Do I Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite? And Other FAQs

    Victims often have several questions about the legal process after being attacked by a dangerous dog. This is only natural. After all, most people experiencing dog bite injuries have virtually no experience with the legal system, and they may be totally unaware of how to proceed after a dog attack. The good news is that you’re not alone in this fight, and there are legal professionals in Illinois who can assist you in this matter. Even a simple online FAQ can provide you with more information, giving you the confidence to move forward efficiently. When you finish this FAQ, you’ll hopefully learn that pursuing compensation after an Illinois dog attack could be easier than you think. 

    Once you move forward with a personal injury lawyer in Illinois, you can cover your medical expenses, missed wages, emotional distress, and any other damages you might have experienced. More importantly, you can hold negligent dog owners accountable, potentially ensuring that no one else is injured by the same animal in the future. Pursuing a claim and if necessary, filing a lawsuit, is about more than just getting paid – this process can also give you a sense of justice. Win your lawsuit, and the feeling of closure could help you move on with your life and begin the healing process.

    Do I Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite?

    Technically, there is nothing stopping you from filing a dog bite lawsuit without help from a lawyer. The real question is whether this is the right option, and whether it will provide you with the best results. In order to handle an entire dog bite lawsuit on your own, you would need to teach yourself about law. A simple mistake could result in your case being dismissed with no compensation. Representing yourself in court can be incredibly stressful and time-consuming – especially when you have no legal training. Even if you do manage to teach yourself law within a few months, you’ll need to devote 100% of your time to this endeavor. Can you really afford to put your life and career on hold?

    Some dog bite victims are under the impression that they can simply negotiate directly with an insurance company – perhaps one that represents a landlord named as a defendant in your case. While this is also true, you need to be very careful about accepting settlements from insurance companies without consulting a lawyer first. Insurance companies have a tendency to offer low-ball settlements to unsuspecting victims, as their goal is to spend as little as possible. Insurance companies are businesses, and it makes sense for them to minimize losses. A lawyer can help you negotiate with an insurance company, ensuring you receive a fair settlement that covers your total damages. 

    Does It Cost Money to Hire a Lawyer?

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    Since injured people are already facing medical bills for your injury, we know this is probably a concern. Most personal injury lawsuits do not involve any up-front costs. This is because personal injury lawyers are usually paid on a contingency-fee-basis, which means that you only pay them after you win your lawsuit. If you don’t win your dog bite claim, you don’t have to pay. This means that even if you have severe financial limitations, you should not hesitate to file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent dog owner. The contingency fee system ensures that anyone can take legal action, and it ensures that negligent parties can always be brought to justice for hurting other people. This is yet another reason to hire a lawyer, as there’s really no reason to represent yourself if there are no up-front payments to worry about. 

    How Does Strict Liability Work in Illinois?

    According to Illinois dog bite laws, dog owners can be held “strictly liable” for any harm their animals cause. This means that you don’t need to prove negligence in most situations, as it automatically assumed that they did something wrong if the attack was unprovoked. Strict liability makes it easier for victims to seek justice, as there is no requirement to establish negligence. In other personal injury lawsuits – such as those involving car accidents – you would need to prove negligence. In contrast, the only thing you need to prove in a dog attack lawsuit is that you were not trespassing, and you suffered legitimate injuries due to an unprovoked attack. 

    How Do I Prove My Injuries are Legitimate?

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    Proving that you suffered real injuries is crucial in a dog bite lawsuit. Fortunately, this is often an easy process that simply involves sharing your relevant medical records with the court. For example, if the dog bit you on the hand, you might have serious lacerations and several broken fingers. In order to prove that these injuries are legitimate, you might gather an X-Ray that shows the extent of your broken fingers. On the other hand, if you suffered a dog bite to the face, you might be suffering disfigurement that requires extensive medical treatment. In this case, images of the injured area directly after the attack could also prove useful in showing how serious your situation is.  You might also collect a doctor’s note that gives a brief summary of your injuries, as well as a general prognosis.

    Because proving the severity of your injuries is so important after a dog bite, you should get medical attention as soon as possible after the attack. Do not delay. If the defendant’s lawyers and insurance representatives find out that you waited days or weeks before getting treatment, they will undoubtedly use this against you – claiming that your injuries really were not that bad. If you fail to get any medical treatment whatsoever, it will be difficult to prove that your injuries are legitimate. The defendant may claim that the injury was caused by another incident, and you will struggle to receive compensation. 

    How Much Money Will I Get?

    Your total compensation amount depends on several factors. Firstly, you need to consider your economic damages. “Damages” is another word for “losses,” and economic damages are financial in nature. Examples of economic damages include missed wages and medical expenses. For example, your injury might have caused you to suffer facial injuries, including blindness in one eye. This injury might not only be expensive to treat, but it may also prevent you from going back to work for months or even years. Some injuries are so severe that victims are permanently disabled and prevented from ever working again. 

    Once you have added up all of your economic damages, it is time to factor in your non-economic damages. These are emotional or psychological losses, such as emotional distress, depression, anxiety, PTSD, loss of enjoyment of life, and things of that nature. Non-economic damages are often referred to by the catch-all phrase “pain and suffering.” These types of damages cannot be quantified in straightforward, measurable dollar amounts. Unlike medical expenses, you cannot show the court a receipt for your PTSD. 

    Having a lawyer who is familiar with the jurisdiction the case will be pending is crucial. Similar to a realtor, a good lawyer will know how juries have acted when evaluating similar injuries in the past. Past results serve as “comparables” and provide a baseline for assessing whether an offer is fair. For example, juries in Cook County often award different damages for the same injuries than in DuPage County. In short, It is difficult for a layperson to know what is a fair offer for damages related to pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of normal life, without the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney. 

    Do I Need to Go to Court?

    Most dog attack lawsuits will not result in trials. This is because most civil cases are settled outside of court. This means that the defendant agrees to hand over a sum of money. In exchange, the plaintiff (you) agrees to drop your lawsuit and cease any further legal action. You might think that dropping your lawsuit is like quitting, but a settlement is usually the best course of action for everyone involved. Both the defendant and the plaintiff get to avoid the costly, time-consuming, and stressful trial process in favor of a quick resolution. 

    Trials are also very unpredictable, and there is no way of telling how a judge or a jury might react to your situation. They might award you high levels of compensation, or they might award you a paltry sum that does not even cover your expenses for medical care. They might come to the conclusion that you deserve nothing at all. Accepting a fair settlement offer is usually the safest bet. In some situations, however, there is no option but to pursue a trial due to an unfair offer.

    Where Can I Find an Experienced Dog Bite Attorney in Illinois?

    Another very common question that dog attack victims and their loved ones often have is: “Where can I find a dog bite lawyer to discuss my legal options?” Fortunately, you will not have to look far in the Chicago area. Get in touch with the law firm of Palermo Law Group at your earliest convenience, and you can set up an initial consultation. While reviewing online FAQs is a positive start, only a qualified lawyer can help you file your lawsuit efficiently and guide you toward positive results.

    During your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney, we can assess your dog bite case and recommend the best course of action to pursue fair compensation. Remember, the dog bite statute of limitations could prevent you from suing if you wait too long, so it is best to book your free consultation sooner rather than later. As a dog bite victim, you have legal rights, so don’t hesitate to find a lawyer to advocate for you.



    Mario Palermo is the Founder and Lead Attorney at Palermo Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. For the past 26 years, he has worked tirelessly to help injury victims and their families in their times of need. He is a seasoned authority on civil litigation, and also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Mr. Palermo has been named a “Leading Lawyer” by his peers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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