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The responsibilities of a dog’s owner after it bites in Illinois

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2019 | Firm News |

Every state has its own laws and rules about liability and personal injury cases. Illinois has thorough laws intended to protect the public from negligence or wrongful acts by others that cause personal financial losses, injury or property damage. Dog bites absolutely fall under that umbrella.

Owning a dog is not just fun, but rather, a major responsibility and potential source of liability. Even a small dog can cause substantial harm to a human in the wrong circumstances. From a vicious attack on an infant to an opportunistic bite to the face or eyes, tiny dogs can cause injury just like large dogs can. Large dogs can cause catastrophic, even fatal injuries to children and adults. Regardless of the breed, if a dog viciously bites a human, the owner has obligations under Illinois law.

The owner or state officials may need to monitor the dog for 10 days

Although canine cases of rabies are rare, they can and do happen. If humans don’t receive vaccines quickly, there is no treatment once symptoms present. Identifying rabies exposure quickly is critical. Most cases of rabies in the Midwest involve small, wild mammals like raccoons or skunks. A dog that crosses paths with an animal that has rabies may attempt to play with it or may become aggressive toward it, resulting in a bite that transmits the virus from the other mammal to the dog.

Even if a dog’s owner does not believe their dog has encountered wild mammals or suffered a bite, they should report the dog bite. Provided that the dog has had its rabies vaccines and is up-to-date, there may not be an issue. However, if the dog does not have a current inoculation, a holding period is necessary for safety’s sake.

The 10-day observation time is more than enough time for the rabies virus to present identifiable symptoms in a dog, regardless of breed or size. Holding and observing the dog for 10 days is an alternative to the testing of brain tissue for the presence of the virus. If the dog dies before the 10 days end, the state will likely require the corpse of the animal for testing to ensure the safety of the human victim. Owners must make their dog available for observation if the state requires it.

Dog owners are subject to strict liability for the damage a dog causes

Illinois law places liability for a dog’s attack on the owner in almost all cases. Unless the person who gets bitten was breaking the law or trespassing at the time of the attack, the owner will be liable for the financial and medical consequences.

In most cases, a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy will cover some, if not all, of that liability. However, if the dog’s breed is not included in the policy or the dog’s owner does not have insurance, a personal injury lawsuit may be the only way to recoup the expenses incurred after a vicious dog bite attack.