Being bitten by a dog can be a traumatic experience, both physically and emotionally. As an Illinois personal injury attorney who regularly represents dog bite victims, I know how confusing and overwhelming the aftermath can be. This article will walk you through, step-by-step, what to expect after reporting a dog bite in Illinois.
The First 24 Hours
Immediately after being bitten, your top priorities should be seeking medical attention and reporting the incident. Even if the bite does not seem severe, I recommend being evaluated by a medical professional to assess the wounds, treat any injuries, and document the incident. Be sure to get contact information and take photos of any visible injuries.
You'll also want fill out a bite report with animal control in the county where it occurred. Animal control will investigate the incident, quarantine the dog to check for rabies, and determine if the dog is dangerous. Provide as many details as possible, including the owner's name and contact information, if known.
One of the first questions bite victims ask me is whether they should take legal action against the dog owner. There are a few factors to consider:
• The extent of your injuries. More serious wounds, infections, scars, or disabilities may warrant pursuing compensation. Less severe bites may not justify legal costs.
• Prior incidents. If the dog has a history of aggression, there is a stronger case for negligence.
• Local laws. Illinois has strict liability statutes that favor bite victims, making owners automatically responsible regardless of circumstances.
• Homeowner's insurance. Most policies include liability coverage for dog bites, so compensatory damages can often be recovered.
If you decide to pursue a claim, I recommend consulting an experienced dog bite personal injury attorney to protect your rights. A competent, seasoned attorney can handle correspondence, negotiate a settlement, and file a lawsuit if necessary. Statutes of limitations restrict how long you have to take legal action, so it is best to explore options promptly.
How Insurance Companies Deny Claims
Dog bite claims often end up as disputes with insurance companies. Homeowner's or renter's insurance typically covers dog bite liability, but this does not stop adjusters from denying or minimizing valid claims.
Common reasons include:
• Alleging the victim provoked the dog and shares blame
• Disputing the seriousness of injuries
• Claiming the policyholder was not aware the dog was dangerous
• Arguing the incident is exempt from coverage
Insurers may also delay proceedings by requesting excessive documentation.
Without legal representation, victims may be intimidated into accepting unfair settlements. An experienced dog bite lawyer can anticipate and counter the insurance company's arguments to prove liability. Attorneys also have the leverage to negotiate a fair settlement and take the case to court if needed.
Protect Your Rights with a Dog Bite Attorney
Pursuing compensation on your own after a dog attack is extremely challenging. Insurance companies have teams of legal representatives defending their interests. Victims need the same level of expertise on their side. An attorney can handle the entire process for you.
• Communicating with insurers and negotiating a full and fair settlement
• Assembling evidence like medical records, veterinary reports, expert testimony, and photographs proving extent of injuries
• Counseling clients on legal rights and viable options
• Filing a lawsuit if a satisfactory out-of-court resolution cannot be reached
• Representing clients in court proceedings and settlement conferences
• Ensuring clients comply with all legal requirements and deadlines
Dog bite laws and insurance policies can be complex. An attorney has the knowledge to overcome insurer resistance and secure maximum compensation under the law. For the best chance at a positive legal outcome, victims should strongly consider legal representation.
Local Animal Control Follow-Up
After reporting the incident to your local animal services office, an animal control officer will initiate an investigation. The officer will attempt to make contact with the dog's owner and visually examine and identify the dog. Photographs and veterinary records may be requested.
Statements will also be taken from witnesses and the victim. Be as detailed as possible in recounting the circumstances of the bite, the owner's response, and any prior aggressive behavior observed. Precision is key, so stick only to the facts.
The dog will be quarantined, usually for a 10-day period. This allows observation for any signs of rabies infection. Some jurisdictions impose mandatory quarantines, others are voluntary if proof of vaccination is provided.
Once the investigation is complete, animal control will make a determination on whether the dog is potentially dangerous or vicious. If so, restrictions like muzzling, restraints, training, and signage may be ordered. Euthanization is rare and usually reserved for severe maulings.
Accessibility to medical treatment early is crucial with dog bites. Seek prompt medical care, even if the bite wounds seem minor. Dog bites are prone to infection due to bacteria in saliva penetrating deep into tissue. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, oozing, warmth, and red streaks. Seek emergency care for fever, dizziness, or rapid heart rate.
Wounds should be thoroughly cleaned by medical staff to reduce risk of tetanus or rabies. Antibiotics may be prescribed for several days to prevent infection. Lacerations or puncture wounds may require stitches or surgery.
Be sure to follow all wound care instructions from your doctor, including keeping the area clean and dry. Monitor for any changes or worsening symptoms. Avoid touching the wound or soaking in water until fully healed. Follow up with your physician to check healing progress.
