Dogs can truly be our best friends, but if a dog viciously attacks you for no reason, you might suffer serious injuries. For this reason, dog owners are expected to take responsibility for injuries their dog causes under Illinois law.

However, there are some defenses a dog owner can use to argue they should not be liable, so you will need the help of an experienced Illinois dog bite attorney to fight for your right to compensation.

A dog attack may only last seconds, but the dog’s teeth can cause tremendous damage. Many people suffer deep lacerations, requiring stitches and, in some cases, even surgery.

Significant scarring, infection, broken bones, nerve damage, and permanent difficulties are also possible. Even with insurance, a dog bite victim may have extensive medical bills, and they could miss time at work while recovering.

Meanwhile, the dog’s owner may blame you for the attack and refuse to pay for your expenses! If a dog has bitten or otherwise hurt you, your attorney will help to ensure you receive compensation for all your damages, including current and future medical bills and permanent effects on your life.

Get away from the dog and to a safe place as quickly as possible. If you can put a door or fence between you and the dog, that’s ideal.

If it’s necessary to leave the scene to get to safety, you should do that, but try to make a note of the last place you saw the dog.

In some situations, the dog may be accompanied by a human. If this is the case, hopefully, they can get the dog under control, and you can ask for their contact information.

However, we understand that sometimes this isn’t possible because the dog is out of control or the owner takes the dog and leaves the scene. You shouldn’t compromise your safety by following them, but if they leave in a vehicle, try to get their license plate number or at least a description of the car.

If they leave on foot, write down the direction they went in and call the local authorities to report the dog attack.

What if the dog is unaccompanied? You should still report the attack.

The city of Chicago asks you to call the non-emergency number 311, and they will pass your report on to Cook County Animal Control. Give them your best and most detailed description of the dog so they can try to locate it.

If you’re seriously injured and need an ambulance, call 911 instead. Outside of Chicago, you can call the non-emergency number of your local police department and ask how or where to report a dog bite.

Even if your injuries don’t seem serious enough for 911, you should still seek medical care from your doctor or local urgent care center. Having your wounds cleaned and, if necessary, stitched up by a professional will reduce your risk of complications like infection and scarring.

Additionally, if the dog’s vaccination status can’t be verified, you may need a rabies vaccine in case you are exposed to this deadly but preventable disease. A tetanus shot may also be recommended if you haven’t had one recently.

As discussed earlier, Illinois has strict liability laws for dog bite injuries. That means dog owners are assumed to be liable for injuries their dogs cause under the following circumstances:

  • The victim was peacefully conducting themselves. They were not behaving in an aggressive or disruptive manner that the dog could have perceived as threatening.
  • The victim was legally on the property where the dog bit them – in other words, they were not trespassing. Keep in mind that people who are on a property for work purposes are not considered to be trespassing – for instance, if a dog bites a mail carrier or delivery worker, the owner could be liable.
  • The victim did not do anything to provoke the dog. Examples of “provoking” include taunting, hitting, or yelling at the dog, trying to interfere with its food or water dishes, trying to take its puppies, etc.

Under strict liability, you do not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent, only that you didn’t violate any of the criteria listed above.

Strict liability can also apply to the person controlling the dog when the bite occurs. For example, if you were walking in a park and a dog bit you, the dog walker handling the dog at the time could be liable.

Other Injuries From Dogs

Strict liability applies to other situations where dogs injure people, even if the dog doesn’t bite anyone. We sometimes see cases where a friendly dog simply knocks a person down in their enthusiasm.

If the person suffers injuries from that fall, the owner or person handling the dog could be liable.

First, you have to identify the dog and its owner. This is easiest if you were able to get the owner’s name and contact info, but if not, your attorney can help by searching for the dog and owner.

Animal Control will make an effort to find the dog, but they are often busy with multiple incidents and can only spend so much time on it.

Our investigators will canvas the area where the dog bite happened, knock on doors, talk to people who work nearby, and try to determine who the dog belongs to or where it lives. In some cases, we can track down the dog and owner and pursue damages for you.

