Dogs might be man’s best friend, but it’s important to remember that our four-legged friends are still animals. A bite from an animal—especially a dog with a powerful jaw or strong bite power—can cause severe and lasting damage, both physically and mentally.
Knowing what to do after a traumatic event isn’t always easy, though. We hope that the following five important steps to take after a dog bite accident will serve as a helpful guide as you try to navigate this difficult period of life. And if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to our Marion law office for a completely free case evaluation.
1. Seek Medical Attention
Do not wait to seek medical attention after a dog bite or attack. Even if your wound does not appear to be serious or deep, bacteria found within a dog’s mouth can cause serious infections. Approximately 50% of all dog bites introduce dangerous bacteria to the victim, including:
Feral and unvaccinated dogs can also potentially carry rabies, a life-threatening virus that attacks the central nervous system.
Infections aren’t the only medical concern after a dog bite or attack. Dog teeth are for more than just eating—they act as weapons used for shearing, cutting, and crushing. Even a single bite can cause serious harm, including bleeding, nerve damage, torn flesh, and more. The sooner you seek medical attention, the better chance you have of making a full recovery.
2. Identify the Dog and the Dog’s Owner
We know that animal attacks can happen suddenly and without warning. And in the immediate aftermath, you might be in no condition to find out anything about the dog that attacked you. However, if possible, we strongly encourage you to do your best to identify both the dog and its owner.
For both reporting and legal purposes, identifying the dog who bit you and its owner is important. Illinois state law has quarantine requirements for dogs that bite or attack people, and authorities won’t be able to enforce this period of isolation unless they have the correct information.
If you are bit in a public place (such as at a park or while walking on a sidewalk), and the owner refuses to disclose their name or contact information, ask eyewitnesses to help identify the owner and their animal. Take pictures of the dog if possible. Provide this information to animal control or police when you report the attack.
3. Report the Attack
Report the attack to the Williamson County Animal Control at 618-993-6075 or to your local police department. Provide as much information as you can, including a description of the dog, the name and contact information of the owner, and any other relevant information.
Authorities will likely require the dog to be quarantined for a period of 10 days. During this time, the dog will be examined by a veterinarian who will confirm its rabies vaccination status.
Although 510 ILCS 5/8 requires pet owners to vaccinate dogs 4 months and over against rabies, some pet owners may avoid registering and vaccinating their pets.
4. Gather Information
Dog bite laws in Illinois operate on a legal concept called strict liability, which means that you don’t necessarily have to prove anything about a dog’s past behavior. However, to avoid being blamed for the attack, we recommend that you collect as much information as possible about the dog and its owner.
Find out if:
- The dog has bitten or attacked anyone in the past
- The owner uses aggressive training techniques
- Anyone else has had negative interactions with the dog (including those not involving bites)
While this information isn’t absolutely necessary for holding a pet owner liable for their dog’s actions, it can help support any legal action you take. Since dog bite claims are typically filed against the owner’s homeowners insurance policy, you’ll need to be prepared for any disingenuous or dishonest tactics that the insurance company engages in.
5. Speak With a Lawyer
Most pet owners are fiercely protective of their four-legged friends, and understandably so. Our pets are members of the family. When a dog owner believes that their dog is being unfairly blamed for something that wasn’t their fault or that they might lose their dog over what they think is a minor incident, they may do everything in their power to deny justice to the victim.
Since health care costs for dog bite injuries can build quickly, it’s important that you work with a lawyer who understands the nuanced and complex nature of dog bite claims. Otherwise, you may miss out on compensation for damages like:
- Past, current, and future medical bills
- Mental health care
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Mental and emotional anguish
Don’t leave your right to full and fair compensation up to chance—after you’ve received medical care, schedule a free consultation with a Marion law office to learn about protecting your legal rights.
Understanding Strict Liability in Illinois’ Dog Bite Laws
Illinois state law holds animal owners strictly liable for any attacks or bites. This means that you don’t have to prove that the dog had a history of aggressive behavior. Even if it did, you don’t even need to prove that the owner knew or was aware of this history.
Strict liability means that if a dog knocks down, scratches, bites, or otherwise attacks a person, the owner is responsible for any resulting injuries.
However, an owner might be able to argue that the victim’s actions prompted the attack. If they can successfully convince the insurance company and local authorities that the victim provoked the dog or was trespassing at the time of the attack, they can potentially avoid liability.
Prince Law Firm—A Marion Law Firm That Puts Clients First
At Prince Law Firm, our passion is to advocate for injury victims and to obtain justice on their behalf. As experienced trial lawyers, we aren’t afraid to stand up to big insurance companies that try to deny compensation to victims of dog bites and animal attacks.
For an opportunity to speak with a dog bite lawyer at our Marion office, get in touch today by phone or our convenient online contact form. We’ll schedule you for a completely free case evaluation at your earliest convenience.