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When will a pet owner be responsible for dog bites?

Dogs may be "man's best friend," but they are animals and therefore have the propensity to bite. Unfortunately, a dog bite can lead to serious injuries for the victim. Therefore, when appropriate, the dog's owner may be held liable if their animal attacks.

When it comes to dog bites and owner liability, some states have a "one-bite" rule, wherein if the dog hadn't bitten someone in the past, the owner may not face liability. However, Illinois is not one of these states. In Illinois, if a dog attacks, tries to attack or hurts an individual who had not provoked the dog, then the owner may face liability. However, this isn't necessarily absolute. If the dog was under the care of another individual when the dog bite occurred, it is possible that the owner might not face liability. Also, in Illinois, provocation may serve as a defense.

Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that a dog bite can be a severe injury. Dog bites could require stitches, and in more serious situations could even require surgery. Unfortunately, depending on where the bite occurred, disfigurement may be an issue or a person may be unable to perform their job until the injury has healed. Dog bites can also cause emotional harm, especially if the attack was vicious. Medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distress and pain and suffering can all add up to make the dog bite recovery process a lengthy and expensive one.

When a person is bitten by a dog, and the animal was not provoked, it is important to hold the owner responsible for the damages their pet caused. Liability in such situations is complicated, however, and will depend on the facts of the case.

Source: Illinois Bar Journal, "Illinois leads the pack in dog-bite claims," Matthew Hector, June 2017

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