Dog BiteA dog is man’s best friend. It’s an often repeated line that isn’t always true. The reality is that dogs are animals, and they will behave and react in ways that are not always predictable. Even the smallest dog can pack a serious bite that can cause real damage. When an individual chooses to own a dog, they are also choosing to accept the liability that comes with that decision. Fortunately, there are remedies available for individuals who find themselves suffering from Fido’s actions.

Insurance Restrictions

While all dogs have the potential for violence, some dog breeds are more prone to violent behavior than others. In 2013, Americans filed nearly $490 million in claims for dog bites they had suffered. The average cost of each claim was $30,000.

In 2014, claims related to dog bites accounted for nearly 1/3 of all homeowners insurance claims. On average, nearly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and approximately 885,000 will require medical attention for their injuries. In 2014, there were 872 claims filed in Illinois that resulted in an average award of $35,000 per victim.

Insurance companies track these numbers to determine which breeds are most dangerous so that they can adjust homeowners, renters, landlord, and dog owners insurance premiums accordingly. In regard to some breeds, the insurance industry has decided that some breeds are simply too risky to insure. These breeds include:

  • German Shepherds
  • Pit Bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • Mastiffs
  • Great Danes
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Chow Chows
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Akitas
  • Wolf Hybrids
  • Cane Corsos
  • Malamutes
  • Presa Canarios
  • Staffordshire Terriers

Individuals owning these breeds will often find it difficult to insure these breeds. Moreover, when they do find an insurance company that will, the premiums are often high, and the coverage limits very low. In one 2011 case, a woman injured in Washington was awarded a verdict of $2.2 million after being attacked and seriously injured by two pit bulls. The policy held by the homeowners was limited to $100,000 for each dog, thus they were left responsible for the remainder of the verdict. This is typical as most insurance companies will provide liability limits that range between $100,000 and $300,000. Any damages awarded that exceed these policy limits are the responsibility of the dog’s owner.

The Law in Illinois

In 2003, Governor Blagojevich signed into law the Ryan Armstrong Act which gave cities and municipalities the right to restrict certain dog breeds within their communities. The law was named after 10-year-old Ryan Armstrong who was seriously injured in a February 2001 attack by a Rottweiler. The law requires owners to muzzle and leash dangerous breeds whenever they are in public. The law also gives law enforcement the discretion to impound the dog and impose other penalties as appropriate.

In Illinois, Pit Bulls are banned in many communities including Aledo, Barry, and East Dubuque. In others, including Rock Falls, and Buffalo Grove, they are heavily restricted. Buffalo Grove also restricts Rottweilers. These bans were prompted by the fact that since 1886, 25 people have been killed by Pit Bulls in Illinois.

In Illinois, 510 ILCS 5/16 states that a dog owner is liable for the damages their dog causes to humans, wildlife, and property. When injury has occurred, the plaintiff must prove that the dog attacked or attempted to attack an individual who had a legal right to be in the place where they were attacked. The plaintiff must also show that the dog was not provoked.

As with all personal injury cases, individuals must file their lawsuit within 2-years from the date of the incident. This is important to remember because compensation can be sought for permanent scars and long-term damage resulting from a dog bite.

Pursuing Compensation

When determining how much to award a dog bite victim, the court will consider many factors. These factors will include the following:

  • The severity of the injury including bites that result in loss of limbs or serious restorative surgery.
  • The amount of medical care that was required to repair the damage.
  • The long-term consequences of the bite including scarring and nerve damage.
  • The location of the injury and the physical/emotional discomfort the injury has caused.
  • The sex, age, and marital status of the injured party.

Individuals may seek compensation to cover medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering, as well as for damage to personal property. In some cases where gross negligence or a history of assaults is present, the jury may also decide to award punitive damages.

When pursuing compensation for dog bite injuries, it is necessary to provide detailed and thorough record of the injury. For this reason, it is essential to sit down with a Chicago dog bite lawyer who can help document every stage of the process from injury to recovery.

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