Dogs bite nearly 5 million people a year in the U.S. Almost half of those injured are children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. About 800,000 Americans each year seek medical attention for wounds from dog bites, and 386,000 require emergency room treatment. About 16 people die every year after being attacked by a dog. The CDC’s figures do not consider the psychological trauma of experiencing an animal attack.
It is a simple fact of life that dogs bite. This includes any dog of any breed. A dog bite can be anything from a nip to a traumatic attack that leaves a serious injury. A serious injury suffered in a dog attack is reason to hold the dog’s owner accountable, and for the dog bite victim to seek compensation for all medical expenses, pain and suffering and other harm caused by the bite.
If you have suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one in an animal attack that occurred in the Chicago area or anywhere else in Illinois, the personal injury attorneys at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., want to help you.
Our firm has a history of protecting the rights of dog bite victims, including securing a $1.125 million settlement in 2013 on behalf of a 17-year-old Zion boy who was attacked by dog while riding his bike (one of the largest settlement of its kind in Illinois).
To learn more about how we can assist you, call us today or use our online form and schedule a free consultation.
What You Need To Know About Dog Bite Law in Chicago, IL
The Illinois Animal Control Act erased the “one free bite” law. The law had excused dog owners from being liable for a bite by their pet if they were not aware of the animal’s propensity to bite.
Today, Illinois law specifically states:
“If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in damages to such person for the full amount of the injury sustained.”
Serious Injuries from Dog Attacks
A serious bite is not a playful nip or even a minor injury that bruises someone who came into contact with a dog at the wrong time. A serious dog attack is one that includes biting and scratching that causes significant traumatic injury, such as deep cuts, tearing, fractures or more. A serious attack by a dog can also cause significant emotional and psychological injury.
The most common victims are:
- Children ages 5-9
- Elderly people
- Post letter carriers.
Dogs most often bite a person’s arm, hand, leg, foot, head or neck, according to the CDC. Common injuries in dog attacks include:
- Cuts, bruises and scratches
- Puncture wounds
- Tearing (avulsion)
- Crushing (head / skull injuries).
DogsBite.org, a nonprofit, public education website about dangerous dog breeds, reports that serious dog attacks can result in acute injuries that can require $250,000 to $1 million in specialized medical care.
The CDC states that about 27,000 dog bite victims every year undergo reconstructive surgery. This may include skin grafting, tissue expansion and scar diminishment. A victim may require multiple procedures over several years.
Seeking Compensation After a Dog Bite
Dog bite victims may seek compensation to cover their:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost income and diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Other related losses.
Claims can be made against the dog owner and, possibly, a third party if that party’s negligence caused the injury.
People who have been seriously injured by an attacking dog deserve compensation and should not be reluctant to seek it through civil legal action and contact a dog bite attorney– it will not come out of a friend or neighbor’s pocket. The compensation recovered in a dog bite claim almost always come from the dog owner’s insurance, such as homeowners’ insurance or business liability insurance.
The Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Insurance report that dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2013 and resulted in more than $483 million in compensation for victims. The average payment for dog bite claims was $27,862.
An experienced lawyer can investigate your dog bite case to determine whether the dog’s owner is liable and calculate the compensation you may be due for your injuries.
Many claims can be settled though negotiations with the dog owner’s insurance company. If a proper settlement agreement cannot be reached, we would be ready to pursue appropriate compensation for you in court.
Taking Action after an Attack
You can act to help yourself, a loved one or a friend who has been injured by a dog bite. Here are some steps you should try to follow:
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Any dog bite should be seen by a doctor.
- Immediately report the incident to the police and obtain a copy of the police accident report.
- Obtain the name and contact information of the dog owner if possible.
- Get the name and contact information of any people who witnessed the attack.
- Photograph the animal that caused your injuries as well as the location of the incident.
- Photograph any visible injuries you have suffered as result of the incident with the animal.
- Save any clothing that may have been damaged by the animal.
- Save and, if possible, photograph any property damaged by the animal.
- Do not communicate with the owner of the dog or the owner’s insurance company. If you accept any form of compensation, you may waive your right to sue for additional damages.
Dog Bite Injury FAQs
My son was attacked on the sidewalk in front of our house by a neighbor`s pit bull, who escaped from a fenced yard. Do we have a case?
Most cities require pets to be properly restrained and supervised. So if a dog escapes from its owner’s property and attacks someone, the owner is typically held responsible for any resulting injuries. You should contact an attorney to discuss the details of your son’s attack, and learn more about the appropriate next steps toward legal action.
