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Dog Bite Laws in Illinois

From German Shepherds and Pit bulls, to Labradors and Chihuahuas, dogs are a happy part of many people’s daily lives in Illinois. While many of us will always just enjoy their companionship, some people are unlucky enough to be the victim of a dog bite. These can lead to painful and possibly extensive injuries that are expensive to treat and require lengthy medical care.

In Illinois, dog bite laws exist to lay out who is liable for any damages if such an unfortunate event occurs. Dog bite laws explain the circumstances when a victim is able to claim compensation, and outline the defenses available for a dog owner looking to avoid liability for a dog bite incident.

Who is liable for damages if a dog bites someone in Illinois?

In Illinois, dog bite laws place strict liability on the owner of any dog that bites or attempts to bite someone when:

  • The victim was in a place where they are legally allowed to be, and
  • The attack was unprovoked and the victim was not distressing the dog in any way

These requirements would cover the civil damages of a victim who was lawfully on the private property of the dog owner – such as a police officer making a house call or a family friend visiting for dinner.

In claiming for civil damages, a person must prove the causation between the dog attack and the injuries they have suffered.

Unlike some other states, the Illinois dog laws extend to injuries not caused by biting, such as when a dog jumps up and knocks somebody over.

What are the possible defenses if your dog bites someone in Illinois?

A dog owner will not be liable for a dog bite if the victim was, at the time of the bite, not legally permitted to be on the property where it happened. This means that a person who was, for example, trespassing on the dog owner’s property cannot sue for damages if the owner’s dog bites them while they remain on the property.

It is also possible that a dog owner could show that the victim was, at the time of the dog bite, harassing or intentionally upsetting the dog so that the attack could not be considered unprovoked. This prevents somebody from deliberately provoking a dog with the intention of claiming for damages when it reacts.

A dog owner cannot escape liability by claiming that they were not aware of the dog’s propensity for aggressive behavior.

Is there a time limit on when a dog bite case should be filed?

According to Illinois’ statute of limitations, a civil action for an injury caused by a dog bite must be filed within two years of the bite actually happening. In practice, this means that a victim should not delay too long after the biting incident to begin their claim for compensation.

An experienced dog bite attorney will be able to provide detailed support on the claim process and the strength of an individual case.

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