A red Emergency sign at the entrance to a hospital

A red Emergency sign at the entrance to a hospital

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the U.S. Sadly, as any dog bite attorney Chicago could attest, these aren’t the only animal-related injuries that happen each year. Many people here in Illinois may also experience injuries involving other animals, ranging from house pets to livestock. When these incidents could have been prevented, victims may have legal recourse.

Pet attacks

Most common house pets, including cats, birds, snakes and rodents, can scratch, bite or attack in other manners. Although these attacks are often viewed as less serious than dog bites, they can still have harmful effects. In 2013, for example, a Chicago man sought damages after suffering injuries when a cat attacked him. According to The Huffington Post, the cat scratched and bit the man without provocation. In his claim, the victim stated that he sustained serious injuries, some of which resulted in ongoing complications.

Besides causing tissue damage and scarring, animal scratches and bites can lead to potentially dangerous bacterial infections. For example, cat attacks may transmit cat-scratch disease. Bites or attacks from various pets, including cats, dogs and ferrets, may also expose victims to rabies, according to the CDC. These diseases can give rise to permanent or potentially life-threatening complications.

Livestock injuries

Larger domesticated animals, such as horses and cattle, also can cause people serious harm. As any dog bite attorney Chicago would agree, bites from these animals may result in serious outcomes, such as the loss of digits or the need for reconstructive surgery. Livestock also can severely injure people by kicking them, knocking them down or trampling them.

An Illinois lawsuit filed in 2011 illustrates the steep potential toll of these animal attacks. The victim sustained an injury while she was taking a photograph of her grandchildren at a farm, according to The Chicago Sun-Times. The plaintiff reported that a horse approached her and bit down on her hand, taking off her index finger. Besides suffering pain and emotional distress, the victim lost the ability to perform various daily and job-related tasks.

Other hazards

Some Illinois residents may also suffer injuries involving wild animals when property owners do not employ reasonable precautions. For example, owners may fail to take adequate measures to keep their property free of potentially harmful animals.

Animal attacks that occur on semi-outdoor property are one potential cause of injury. As an example, according to Fox News, a Florida man sued Wal-Mart in 2009 after a rattlesnake bit him in an outdoor garden center. The man was the third person to suffer a snake bite in a Florida Wal-Mart during a three-year period. Similarly, in Washington State, a man filed a lawsuit after suffering a snake bite in another Wal-Mart in 2012, according to KIRO TV News.

Comparable cases have not been reported here in Illinois. Still, the risk of preventable injuries that involve wild animals and occur on privately owned property is clear. Fortunately, when any of these injuries occur, victims may be able to seek compensation.

Premises liability cases

When injuries arise due to wild animal attacks, property owners might be found liable under the Premises Liability Act. In Illinois, property owners don’t need to warn visitors of obvious hazards. Property owners are similarly not responsible for mitigating hazards they are not reasonably aware of. However, victims may have grounds for filing claims when property owners don’t adequately prevent or warn about known risks.

As an example, in both of the Wal-Mart lawsuits, snakes were well-known local pests. In one of these cases, snakes had previously bitten people in other Wal-Mart stores in the same region. However, most customers would not reasonably expect to face snake attacks while shopping in an outdoor retail center. Under these circumstances, the property owners could have been considered liable for the animal attack injuries.

Assessing owner liability

More commonly, people in Illinois may suffer injuries when domesticated animals aren’t adequately restrained or supervised. Fortunately, the Illinois Animal Control Act establishes strict liability for animal attack injuries. As a dog bite attorney Chicago knows, a pet owner or custodian’s ignorance is not a valid defense against liability. Owners may be considered liable even if they have not seen prior indications that an animal was likely to cause injury.

There are a few cases in which animal owners may not be held liable for animal attack injuries, however. These circumstances include:

  • The attack occurs while the victim is trespassing or committing a crime. Property owners are not responsible for protecting trespassers against hazards such as animal attacks.
  • The victim provoked the animal by abusing or assaulting it. Under the Animal Control Act, owners can only be held liable if victims suffer injuries while behaving “peaceably.”
  • The owner made reasonable attempts to prevent an attack. For instance, an owner may have posted warning signs or verbally instructed a victim to stay away from the animal. If the victim ignored these measures, the owner might not be liable for any resulting injuries.

Injury victims who are seeking compensation must prove their injuries did not involve any of the above circumstances. If victims are successful, they may be able to secure various forms of personal injury compensation. This compensation could include damages for medical expenses, wage loss and emotional pain and suffering.

Claiming injuries

In Illinois, the statute of limitations for claiming personal injuries, including ones arising from animal attacks, is two years. Consequently, injury victims may benefit from meeting with a dog bite attorney Chicago soon after the incident occurs. An attorney may be able to assess the circumstances of the attack and determine whether pursuing compensation is an option.

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