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Millions Suffer Severe Dog Bite Injuries Each Year

The Illinois Animal Control Act imposes liability on owners of animals that attack or injure other persons.  A person injured by another’s dog or animal may also bring a negligence claim against the owner of the animal.

If you have been injured by a dog, you are entitled to full and fair compensation for your injuries. When you work with experienced personal injury lawyer Arlo Walsman, you can rely on his experience and zeal to get you the justice you deserve. Call Arlo at 312-313-0035 or send him an email to schedule your free case evaluation.

What to Do, and Not to Do, After a Dog Bite

 Do:

  • Get the dog owner’s name, contact information, and homeowner’s insurance.
  • Call the police or animal control and make a report of the incident.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you think you are injured and request an ambulance if necessary.
  • If you are able, make sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses to the incident. Witnesses can help you prove how your injury happened and establish that you were not at fault.
  • Call an experienced personal injury attorney to get a free legal consultation.

Do Not:

  • Do not delay in seeking medical treatment if you are injured. If you wait to seek treatment, insurance companies and defense attorneys will often argue that your delay suggests that you were not seriously injured, or that you are faking your injuries.
  • Do not speak with the dog owner’s insurance company. The insurance company will record your call and will seek to illicit subtle admissions from you that may hurt your chances to receive full and fair compensation.

Common Injuries from Dog Bites

Common injuries from dog bites include puncture wounds and cuts, contusions and abrasions, and fractures during a fall. If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, you should go to the nearest emergency room or seek other emergency medical care. You should also report the bite to law enforcement and to your local Animal Care and Control group. In Cook County, Animal Control and Rescue receives calls regarding dog bites.

In addition to physical injuries, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reports that dog bites may also cause a person to contract rabies, MRSA, or tetanus. Dogs may bite as a reaction to a stressful situation, because they are scared, or to protect themselves, their puppies, or their owners.

Illinois Dog Bite Law

The Illinois Animal Control Act imposes liability on owners of animals that attack or injure other persons. The only defenses that an animal’s owner may raise under the Act are that the person who was injured was not acting peacefully, or that the injured person provoked the dog. A person injured by another’s dog or animal may also bring a common law negligence action against the owner of the animal.

The City of Chicago also has regulations concerning animal care and control. The Chicago Municipal Code (“CMC”) requires owners of dogs to keep them properly and to report dog bites to the Executive Director of the Animal Control Department within 24 hours of a bite. If an animal is declared to be dangerous by the Executive Director, the owner must take additional steps to restrain the dog in order to protect children and others and placing warning signs to keep away from the animal. Owners may also be fined for animals that attack or bite others. Owners of animals may be fined for violating the Code.

How to Avoid Dog Bites

The CDC offers advice on how to prevent dog bites:

Do:

  • Ask if it is okay to pet someone else’s dog before reaching out to pet the dog.
  • When approached by an unfamiliar dog, remain motionless.
  • If a dog knocks you over, curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck.
  • Immediately let an adult know about any stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.

Do Not:

  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Don’t panic or make loud noises.
  • Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Don’t pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • Don’t let small children play with a dog unsupervised.

Dog Bite Statistics

In the United States, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and more than 800,000 people receive medical attention from dog bites. At least half of those bitten are children, and senior citizens are the second most common victims. Dog bites can be fatal, although this is rare.  In one study of 56 dog bite related fatalities in the United States from 2000 to 2009, common factors that contributed to such deaths included: (1) no able-bodied person being present to intervene, (2) the victim’s compromised state, such as age or impaired physical condition, and (3) the owner’s abuse or neglect of the dog. Patronek, G.J.

How Much is my Dog Bite Case Worth?

The value of any case, and the injured party’s monetary recovery, depends on many different factors. The most important consideration is the nature and extent of the injured party’s injuries. Other important factors include: (1) the elements of compensable damages like medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages, (2) the defendant-driver’s available insurance coverage, and (3) whether the plaintiff has any uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage with his own insurance company.

A. Compensatory Damages

Persons injured in car accidents are entitled to monetary compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability or loss of normal life, emotional distress, disfigurement, and lost wages.

Medical Expenses. An injured plaintiff is entitled to recover the full amount of any medical bills, regardless of whether the injured plaintiff had health insurance that paid all or part of the bills.

Pain and Suffering, Loss of Normal Life, and Emotional Distress. These elements of damages are hard to precisely calculate, as there is no easy formula to determine the monetary value of an injured plaintiff’s pain and suffering following an accident. However, when placing on value on these types of damages, one important legal consideration is the nature, extent, and duration of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Disfigurement. If a plaintiff suffers disfigurement from a dog bite such as scars, he may recover damages for the disfigurement. However, there is no easy way to calculate disfigurement damages. Generally, important considerations are the location and visibility of the scars and their size. Another consideration is whether the scars impair the plaintiff’s regular movement and function of their body, such as large scars over joints.

