Liability in Dog Bite Cases: Who Is at Fault

Each state has different laws that apply to dog bite cases, which results in varying liability standards. The Chicago-based Mike Agruss Law firm states that Illinois has a strict liability rule regarding dog bites.

This means that, in most situations, the owner is responsible for the injuries caused by their dog, regardless of the dog’s prior behavior or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness. Still, other aspects and elements are crucial in Illinois dog bite cases. Here is what you should know!

Animal Control Act & Strict Liability

Under the Illinois Animal Control Act (510 ILCS 5/16), a dog owner is liable for any injuries caused by their dog if the attack occurs against a person who peaceably conducted themselves in a place where they had a legal right to be, which includes public and private property.

The injured party doesn’t need to prove negligence on the part of the owner, and even if the owner claims they did not know about their dog’s aggressive tendencies or previous incidents, they can be held liable.

Comparative Fault in Dog Bites

The most important aspect affecting dog bite claims is whether the injured person’s actions contributed to the incident. In some instances, victims can be assigned a percentage of fault in dog bite claims through Illinois’ modified comparative fault law.

When this occurs, compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the victim. However, if the injured victim is found to be 51% or more at fault, they will not be able to recover damages. That is why it is essential to work with a dog-bite lawyer to prove fault.

Even though the strict liability rule governs dog bite claims, if a person was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or provoked the dog in any way, their claim might be affected. A dog owner might argue that the trespasser’s actions are the primary cause of the incident. Yet, even in these situations, the dog owner can still be held partially liable.

Negligence Claims

Though injured parties in dog bite cases can pursue strict liability, they can also file a negligence claim against the dog owner for their injuries. In negligence claims, an injured party must prove that the dog owner failed to exercise reasonable care in controlling their dog, such as failing to keep them on a leash.

It is crucial to consult a dog bite attorney to understand what type of claim would be advantageous to your dog bite incident. You are not just entitled to compensation for your injuries. For example, suppose the incident left you traumatized, such as developing a fear of dogs, fear of going out, or having flashbacks of the incident. In that case, you can pursue non-economic and economic damages. 

Let’s not forget that dog bites can carry rabies or other transmissible disease. The cost of treating or dealing with such complications is high, further increasing your healthcare costs. Speak with a dog bite attorney immediately if you are injured and want to take legal action.