My daughter was bitten by a relative`s Doberman Pinscher. Are owners of “aggressive” breeds of dogs automatically held more liable when their pets attack?
Although there is evidence that dog attacks occur more frequently among more “aggressive” breeds, the law does not recognize any difference among breeds when determining whether the owner was at fault in a dog bite case. Insurance companies do – and they charge higher insurance premiums to homeowners who have certain types of dogs – but legally, the same proof of liability is required for a bite inflicted by any dog.
I heard that a dog`s first bite is “free”. Does this mean a dog owner is not legally responsible for the first person his dog bites?
Yes and no. Before a dog owner can be held legally responsible for a bite on his own premises, many states require proof that the dog’s owner knew his or her animal was vicious and likely to attack.
What`s the first thing I should do if I am bitten by a neighborhood dog?
First, seek medical attention immediately. Bites, whether big or small, require prompt medical treatment – even if you don’t think you’ll need stitches, there may be a risk of infection. Second, document your injuries by photographing the wound, writing down the details of the attack and requesting copies of any medical records. If you are contacted by the owner or his/her insurance company, do not sign or provide an official statement. Consult an attorney with experience in animal attack injuries, who can provide advice on any legal action and appropriate next steps.
I was bitten by a dog, but I don`t know who the owner is – how can I find identify him or her?
When you don’t know the animal that attacked you, an experienced attorney may be helpful in locating its owner. In serious cases, a DNA sample may be necessary to establish the identity of the dog, and an attorney can initiate that procedure and deal with the appropriate law enforcement officials.
I was recently bitten by a dog and I`m receiving treatment for my injuries, but I don`t know yet how serious they are. Should I wait to contact an attorney?
There is a statue of limitations on dog bite injury claims just as with any type of personal injury case, so the better course of action is to contact an attorney now. He or she can advise you on your legal rights, and can help to gather pertinent information while your condition is being evaluated.
My friend suggested I get a medical report from a plastic surgeon – but I`m not sure I will need plastic surgery for my injuries. Is this really necessary?
Many dog bite victims do not foresee the need for future plastic surgery as a result of their wounds – but the injuries sustained in a dog attack often create significant scarring. If a report from a credible plastic surgeon is not submitted before damages are awarded, the victim is often left paying for very expensive surgical procedures out-of-pocket, as most health insurance companies will consider these to be “cosmetic.” Consulting with a plastic surgeon now will benefit you in the long run – and help you to make informed decisions about damages and legal action.
When a neighbor s dog attacked me, I wasn`t badly injured but I feel the animal is a hazard to the community. I want to advise my neighborhood association about the dog – can a lawyer help me do this?
Writing a letter to your neighborhood association is an excellent idea – and having the communication come from an experienced attorney can make this step much more effective. A letter from a law firm will convey the seriousness of what happened to you – and make your neighborhood association more likely to take action and create a stronger sense of awareness within your community of the potential hazard.
Why do I really need an attorney to help if I was bitten by a dog?
An experienced attorney can help identify the animal`s owners and establish if the dog has a history of attacks by conducting neighborhood investigations and reviewing veterinary records. This information is necessary for your safety regardless of whether you wish to file a claim. If you suffered serious injuries, an attorney can also find medical experts to thoroughly review your treatment and determine if and what type of plastic surgery or other future treatment steps might be necessary. Having an experienced lawyer will help you to decide if legal action is required, and what type of damages might be appropriate for your case – remember, just because you hire an attorney, you don’t have to bring a lawsuit – but when you are recovering from a traumatic attack, it helps to understand your options.
I was bitten by a dog – and I want to make sure it doesn`t bite anyone else, but I hate to think I will be responsible for having it put down. If I notify the authorities and hire an attorney, what will happen to the animal?
Reporting the attack will not automatically result in the dog`s demise. The court can review the facts of your attack as well as any other activities to determine if the animal is “potentially dangerous” or “vicious”. This determination will help guide what happens to the animal – the owner may be required to build a fence or pen to keep it restrained. An experienced attorney will not take any action you haven`t requested, so simply hiring a lawyer does not in any way make it more likely that the dog will be put down – an attorney will simply help see that your rights are protected.
Contact Our Dog Bite Attorneys
If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite injury or other animal attack that caused serious injury or scarring, you have rights that deserve to be protected. Contact a Chicago dog bite lawyer at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., without delay and schedule a free consultation.
We will provide a team of legal professionals, medical experts and investigators who are dedicated to your case. We can help you make informed decisions about your legal options. Our dog bite attorneys will work hard to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
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