Dog Bite Liability in Illinois

Illinois is home to an estimated 12.4 million dogs. Although most provide amicable companionship others can pose a danger not just to their owners but to family members, visitors, neighbors and the community at large as illustrated by the 16 people killed in Illinois between 1979 and 1994 by dog attacks.

If injured by a dog bite, previous Illinois state law required an individual to show the dog either presented a danger or had bitten before. New legislation was enacted changing imposition of this “one-bite” rule to a focus on strict liability.

Details of Animal Control Act

This change was implemented through the Animal Control Act. It holds dog owners liable for injuries, even if there was no prior bite history. In order to apply, the following four elements must be satisfied:

  • The victim received an injury caused by an animal and the animal was owned by defendant
  • The animal was not provoked
  • The victim was acting peaceably
  • The injured person was where he or she had a right to be

Although these elements may appear straight forward, there are many traps to be aware of.

Intricacies of The Animal Control Act

The first issue present is in the definition of “owner.” The Act defines this term broadly, including anyone exercising control over the dog. This expanded view thus includes groomers or pet sitters. As a result, a claim cannot be brought by pet sitters injured while caring for the dog.

In addition, the lack of provocation element may also cause issues. This condition includes obvious infractions like kicking a dog, but also has been applied to the less obvious situations such as simply feeding a chained-up dog. Moreover, courts do not require the injured party be the provocateur – for example, if one person provokes the dog but the dog actually bites a different person after being provoked by the first. Lastly, courts may base reasonableness of the dog’s response on the dog’s perspective, not the victim’s.

Remedies Available

If bitten, the injured party has the right to recover damages. Remedies available include the cost of medical care and rehabilitation and may extend to pain and suffering.

If injured by a dog or other animal, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced dog bite attorney to ensure all legal rights and remedies are protected.

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