Lost Wages. An injured plaintiff can recover money for any wages he lost as result of his injuries from a dog bite. This includes the work that the plaintiff had to miss in order to attend doctor’s visits and other medical appointments.

Future Damages. An injured plaintiff is also entitled to recover for damages that are reasonably certain to arise in the future. For example, in the case of catastrophic injuries, a plaintiff may introduce evidence that he will need future nursing care, doctor’s visits, and medical procedures, or that he will experience continued loss of normal life due to the permanence of his injuries. A catastrophically injured plaintiff will commonly hire expert life care planners to evaluate his medical condition and testify at trial about the future medical care that he will need.

 Punitive Damages. Punitive damages are available in car accident cases if a defendant’s conduct was willful or wanton. Both the Illinois Supreme Court and legislature define willful and wanton conduct as “a course of action which shows actual or deliberate intent to harm or which, if the course of action is not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for a person’s own safety or the safety or property of others.”

B. The Defendant’s Insurance Coverage

If a dog bite injury occurs in another person’s home, then the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy may cover the loss. If a dog bit injury occurs in a business, then that business’ commercial general liability insurance policy may cover the loss. In either circumstance, it is important to determine the monetary limits of the insurance policy.

What to Expect When Hiring the Arlo Law Office

The first step Arlo will take when representing a client that has suffered a dog bite injury is to thoroughly investigate the facts of the incident and the nature and extent of the client’s injuries.

A. The Investigation

A good attorney is a skilled investigator. To investigate the facts of the incident, Arlo will interview the client and any witnesses. Arlo will also obtain a copy of any police reports. In some cases, it may also be necessary to visit the scene of the incident to take photographs. Arlo will also work to obtain video footage of the incident if needed, such as surveillance footage from homes or businesses.

Understanding the full nature and extent of a client’s injuries is critical to getting the client the best possible recovery. Further, it is important for those injured to understand the full nature and extent of their injuries so that they can consult with their doctors about the treatment needed to fully recover from their injuries. Many common dog bite injuries like muscle strains and sprains can be healed with physical therapy but remedying more complicated injuries like cuts and punctures wounds, fractures, tears of ligaments, and disc bulges, protrusions, or herniations may require more advanced treatment.

B. The Demand Letter

Once Arlo has thoroughly investigated the facts of the case and the client’s injuries, he will send a demand letter to the defendant’s insurance company. The demand letter illustrates why the defendant is at fault, and discusses the injuries suffered by the client. Finally, the letter will demand a specific sum to settle the case.

Some insurance companies will engage in settlement negotiations in good faith and offer full and fair compensation to those injured by their insureds. However, many substandard insurance companies will refuse to negotiate or only give low-ball offers. If this occurs, then Arlo can file a lawsuit and begin preparing for trial. If the defendant’s insurance company refuses to offer full and fair compensation, then the only recourse is to try a case to verdict and persuade the jury to award full and fair damages.

C. The Litigation Process

The first step in the litigation process is for the plaintiff to file a complaint. The complaint contains allegations about the facts of the incident at issue and the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff then must serve the complaint and summons on the defendant. Once the defendant has been served, his insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent him. The defendant’s attorney will then file an appearance in the case and an answer to the complaint.

Once an answer has been filed, the next step is for the parties to engage in discovery. The first phase of discovery is called written discovery, where the parties exchange and answer interrogatories and requests to produce documents. Interrogatories issued to the plaintiff will ask for information such as a description of the plaintiff’s injuries, the identity of any witnesses, and the total amount of the plaintiff’s medical bills. Interrogatories issued to the defendant will ask for information such as the identity of any defense witnesses, and the total amount of available insurance coverage. Requests to produce documents issued by the parties will ask for information such as medical records and bills, and any photographs of the plaintiff’s injuries.

When the written discovery has been answered, the parties will then engage in oral discovery, also known as depositions. At a deposition, the parties’ lawyers will take turns asking a party or witness questions about what they know about the case, such as the facts of the incident or the plaintiff’s injuries. A deposition is similar to testifying in court, because a court reporter is present and the deponent must take an oath to tell the truth, but depositions take place in an attorney’s office rather than a courtroom. The parties may also choose to depose the plaintiff’s treating physicians and any expert witnesses if either party hires an expert.

When discovery is complete, the case will be certified as “ready for trial.” The case will then be assigned a trial judge who will preside over the trial. Typically, trials for cases involving simple injuries will take one to two days, while more complicated trials with more than one defendant or catastrophic injuries may last two to three weeks.