Victims of Illinois dog bite cases have a much easier road to recovery than those in other states like New York for example. The legislature of the State of Illinois passed legislation which states that:
“If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.” 510 ILCS 5/16
In short, this means that if you were doing nothing wrong and you were lawfully on a premises you can recover for damages caused by a dog, even if the dog has never attacked anyone else before. This is different than New York and other states that follow a “one-bite rule” which means that a dog basically has a “free bite” before the dog owner is liable for the dog’s actions. I recently had a case in a one-bite state where a dog bit someone and as a result, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy specifically excluded the dog from coverage. Then, months later, the dog bit someone else. So, the one bite rule was satisfied, but the dog was now excluded from coverage and as such, there were no insurance proceeds to go after.
Even if you are bitten by a dog, there are several factors that need to be considered to determine if you have a viable case, beyond those set in the statute:
- Severity of injury: are the injuries scrapes and bruises or was there a puncture of the skin that required stitches and may result in scarring? Were there fractures or any other severe injury? If the only injuries were scratches, it’s probably not a case most attorneys would get involved in.
- Is there homeowners’ insurance? If not, your best option is to sue the dog owner individually in small claims court. In Illinois, small claims court is for cases with damages less than $10,000.00. Most people represent themselves in small claims court. The Cook County website has forms and additional information about how to file suit there.
- Did the accident occur within the 2 year statute of limitations in which to file a lawsuit?
If you do get bitten by a dog (or any other animal for that matter), make sure you:
- Take photographs of all evidence – the dog, your injuries, time at the hospital, etc.
- Call the police to document the situation
- Get the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance information. Often the police will do this for you
Hopefully you will never be faced with this situation, but if you are, I strongly suggest that you call a personal injury lawyer in Glenview, Illinois, at 312-848-9783 as soon as possible. The insurance company is not your friend! I receive calls all the time from people who tried to negotiate with an insurance company on their own, only to find out after six months of negotiation that they got low-balled.