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Illinois Dog Bite Laws

by lawdawg on December 11, 2012

This article is brought to you by Chicago injury lawyer Eugene K. Hollander. If you have been biten by a dog due to the dog owner’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Every day about one thousand U.S. citizens are bitten by a dog and require emergency care. Dog bite law is a branch of law that greatly varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and level of owner responsibility depends on state and county civil, criminal and administrative laws and rulings.

The following are the three dog bite laws that every jurisdiction references, although they may only loosely be followed:

1. Negligence law: States that the dog owner is responsible if he or she was negligent in controlling the animal. This type of dog bite law differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and it is up to the court to decide whether the owner behaved negligently.

2. One-bite law: If the dog has never bitten anyone before, and the owner does not have a degree of knowledge that their animal is dangerous, a court will historically take little to no action. Every dog gets one free bite. However, many jurisdictions are altering or doing away with this law to encourage dog owners to better train their pets and to veer away from purchasing notoriously dangerous canines.

3. Dog bite owner responsibility law: This is the strictest of the three types of dog bite laws. Under this law the owner is fully liable, regardless of how and why the dog bite occurred.

Illinois’ liability statute modifies the one-bite rule. The law states that a person injured by a dog can recover damages against the dog’s owner if he or she proves that the dog caused the injury, the defendant owned the dog, the injured person did not provoke the attack, the injured person was acting in a peaceful manner at the time of the injury and that the injured person was in a place where he or she had legal right to be at the time of the injury. Unlike the aforementioned negligence law, the plaintiff does not need to prove owner negligence in Illinois under the statute.

Dog owners have a responsibility to ensure public safety. Owners of identified “vicious dogs” must act with extreme caution. A vicious dog is one that, when unprovoked, bites or attacks a human or domestic animal. Such a dog has been known to endanger the safety of those around him or her and has a reputation for vicious behavior. Owners of vicious dogs must legally have them enclosed in a fence or structure at least 6 feet tall that prevents the entrance of any young children, and ensures that the animal is unable to escape. Such dogs are only permitted to leave their enclosure to see the vet or if court-ordered, and during those times the dog must be muzzled and restrained with a chain that has the strength of 300 pounds and does not exceed 3 feet.

If you or a loved one has been bitten or injured by a dog, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills as well as pain and suffering. Because dog bite laws are complicated and vary so greatly, you should hire an attorney who can explain your case.

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