An attack by a dangerous dog can leave victims with incredibly serious injuries that require medical attention. Particularly bad bites can be life-threatening, especially if victims suffer severed arteries. A dog attack can also be disfiguring, leaving victims with facial scars that require extensive reconstructive surgery. Some of these scars never truly heal. In severe mauling cases, family members of dog attack victims can be left grieving after a fatal dog attack. The psychological effects of severe injuries from a dog attack are also serious, and many victims struggle with PTSD and severe anxiety around dogs forever. In addition, dog attack victims are often left with significant financial losses after these incidents, perhaps going months or even years without being able to earn an income. The cost of medical treatment is also never cheap, making a dog attack a financially ruinous scenario for many.
The one silver lining after a bite incident is that you may have the opportunity to pursue compensation for your damages. A settlement can provide you with enough funds to cover missed wages, medical bills, emotional distress, and anything else you might have been forced to endure. But how exactly do you pursue compensation as a dog attack victim? What kind of legal hurdles do you need to overcome? Do you really need a personal injury lawyer in this scenario, and how can they help you get the compensation you need? Let’s find out.
How to File a Dog Bite Injury Claim
Before you get started with your dog bite injury claim, it is important to understand that all injury claims revolve around the four basic elements of negligence:
- Duty of Care
- Breach of Duty
In the context of a dog bite, these elements of negligence apply in the following manner:
Did the dog owner owe you a duty of care?
The first step is to determine who was to blame for the dog bite. Usually, you have a few choices: You can hold the dog owner accountable, or you can hold the property owner accountable. It is significantly easier to hold the dog owner responsible for two reasons. First, a dog owner is responsible for any unprovoked attack under Illinois Law. Second, it is hard to prove that the property owner owed a duty of care unless he was “harboring” the dog. On the other hand, unless the dog owner has homeowner or renter’s insurance, the landlord may be the only party capable of paying damages.
Either way, it is easy to establish that someone owes you a duty of care. After all, you cannot hold the dog accountable because they are an animal. When someone chooses to get a dog – especially one capable of causing serious harm to others – they take on a considerable responsibility to protect others from harm.
Did the dog owner breach their duty of care?
When is a dog owner responsible for the actions of their dog? The answer is “almost always.” Dog owners (and sometimes landlords) have a duty to not only train the animal but also to restrain it properly and prevent it from attacking innocent people. If you want to receive compensation, you must show that the owner or landlord breached their duty of care in some way. For example, if you are on the dog owners’s property (as long as you’re not trespassing), they have a duty of care to you. In some cases, if people have more dangerous dog breeds such as Pit Bull Terriers, they may have homeowners insurance that requires extra coverage for dog bites.
This is easy to prove because simply by owning a dog, they become responsible for its actions. Any dangerous behavior committed by the dog will be seen as the owner’s failure. Of course, there are exceptions. If the dog was carrying out its official duties as a police or military animal, it might be difficult to prove that a breach of duty occurred. Willful misconduct – such as striking, teasing, or abusing the dog – may also excuse the dog owner from liability.
Was there a direct link between the owner’s negligence and your injuries?
Another important element of negligence is causation. This means that in order to receive compensation, you must show that there was a direct link between the owner’s breach of duty and your injuries. For example, the owner may have left their dog unattended and unrestrained throughout the day. When you walked by on the sidewalk, the dog might have jumped over a fence and bit you. This is a clear example of causation.
On the other hand, there may be situations where the owner did breach their duty of care – but this breach was not actually connected with your injury. These situations are quite rare, however – especially since Illinois follows a system of “strict liability” when it comes to dog bites.
Did you suffer legitimate injuries due to the dog attack?
This is perhaps the most important question. A personal injury claim cannot be successful if there are no actual injuries. Although you can certainly receive compensation for psychological damages, the foundation of the entire claim lies with physical injuries. Usually, this takes the form of a bite wound. However, dogs can also cause other kinds of injuries. For example, they could knock you over, causing hip fractures and other injuries associated with a slip and fall. They might also scratch you. Finally, a dog could infect you with diseases such as rabies after biting you.
Fortunately, it is easy to prove that you suffered legitimate injuries, as you can simply show your medical records. You might also want to show photos of your injuries directly after the attack.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite Injury
Here is what you need to do after a dog attack:
Get Medical Care
Remember, victims of dog attacks need to prove that the injuries are legitimate if you want to receive compensation. One way to do this is to go to the emergency room for medical treatment as soon as possible after the attack. Although this treatment might be expensive, you should know that your settlement will pay for everything. If you fail to act quickly, it sends the message that your injuries were not actually that serious. This can limit your chances of receiving a favorable financial outcome. If you fail to get medical treatment at all, it can be impossible to receive compensation for your damages. Your medical records will be very important in the future.
If possible, you should take photos of your injuries and perhaps the scene of the attack. For example, you might climb on top of a car to escape a dangerous attack dog that has already bitten you. After calling 9-1-1, you can use your phone to take photos of the fresh injuries and the immediate situation in which you find yourself. However, do not sacrifice your personal safety just to snap a few photos. These images could prove vital in your upcoming injury claim.
Once you have received medical treatment and your condition has stabilized, you can start to gather as much information as possible. Start by determining the identity of the dog owner. Next, figure out if they are a homeowner or a tenant. If they are a tenant, be sure to figure out the identity of their landlord. You might also want to do a little research and find out the breed of the dog and whether the animal has a history of violence. Neighbors and friends may be able to provide you with important information.
File a Police Report
The next stage is to file an official police report. Sometimes this is not necessary, as you might have dialed 9-1-1. If the police were called to the scene, a police report would have already been created. If you simply went straight to the hospital without calling the police, however, you should file an official police report. This will cause the police to investigate the matter, and you can use their findings to support your dog bite lawsuit.
Get in Touch With an Attorney
Once these steps are out of the way, you can get in touch with a personal injury attorney in Illinois. Once you connect with a lawyer, you can step back and focus on the healing process. These legal professionals can handle virtually every aspect of your claim, including gathering evidence, negotiating for a fair settlement, and taking the matter to court if necessary. An attorney can help you navigate insurance companies and the legal system.
Illinois’ Strict Liability System Explained
Illinois follows a system of strict liability when it comes to dog bites. This means that the owner of the dog is liable for all damages sustained by the victim if the attack was unprovoked. This means that negligence does not really factor into the equation. Even if the owner had no involvement in the attack, they are still liable simply because they own the animal. However, it is important to understand that this rule only applies to people who are “peaceably conducting themselves in a place where they may lawfully be.” This specifically excludes trespassers, and it may be difficult to gain compensation if you were trespassing at the time of the attack.
Where Can I Find a Dog Bite Attorney in Chicago?
If you have been searching for a qualified, experienced dog bite attorney in Chicago, look no further than Palermo Law Group. We know that dog bite victims are often left with significant psychological and financial losses after one of these incidents. With our assistance, you can approach the claims process with a sense of confidence as you strive for a settlement that reflects the true extent of your damages. During your consultation, we will assess your unique situation and determine the best route forward based on your specific circumstances. Remember, the statute of limitations can prevent you from suing if you wait too long – so book your consultation today to get started with a solid action plan.