While we like to think that dogs are friendly all the time, dog bite laws exist for a reason. Every state has different laws, which is why it’s important to be aware of the laws that are specific to your state. Whether you own a dog or not, everyone can benefit from understanding the laws regarding animal attacks.
A dog bite can result in serious physical and psychological consequences. The most severe bites could require surgery or amputation. A person is also likely to suffer from the mental trauma associated with animal attacks. Our attorneys represent victims who have been attacked by negligent owners’ animals. If you reside in Illinois, all dog bite laws can be found within the Animal Control Act.
The Responsibility of an Illinois Dog Owner
Under statute 510 ILCS 5/2. 05a, a dangerous dog is defined as “any individual dog anywhere other than upon the property of an owner or custodian of the dog and unmuzzled, unleashed, or unattended by its owner.” As such, it’s a dog owner’s responsibility to ensure their dog remains secured on their property at all times. A later statute, 510ILCS 5/2.11a, says that all dogs on private property are to be enclosed by the means of a fence or structure at least six feet in height to prevent the entry of children.
If an owner takes their dog for a walk on public property or on someone else’s private property, the dog should remain leashed. If a dog escapes from the owner’s property, the owner can be deemed responsible for any damage the dog causes. According to statute 510 ILCS 5/2.18b, a reckless dog owner is someone who allows their dog to leave their property and kill another dog.
Proving Negligence After a Dog Bite
There is a specific statute, 510 ILCS 5/16, in Illinois’ code of laws that covers dog bites and related injuries. The law explains how a victim can prove an animal owner is legally liable for the damage their dog has caused. According to the statute, an injured person must be able to show the following:
- A dog attempted to attack or injures the person
- The individual had a lawful right to be in the place they were at the time of the attack
- The dog was not provoked in any way
Illinois’ dog bite laws also cover injuries resulting from dogs’ behaviors. If, for example, a person is knocked down by a dog on a public sidewalk and sustains an injury, they have the right to seek compensation under the statute.
Understanding Strict Liability
Dog bite cases are typically viewed under one of two legal theories: negligence or strict liability. Illinois is a strict liability state when dealing with dog bites. This means that a dog’s owner cannot argue that they were unaware of their animal’s aggression or injury-causing tendencies. Even if a dog had never acted aggressively, an owner is liable if the animal attacks someone and was unprovoked.
In practice, this means that if you are knocked down by a dog and are injured, the owner is likely to be liable for your injuries even if they did not know the dog would jump.
Possible Defenses to Dog Bite Liability in Illinois
Individuals attempting to fight dog bite liability typically have two defenses to fight the injury claim. Those defenses include provocation or trespassing.
The Animal Control Act does not cover situations where someone provokes a dog and is attacked. Provocation includes things like teasing or physically abusing. So, if a person hits a dog and the dog bites them, the owner will generally not be found liable.
Trespassing occurs when someone is on private property without the consent of the owner. Illinois’ dog bite law requires the injured party to be lawfully on the property they occupied during the attack. If a person is illegally on private property and is attacked by a dog, the owner may not be held liable for the injuries.
If you’ve sustained a dog bite, you may be able to take legal action and seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. It’s important to keep in mind in the state of Illinois you only have two years from the date of the bite to bring a case to court. If the statute of limitations has passed, it’s likely the case will be dismissed without review.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity for much needed financial assistance. For more information on your rights and options, get in touch with our attorneys today for a free initial consultation.