyer at Mike Agruss Law to explore your options further. Our team is proud to offer a 100% free consultation to dog bite victims across the state of Illinois. Fill out our contact form or call our office to take advantage of this opportunity.