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Who Can I Sue if I Was Bitten By a Dog in Illinois?

Posted on January 20, 2015 in


Duncan Law Group 


More than 4.5 million people are attacked by dogs in the U.S. each year—with 900,000 of these victims suffering injuries serious enough to warrant medical attention. In the time following a dog bite or animal attack, victims often experience a great deal of emotional distress and physical pain, and even financial instability. Fortunately, dog bite victims are not without legal recourse. In the state of Illinois, anyone who has been attacked by a dog has the right to seek damages in a personal injury lawsuit. For this reason, you should not hesitate to speak with Chicago dog bite lawyer at Duncan Law Group if you or your child was bitten by someone else’s dangerous pet. We can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

Understanding the “Strict Liability” Dog Bite Laws in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, animal owners are strictly liable for their actions of their pet—whether or not it is a dog. In fact, the Animal Control Act states that an animal owner would be liable in civil damages for the full amount of the injuries that their pet has caused to another person. One of the only exceptions to this rule is that the victim must not have provoked the attack; otherwise, strict liability would apply.

Although several other states require the victim to show that the dog had violent propensities—which is typically established by showing that the dog previously attacked another person—Illinois law does not impose any such stipulation. Nor does it need to be shown that the pet owner was negligent. Strict liability means that animal owners are responsible for any injuries caused by an unprovoked attack.

In order to recover damages, you would only need to prove that:

  • You were attacked or otherwise injured by a dog
  • The defendant owns or exercises control over that dog
  • You did not provoke the dog to bite or attack you

What if the victim was trespassing when they were attacked?

One of the only other exceptions to strict liability in a dog bite case is if the victim was attacked while trespassing on another person’s property. The Animal Control Act states that an animal owner would only be liable for damages if the victim was attacked while “peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be.” Animal owners are under no legal obligation to provide a safe environment for someone that has entered their property unlawfully or without permission. If they invite guests into their home, however, strict liability would still apply in the event of an attack.

Can I sue someone other than the actual dog owner?

The Animal Control Act imposes strict liability upon anyone who is responsible for the care of a dog or other animal. This may include the documented owner, a harborer or keeper. However, it may be more difficult to bring a claim against someone like the custodian of a dog, since you may need to prove that they were negligent—which is not a requirement when seeking damages from the actual owner. When you discuss your case with a personal injury attorney at Duncan Law Group, we can help you identify all possible defendants. It is our goal to ensure that all liable parties are held accountable.

How long will I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?

In the state of Illinois, all civil actions are subject to a statute of limitations. This means that you, as a dog bite victim, will only have a certain amount of time to seek damages from the owner. Most personal injury claims must be filed within two years of the date that you were injured; however, certain exceptions do apply. For this reason, you should still speak with a personal injury lawyer from the Duncan Law Group if you think that the statute of limitations has already expired. In some cases, you may be able to file a claim under the “discovery rule” even after the two-year limit has passed.

Contact Our Firm Today to Set Up a Free Consultation

If you or your child was bitten by someone else’s dangerous pet in Chicago, you have options. You deserve to be compensated for the pain and suffering that you have wrongfully endured, and we at the Duncan Law Group would like the chance to help. When you contact our office today, you can schedule a free initial consultation with one of the personal injury lawyers at the firm.