Request copies of medical records detailing dog bite treatment. These will be vital evidence if pursuing legal action later. Records should note the date, circumstance, wound size and location, treatment rendered, medication prescribed, and any expected scarring or disabilities. Also consider looking into psychological treatment for any PTSD following an attack.
Coping with Post-Traumatic Stress
Being the victim of a dog mauling or bite can lead to psychological trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop, causing symptoms like:
• Reliving the attack through intrusive memories or nightmares
• Avoiding circumstances that trigger recollections of the event
• Hypervigilance and exaggerated startle response
• Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
• Irritability, guilt, or emotional numbness
While PTSD can be devastating, several coping techniques can help victims recover:
• Pursue trauma-focused psychotherapy. Cognitive and exposure therapies are effective for processing traumatic memories in a healthy way.
• Join a support group. Connecting with other dog bite survivors can provide validation and reduce feelings of isolation.
• Practice relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness exercises help calm the nervous system.
• Care for your physical needs. Maintain a nutritious diet, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise to boost emotional resilience.
• Avoid numbness through drugs/alcohol. While tempting, self-medicating tends to worsen PTSD symptoms over time.
• Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Healing from psychological trauma takes time and commitment.
For children especially, play therapy, family counseling, temporary psychotropic medication, or emotional support animals may also help overcome dog bite PTSD. With professional treatment, support, and personal care, it is possible to move past traumatic memories and regain a sense of safety and normalcy.
While rare, rabies infection is a serious concern after animal bites, especially from a wild animal, however, domestic animals can also carry it. Rabies attacks the central nervous system and is nearly always fatal once symptoms manifest. However, post-exposure treatment is extremely effective if administered promptly after exposure.
The Department of Health and other public health officials will determine whether rabies treatment (typically in the form of rabies shots) is warranted based on the biting animal's vaccination status and health during quarantine. If advised, receive the rabies vaccine series as directed. You'll also likely receive a shot of rabies immune globulin at the bite site. Though expensive, rabies preventative care is crucial and should not be delayed.
The emotional impact of a dog attack should not be underestimated. It is completely normal to experience fear, anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, or other symptoms after a traumatic encounter. Many bite victims, especially children, benefit from counseling to process the event and overcome lingering phobias. Do not be afraid to seek mental health support if struggling to cope. A competent personal injury attorney can often recommend therapists who specialize in dog bite recovery counseling.
Preventing Dog Bites
While no techniques can guarantee avoiding a dog bite, the following precautions can significantly reduce the risk:
• Supervise children around dogs at all times. Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
• Do not approach unfamiliar dogs without owner permission. Let the dog initiate first contact if permitted. Any dog is capable of biting, not only ones typically labeled as dangerous dogs.
• Avoid reaching through fences to pet dogs. Only interact with fenced dogs on the owner’s property if the owner is present and approves.
• Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, caring for puppies, sick or injured. These situations may provoke aggressive reactions.
• Avoid playing with dogs in ways that can bring out aggressive behavior, such as tug-of-war.
• Heed warning signs like growling, barking, bared teeth, stiff tail, tense body posture. Back away slowly without sudden movements.
• Do not pet or try to interact with stray dogs. Report unattended or menacing dogs to animal control. • Refrain from petting dogs in cars. The confined space may make dogs feel defensive.
• Ask an owner before petting their dog. Follow their guidance on safe approach and petting areas.
• Turn your body to the side and avoid direct eye contact, which can be perceived as threatening.
• If knocked down during an attack, curl into a ball with your head tucked and arms over neck and ears.
• Remember that all dogs are capable of biting, regardless of things like past behavior, spay or neuter status, or knowing the pet owners. It’s important to learn to read the dogs behavior while you are interacting with it.
Dog bite prevention ultimately relies on education, vigilance around unfamiliar dogs, and fostering safe interactions. Following these tips can substantially reduce the likelihood of bites.
Being bitten by a dog is harrowing, but understanding the legal process and your rights can help you feel empowered to take action. Do not hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for guidance pursuing compensation and justice after a dog bite in Illinois. With compassionate legal counsel, you can move forward on the path toward healing, both physically and mentally.
Many dog bite victims can have a lengthy and painful road to recovery with overwhelming medical expenses, loss of wages, and/or permanent disfigurement and disability. If you’ve been attacked by a dog, there are various laws that can help you or a deceased victim’s family receive compensation.
Call Palermo Law Group today by calling our phone number at (630)684-2332 to consult with nationally recognized personal injury lawyer, Mario Palermo regarding the best approach to obtaining compensation for your injuries. Also visit us online at PalermoLawGroup.com.