Once we file a lawsuit for your damages, usually one of two things will happen:

  • The dog owner agrees to pay your damages. In some situations, their homeowner’s insurance may pay the damages for them, but this depends on the specifics of their policy and where the dog bite occurred. Sometimes, there are other insurance requirements depending on location – for example, Chicago requires owners of a “dangerous dog” to carry $100,000 in liability insurance for this particular situation.
  • The dog owner argues that they weren’t at fault and aren’t responsible.

The second option is more common, especially in situations where the damages are considerable.

If the owner tries to claim that you were trespassing or provoked the dog, we will work to collect evidence showing that wasn’t the case. Our investigators will search for video of the dog attack – if you were bitten outside, there’s a reasonable chance the incident was captured on a doorbell or security camera.

If you were on a sidewalk or near a street, it may even have been captured on a traffic camera, or a passerby may have recorded it on their phone.

This is one reason why it’s so important that you contact a experienced Illinois personal injury lawyer as soon as you can after the dog bite. Video files from security cameras are often set to erase automatically after a certain amount of time, or the owner deletes them every few days or weeks to free up hard drive space.

The sooner we start looking for evidence in your case, the more likely we will find a video. If a video isn’t available, we’ll seek out other types of evidence, such as eyewitness statements.

Often, dog bites happen quickly, and the victim is intent on getting away from the dog, which is understandable. They may not have a chance to talk with others in the area who witnessed the incident. (If you can do so, getting the witnesses’ names and contact info is certainly recommended.)

When talking with people in the neighborhood, our investigators will ask if anyone heard or saw anything around the time of the attack. Sometimes, we meet a witness who can testify about what occurred.

Aside from visiting the neighborhood itself, there may be other ways to find witnesses. We might check NextDoor or local groups on social media to see if there are any posts complaining about issues with the same dog that attacked you.

If we can find several witnesses who say the dog also attacked them for no reason, it will be harder for the owner to argue that you provoked the animal.

Yes, for several reasons:

  • First, your lawyer will ensure that all your damages are covered, including both future and current medical bills, lost income from missing work, permanent disability or scarring, and your physical and mental pain and suffering. Often, the dog owner who promises to pay your bills only means the medical bills from your initial visit to the hospital or doctor. Then, they refuse to pay anything further, even if the injured person needs follow-up care or loses a week of work.
  • These arrangements often unravel when the dog owner actually gets the bill. They may suddenly dispute what happened, claim you don’t need all that expensive medical treatment, or simply stop answering your calls.
  • In extreme cases, the dog owner may develop sudden amnesia for the incident. They might claim they don’t know you, their dog never bit anyone, they certainly never agreed to pay for anything, you’re trying to take advantage of them, etc.
  • Another variation of the “I don’t know anything” story can happen if it takes a few days to track down the dog’s owner. They may believe they got away without consequences if they were present for the dog attack. Or, they didn’t see the dog attack because they weren’t present when it occurred, and they don’t believe it happened. Either way, an experienced dog bite accident lawyer can work to show the owner’s dog was responsible for your injuries. Again, it does not matter if the dog’s owner knew about what happened, only that we have evidence their dog bit you.

It’s not unusual for us to meet clients after an arrangement with the dog’s owner has failed for any of the above reasons. In many cases, we can still help the client pursue damages, but it may be harder to gather evidence if too much time has elapsed.

We recommend calling a lawyer as soon as possible – ideally, within 24 hours of the dog bite. If it’s too late for that, please contact us as soon as you realize things may not work out with the dog’s owner.

We also advise you not to get into an argument with the dog’s owner. This rarely works out well, and anything you say could be misconstrued and used against you by the owner’s lawyer.

If the dog’s owner goes back on their word to pay or you realize you have more damages than you thought, simply call a lawyer immediately.

If you or a loved one have been bitten or otherwise injured by a dog, don’t wait around and hope the dog’s owner does the right thing. Please contact The Personal Injury Lawyers ™ for a free consultation to learn about your options for pursuing compensation.

We’ll review your case, respond to your questions, and help you calculate your damages so nothing is overlooked.

Through a relentless drive to fight for his clients, he has recovered millions of dollars for those injured by the negligence of others.

When he isn’t in the courtroom or negotiating with insurance companies, he spends time on social media, making legal topics accessible to his many followers. He speaks English, Arabic, and Spanish.

Call us today at (312) 999-9990.

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The Personal Injury Lawyers ™
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Chicago, IL 60601