Every year, dogs bite more than 4.5 million people, and half of those are children. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 800,000 people seek medical treatment for dog bites each year. When it comes to state-by-state dog bites, Illinois leads the pack. According to State Farm’s annual dog bite report, Illinois is often in the top three states for dog bite claims.
Most Dangerous Dog Breeds
While it’s hard to definitively claim one breed of dog as the most dangerous, according to a CDC analysis of dog breeds involved in fatal attacks on people and an analysis by DogBites.org, these dogs are some of the most dangerous:
- – Pitbull
- – Rottweiler
- – German shepherd
- – Mixed breed
- – American bulldog
- – Mastiff or bullmastiff
- – Husky
- – Labrador retriever
- – Boxer
- – Doberman pinscher
Many jurisdictions in the U.S. follow the “one free bite rule.” Under the one free bite rule, an owner may not be liable for damages caused by their dog’s bite if it has never bitten anyone before. Illinois does not follow the one free bite rule.
Illinois Animal Control Act
The Illinois Animal Control Act creates heightened liability for dog owners. See 510 ILCS 5/1, et seq. (2019). Under this law, if a dog or other animal attacks, attempts to attack, or injures a person without any provocation, the owner is liable for all of the injuries sustained. See 510 ILCS 5/16.5 The purpose of the law is to protect the public from harm through tighter control of animals.
What is Provocation?
An animal is “provoked” if the injured person acted in a way that would cause any normal dog to react the way it did. For example, a child stepping on a dog’s tail might be provocation if the dog’s response was proportional. But a child screaming isn’t generally provocation. Someone trespassing on to a dog owner’s property may be a provocation. But if the dog owner already knew about their dog’s propensity to react or bite people, the law may hold the dog owner strictly liable.
Who is an Owner?
An “owner” is “any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian, or who knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by him or her.” 51- ILCS 5/2.16 (2019). For example, if a dog walker is walking the dog when it bites someone, the walker may be liable for the dog’s actions because they were caring for the dog. But if the dog bites the dog walker, they may not be able to sue the owner since the walker was its keeper at the time of the bite.
What is an Attack?
An “attack” isn’t merely an aggressive, intentional action by a dog. An “attack” can also be typical doggy reactions that caused an injury. For example, if a dog jumps on a visitor to lick their face, and the visitor falls and breaks a leg, the dog owner may be held liable for the visitor’s injuries. Or if a dog chases a child on a bicycle down the street and causes them to crash, the owner may also be liable. But passive actions of a dog won’t cause liability for injuries. If a guest trips over a dog lying on the ground, a court typically won’t find the owner liable for the guest’s injuries.
While the Illinois Animal Control Act does increase a dog owner’s risk and level of duty in ensuring that others are safe, that doesn’t mean that the owner will always be strictly liable. Illinois uses a “reasonable dog” standard, which considers how an average dog would react and what a reasonable person would expect.
Aurora and Chicago Dog Bite Attorney
If a dog has injured you, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Give us a call at 630-898-7800 or contact us online. The experienced attorneys at Cullotta Bravo Law specialize in personal injury law and excel in litigation. The attorneys of Cullotta Bravo have decades of experience helping injured people in Illinois recover the compensation they deserve.