Dog bites are more common than most people realize. In Chicago, nearly 2,000 people are bitten by dogs every year. Consequently, it is important that people know their legal duties as dog owners and their legal rights as bite victims.
Illinois Animal Control Act
The Illinois Animal Control Act states that the owner of a dog that bites another person without provocation is entirely responsible for that person’s injuries caused by the bite. Moreover, this law imposes liability on the owner of dog that injures another person without actually biting them. For example, the owner is liable if the dog jumps on someone unprovoked, causing them to fall and break a bone. Although there was no bite, the owner is wholly responsible for the victim’s injuries.
Dog Owners are Strictly Liable
It does not matter whether the owner did not know the dog was dangerous and had bitten someone in the past. Nor does it matter that the owner had taken measures to restrain the dog and protect the public from the dog, such as chaining it and putting up fences and “Beware of Dog” signs. The owner is strictly liable for every injury the dog causes another person, unless he or she was trespassing on the owner’s property.
Duties of the Dog Owner
If a dog bites someone, the owner must take the dog to a veterinarian within 24 hours of the biting incident to begin a 10-day observation period for rabies. If the dog’s rabies shots are current, the dog may stay confined at the owner’s house and then be returned to the veterinarian on the 10th day.
If the rabies shots have expired, the dog must be confined under the observation of the veterinarian for 10 days. The owner covers the cost of housing, care and treatment of the dog during this period.
Duties of the Victim
If the victim seeks emergency room care, the hospital will report the bite to the police. In Chicago, if the victim does not go to the hospital, he or she is required to go directly to the police to make a report.
Compensation for the Victim<h/2>
To recover compensation for injuries caused by a dog attack, the victim must do the following:
- Identify the offending dog.
- Identify the owner of the offending dog.
- Prove that he or she did not provoke the dog.
- Prove that he or she was lawfully and peacefully present in the area of the attack.
- The dog attack caused his or her injuries.
The victim may assert such damages as:
- Medical expenses
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
Dog Owner’s Homeowners or Renters Insurance Policy
Homeowners and renters insurance policies will usually cover animal bite claims brought by nonresidents of the home. Liability coverage ranges anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000. If the claim exceeds policy limits, the dog owner is personally liable for the balance.