More than one-third of American homes have a dog. In all, 70 million dogs, most of them gentle, faithful companions. But any dog can bite, inflicting serious injuries, disfigurement and emotional trauma.
Under Illinois law, dog owners are strictly liable when their pets harm people. It may be a sweet puppy the other 364 days a year. This may be the first time it bit anyone. That does not matter. You are entitled to compensation if you are injured by a dog. But you may need legal help to collect.
Some surprising facts about dog bites
The American Veterinary Medical Association gathered some statistics for National Dog Bite Prevention Week:
- Dogs bite 4.5 million people every year. About 20 percent of those cases require medical treatment.
- Young children are especially vulnerable to dog bites. Two-thirds of their injuries are to the face, head or neck.
- Some clichés are true. More than 5,500 mail carriers were bitten by dogs last year.
- The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says 27,000 reconstructive procedures were performed last year to repair damage from dog bites.
- The average insurance payment for a dog bite claim is $37,329. One-third of all homeowner insurance claims are related to dog attacks
What to do in the event of a dog bite
Most dog bites are not random encounters with stray dogs. Quite often the dog belongs to a friend or neighbor or relative. It may be normally friendly, but on that day something made the dog skittish or aggressive or vicious. All it takes is one quick snap of a dog’s powerful jaws. Getting knocked down or chased by a dog can also cause fractures, head injuries and other serious injury.
- Seek prompt medical treatment for bite or claw wounds, to identify nerve or tissue damage, prevent infection, and document the injuries for legal purposes.
- Report the incident to police or animal control. The dog may need to be quarantined (as a rabies precaution) or possibly removed from the home or put down.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer who can address liability, calculate full damages and represent you in legal proceedings. Dog bites are usually covered by homeowner insurance (rather than directly suing the person). Most cases are settled out of court.
Pet owners are strictly liable, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a lawyer. The owner and their insurer may argue that the victim was trespassing or provoked the dog, or they may dispute the damages. You have a right to compensation for medical expenses (including reconstructive surgery), lost time from work, scarring, permanent injury, pain and suffering, and possibly emotional trauma. All of these elements need to be proven to get full value from your case.
Any dog can bite. Read how to keep your family safe from dogs.