Suffering a dog bite can be an extremely traumatic experience – both for the victim and the owner. As much as we love our furry friends, some dogs are unpredictable in certain situations. Roughly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States, with at least half being children.
If you or a loved one requires medical treatment after an incident, it’s important to understand the basics of dog bite lawsuits. More importantly, the dog bite lawyer cost you’ll be faced with.
Handling dog bites may seem straightforward, but there is a lot that goes into seeking justice for a severe injury. In this post, we’ll discuss how the law applies, the costs involved, and what the path to justice may look like. Let’s get into it.
Illinois Dog Bite Law
In certain states, there must be proof a dog has bitten/attacked someone in the past to warrant a case against the owner. However, Illinois dog bite lawsuits fall under “strict liability” rules. This means there are only a few rare exceptions in which the injured person can be held partially liable for a dog bite. The law states:
“If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peacefully 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.”
In other words, a dog owner is fully liable for a victim’s injuries if the victim:
- Is peacefully conducting themselves
- Has a right to be in the place where the bite occurred
- Does not provoke the dog to bite them
With the help of a dog bite injury attorney, victims of dog attacks may file a personal injury claim against the owner if there was negligence that led to the attack. The statute of limitations to file dog bite lawsuits in Illinois is two years. We recommend reaching out to a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible to begin the process. Waiting too long could potentially weaken your claim.
Dog Bite Lawyer Cost
You’ll be pleased to learn that there are no upfront costs for dog bite lawsuits.
Dog bite attorneys operate on a contingency fee agreement. Under this payment structure, the lawyer gets paid AFTER they win the case. The dog bite injury attorney collects a percentage of the settlement AFTER it is paid out – and none of it comes out of your pocket. If you don’t win a settlement, you don’t owe anything to your lawyer. The best injury attorneys will not take your case unless they think they can win.
A word of caution: most victims of dog bites are dealing with the personal injury process for the first time – and may not know about contingency fees. Some untrustworthy attorneys use this to their advantage and demand out-of-pocket costs. If this happens to you, head for the door.
Dog Bites Versus Injuries
Dogs can cause many injuries beyond a bite. They can knock people over, cause accidents, scratch with their nails, and so on. In these situations, you may not have legal recourse under strict liability rules surrounding dog bites. However, you may still have options under the broader personal injury law if you can prove negligence by the owner.
Owners have a responsibility to use reasonable care and make sure their dog does not harm other people. If they failed to use reasonable care, you may be eligible to file a claim.
For example, say a dog is in the owner’s yard without a leash or a fence. The dog attacks a person passing by on their bicycle and causes an injury. This may be ruled as negligence by the owner for failure to contain the dog. Talk with a personal injury attorney in your area to learn more.
Common Defenses Dog Owners Use
Proving liability is the biggest hurdle in dog bite lawsuits. Whether it’s under strict liability or for another type of attack, there are several common claims an owner – and their defense lawyer – may make to avoid liability.
1. The dog was defending themselves
Owners are generally liable for dog bite injuries on public or private property – of which the victim was lawfully entitled to be on. Private property is commonly disputed. Owners may argue the victim was not permitted to be on their property, and that the dog acted in defense.
2. The dog was startled
Owners may try to argue the victim approached their dog too aggressively and caused the dog to bite out of fear.
3. The dog was trying to play – and got too rough
Some dogs play rougher than others. The owner may try to use the defense that the dog was simply playing and bit the victim accidentally.
4. The dog was acting on herding or predatory behavior
Certain breeds of dogs have different behaviors engrained in their genetics. For example, German Shepards and Border Collies are herding dogs with a natural tendency to protect. If a person gets too close to the owner or their child, the dog may act aggressively on instinct.
Proving liability in dog bite lawsuits comes down to evidence. After the bite occurs, try to find witnesses who saw the incident and get their contact information. See if you can get any insight from neighbors about the dog’s typical behavior. This will be crucial when you meet with a dog bite injury attorney.
Compensation to Pursue
Victims of dog bites may be entitled to certain types of compensation – known as damages. Damages are usually categorized into two categories: economical and non-economical.
Economical damages include:
- Medical bills:Doctor’s visits, surgery, hospitalizations, medication, physical therapy, etc.
- Future medical treatment: Estimates for prospective treatments.
- Lost wages: Unpaid time off required to recover from injuries.
- Loss of working potential: If injuries require you to work a reduced schedule or inhibit you from advancing in your career, you may be entitled to compensation.
Non-economical damages include:
- Pain and suffering: Physical, mental, or emotional pain suffered after the incident.
- Reduced enjoyment of life: If your injuries prevent you from doing normal activities, you deserve to be compensated for it.
Talk to your attorney about how damages are calculated. The lawyer will instruct you on keeping records of everything related to the injury and the path to earning fair compensation.
The Next Move
The most important thing to remember in dog bite lawsuits is you are not alone. Simply meeting with an experienced dog bite attorney will put the process in perspective. Keep in mind, personal injury lawyers do not normally charge for consultations. You can freely discuss your situation with them and they will determine if you have a valid claim.
At Midwest Injury Lawyers, we are happy to meet with you to discuss your options. We help victims file Indiana and Illinois dog bite lawsuits and seek rightful compensation for damages. For any questions or concerns about dog bites or personal injury law, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call 312-786-5881, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out a form online. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.