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Illinois Dog Bite Law: The Basics



If you've been injured by a dog in Illinois, dog bite laws are important to research, particularly if you believe you may have a case against Fido's owner.

About 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Almost one in five of those dog-bite victims require medical attention.

The law in Illinois reaches further than just dog bites. The law says if you've been injured by a dog in any way-say for example, it pushes you over-the dog owner may be responsible for covering the cost of your injuries.

Illinois laws that govern dog bites and other dog-related injuries are known as tort law, the same area of law that covers other types of personal injuries, such as car accidents or slip and falls. However, dog bite case can be more complex because they often involve both state and local laws. If you or someone in your family has been hurt by a dog in Illinois, you should contact a dog bite lawyer.

What to Do Immediately After a Dog Bite

While seeking medical attention is an obvious suggestion to someone who has been injured by a dog, less obvious is the recommendation that you also try to ascertain the dog's ownership even while seeking help, especially if you've been bitten. This is because your medical provider will want to know if you are at risk for rabies, a rare but possibly fatal affliction passed via the dog's saliva.

If you don't know the dog or its owner, your medical provider may assume the worst and treat you with a series of vaccinations just to be safe. If the dog's ownership is unknown but they can find the dog, local health officials will have a veterinarian monitor the dog's health for 10 days to make sure no signs of rabies appear in the dog. They will do the same with dogs whose ownership is known but whose rabies vaccinations are not up to date.

Beyond rabies, dog bites can tear nerves and tendons; the area bitten can also become infected. Medical bills, time off from work, and property damage can be expensive. Should you sue?

Illinois Dog Bite Law

In Illinois, if you're the victim of a dog bite or received a dog-related injury, the law says the dog's owner is responsible for covering your medical costs. You do not have to show that the owner was somehow negligent.

The only exceptions to this law are if you

  • Managed to provoke the dog into attacking
  • Were not legally allowed to be at the place of your attack

Three cities in Illinois have breed-specific laws. In Rock Falls, pit bulls are restricted. In Buffalo Grove, pit bulls and Rottweilers are restricted. And in Marysville, pit bulls are banned outright.

What Expenses Can You Recover From a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

Illinois dog-attack victims will find successful dog-bite lawsuits useful in the recovery of the following expenses:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost income, both from treating the immediate injury and from any future lost income, should the victim become incapacitated
  • Pain and suffering, including a new fear of dogs, especially in children who may continue to have nightmares after the attack
  • Property damage, if any
  • Loss of consortium, which means that the injury somehow damaged a relationship with a spouse or family member

What Role Does Insurance Play?

Many homeowner policies will cover the costs associated with the dog bites and other dog injuries. Typical liability policies offer between $100,000 and $300,000 worth of coverage.

Some insurance companies decline to cover certain breeds if they are known to bite, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers. Additionally, the insurance company may decline to cover the cost of injury if the attack takes place on the owner's property where the owner runs an at-home business, even if part time, because many policies have a business pursuits exclusion. Finally, injuries that occur while the dog is in the owner's car may instead be covered by an automobile policy.

If the dog owner has liability insurance, the insurance company will most likely pay for the owner's defense.

Again, your Illinois lawyer familiar with dog-related injuries will advise you on whether you should pursue a lawsuit based on your attack's set of circumstances.