29 Mar, 2024

Belleville Animal Attack Underscores the Importance of Dog Bite Liability

Author Todd A. Strong

After an animal attack, understanding liability can be helpful for victims who seek to recover compensation for their losses. Without warning, dog bites can leave people struggling with serious injuries, often with lasting effects. 

A Belleville man’s experience highlights the danger of dog attacks, as well as the importance of understanding who to hold responsible. Two dogs attacked the dogs the man was walking. He was knocked to the ground during the attack, and the unknown dogs bit him as he tried to defend himself and his children’s dogs. A week after the incident, the man remained hospitalized for treatment of his injuries.

When dogs attack and leave people with serious injuries, victims may hold someone financially responsible for their associated losses. If you suffered dog bite injuries, contact a personal injury attorney to explain your options and advocate on your behalf.

Furious dog staring. Dog bite liability.
Furious dog staring. Dog bite liability.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bites can result in a variety of injuries, ranging from minor to severe. Some of the most common injuries include:

Puncture Wounds: Dog teeth can cause puncture wounds, which can be deep and may lead to infection if not properly treated.

Lacerations: Dog bites can cause cuts and tears in the skin, which may require stitches to close.

The dog attack in Belleville left the victim with serious lacerations to his legs. Emergency room staff reportedly told his wife that a child would not have survived the attack he suffered.

Infections: Dog saliva contains bacteria that can lead to infections in the wound. Common infections include cellulitis and septicemia.

Nerve Damage: Severe dog bites can damage nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or loss of sensation in the affected area.

Scarring and Disfigurement: Dog bites can cause permanent scarring and disfigurement, especially if the bite is deep or on the face.

Emotional Trauma: Dog attacks can cause emotional trauma, such as fear of dogs or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially in children. Consequently, victims may consider whether they can sue for emotional distress.

Rabies: While rare in the United States, dog bites can transmit rabies, a serious viral infection that affects the brain and spinal cord.

The Belleville man had to undergo a series of rabies vaccinations. Without identifying the dogs in the attack or their owners, it was unknown whether the canines are vaccinated. The shots were given proactively to help the man’s body learn to identify and fight the virus, in case the dogs were infected.

Dog bite victims should seek medical attention promptly to assess and treat injuries, as well as to prevent complications such as infections. In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair damage caused by the bite.

Who Pays for Injuries After a Dog Attack in Illinois?

In Illinois, the responsibility for paying for injuries resulting from a dog attack typically falls on the dog owner. Homeowners' insurance policies often include liability coverage for dog bites, which means that the insurance company may be responsible for compensating the victim for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

If the dog owner does not have insurance, or if the insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the damages, the victim may pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the owner to seek compensation.

What Damages Can You Recover for Dog Bite Injuries?

In Illinois, dog bite victims can seek compensation for various types of damages resulting from their injuries. These damages can be broadly categorized into two main types: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are quantifiable financial losses that result from the dog bite. They include:

Medical Expenses: For instance, these losses include hospital bills, surgeries, medication, rehabilitation, and any other costs related to the treatment of the injuries.

Lost Income: If the victim is unable to work due to their injuries, they can seek compensation for lost wages. Lost income may also include future lost income if the injuries result in long-term or permanent disability.

Calculating economic damages involves adding up all the expenses and losses directly related to the dog bite. These damages are typically easier to quantify because they involve actual financial losses. A dog bite lawyer will help gather supporting documentation, such as medical invoices, explanation of benefit reports, and earnings statements.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more subjective and are meant to compensate the victim for intangible losses. They include:

Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical pain and suffering caused by the dog bite, including any ongoing pain or discomfort.

Emotional Distress: This includes compensation for the psychological impact of the dog bite, such as anxiety, fear, and trauma.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the loss of enjoyment of activities or hobbies due to the injuries.

Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are more challenging to quantify because they are based on subjective experiences. Courts may consider various factors, such as the severity of the injuries and their impact on the victim's life, when awarding non-economic damages.

In Illinois, there is no cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded for dog bite injuries. The goal of these damages is to compensate the victim for their losses and help them recover physically, emotionally, and financially from the incident.

How Long Do You Have to Seek Dog Bite Damages?

In Illinois, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim, including a dog bite injury claim, is generally two years from the date of the injury. Therefore, dog bite victims have two years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit against the dog owner or other responsible parties seeking damages for their injuries.

It's important for dog bite victims to know how long you have to report a dog bite, and to take action promptly if they wish to seek compensation for their injuries. Failing to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations can result in the victim being barred from seeking damages in court.

There are exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations for dog bite injuries. For example, if the victim is a minor at the time of the attack, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they reach the age of 18. Additionally, if the victim is deemed mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they regain competency.

It's advisable for dog bite victims to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the attack to understand their rights and ensure that they comply with all legal deadlines. An experienced attorney can help navigate the complexities of the legal process and advocate for the victim's rights to seek compensation for their injuries.

Determining Liability for Dog Attack Injuries in Illinois

In Illinois, determining liability for dog attack injuries involves examining several factors, including:

Ownership and Control of the Dog

The primary factor in determining liability is establishing the ownership and control of the dog. Generally, the owner of the dog is responsible for any injuries caused by the dog, regardless of whether the owner was present at the time of the attack.

Prior Knowledge of the Dog's Aggression

If the dog owner was aware of the dog's aggressive tendencies or past behavior, he or she may be found liable for the attack. This is known as the “one-bite rule,” which means that the owner may be held liable if he or she knew or should have known that the dog was likely to bite someone.

Victim's Actions at the Time of the Attack

Illinois follows a modified comparative fault rule, which means that if the victim's actions contributed to the dog attack, damages may be reduced based on his or her percentage of fault. However, if the victim is found to be more than 50% at fault, he or she may be barred from recovering damages.

Ownership and Control of the Property

In some cases, the owner of the property where the dog attack occurred may also be held liable for the injuries. Therefore, this could apply if the property owner was aware of the dog's aggressive tendencies and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the attack.

Determining liability in a dog attack case can be complex, and it often requires a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the attack. Dog bite victims may benefit from consulting with representation about the types of cases that a personal injury lawyer handles, and their rights, to understand their options for pursuing compensation. An experienced attorney can help gather evidence, assess liability, and advocate for the victim's rights throughout the legal process.

If you were injured in an incident like the man in Belleville, contact our dog bite lawyers at Strong Law Offices to discuss your options for holding the dog owner or other responsible party financially liable.

About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023
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About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023