Dog Bites and Other Types of Animal Injuries in Illinois

Many people do not understand that they need insurance when they own an animal that could hurt someone. Owners of dogs as well as cats and other types of animals should make sure that either their renters insurance or homeowners insurance covers injuries caused by a pet or animal in their control. It is not unusual for dogs of all sizes to bite or scar adults and children. Cat scratches and bites as well can cause permanent disfigurement and infection. We have represented people who have been severely injured from dogs jumping and pushing people down and breaking bones as well as those that have had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, infection, permanent disfigurement, emotional distress, loss of normal life, large medical bills, and many other medical conditions.

The law is clear that the liability of animals is also not limited to cats and dogs. The law extends to virtually to any animal owned and the liability is called strict liability. Strict liability makes it very difficult for the owner or someone in control of the animal to avoid paying compensation to someone injured.

Newland & Newland, LLP has been successful at recovering financial compensation for those that have been injured by dogs or other animals. There are legal theories at common law as well as statutory law to get people compensated. The Illinois state legislature passed the animal control act, Section 510 ILCS 5/2.16.

Section 16 of the animal control act states as follows:

If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in damages to such person for the full amount of injuries sustained. Therefore the owner of a dog or other animal that attacks or injures someone is responsible for damages to the injured party."

Owner is defined as follows pursuant to the statute:

"Any person having a right of property in a dog or other animal, or who keeps or harbors a dog or other animal, or who has it in his care, or who acts as its custodian, or who normally permits a dog or other domestic animal to remain on or about any premise occupied by him."

In consequence to have an action available under the animal control act it is necessary to have the following elements:

  1. An injury
  2. The animal cannot be provoked by the party that was injured.
  3. There must be an owner as defined in the statute.

The above stated is supported by the jury instruction that is provided which states as follows:

"At the time of this occurrence there was enforced inn the State of Illinois a Statute governing the responsibility of one owning, keeping or harboring a dog or other animal." That statute provides that the owner of an animal, a person keeping an animal, a person harboring an animal is liable in damages for injuries sustained from any attack or injury by an animal on a person peacefully conducting himself in a place where he may lawfully be, unless that person knew of the presence of an animal and did something a reasonable person should have done would be likely to provoke an animal to attack or injure him, or unless that person knew of the presence an animal and the unusual and dangerous nature of that animal and did something a reasonable person should have known would be likely to provoke an attack or injury by that animal.

When we proceed on a dog bite or other animal injury claim, we proceed both under the statute and under the common law. The common law instruction reads as follows:

"One who keeps or owns an animal which he knows is vicious or dangerous to people is liable to a person injured by the animal unless the injured person did something a reasonable person is likely to provoke an attack by the animal or unless the injured person knew of an individual characteristic of the animal and did something which a reasonable person could reasonably expect could provoke an attack by that particular animal or unless the injured person voluntarily exposed himself to injury either knowing the customary nature of the animal or knowing the peculiar nature of a specific animal"

Generally the statute of limitations for an animal attack is 2 years from the date of the occurrence unless the party attacked and injured is a minor then it would be 2 years from the minors 18th birthday. We advise not to delay when minors are attacked. Claims are generally worth more money when the child is younger although every circumstance is to be evaluated on its own merits.

Some people ask why such a law exists to protect people from animals. The law exists to make animal owners accountable for what their animals do and to encourage owners to control their animals. Generally what we do with a case involving a dog or other animal is seek compensation from homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance but often times business insurance applies can compensate the injured party.

Many people are of the opinion that animal must bite them to be accountable however this opinion is not accurate. Many people are injured from dog attacks from being pushed down or scratched and in fact cat scratches can be very harmful and sometime even deadly.

Many people are concerned that if they proceed against the owner of a dog or other animal that the animal will then be destroyed by the authorities. We have never seen this to be the case although sometimes dogs that are sometimes found to be vicious dogs and bitten others are destroyed. A dog can be determined to be a vicious dog if in fact it has bit more than 1 person and has been unprovoked.

We have had many cases where children have been scarred for life as a result of animal attacks and in consequence firmly believe that owners’ animals must be accountable for their animals.

Illinois law has held that violation of a local ordinance may constitute a valid cause of action in a personal injury case. Therefore it is not necessary to show that the animal causing the attack or bite was known by the owner to have violent propensities. The actual injury itself without provocation generally suffices to entitle an injured party to damages.

  • Newland & Newland LLP, Attorneys, Arlington Heights, IL