Illinois has the second-highest number of dog bite claims in the United States and increased dog density and the Illinois Animal Control Act could be part of the reason why. Under Illinois law, victims of dog bites may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and dog owners can be held liable even if the dog has never bitten anyone in the past.
Dog Bite Frequency Increasing
There are nearly a hundred million pet dogs in the United States. On average, 4.5 million people suffer dog bites annually, with children representing the majority of victims.
According to estimates, dog bite injuries have increased by 33 percent in the last decade. Nationally, Illinois ranks near the top in the number and severity of bite injuries, with insurance companies paying out $39 million in injury compensation in 2016.
Why is Illinois a Dog Bite Leader?
Increased dog density in the state may be a contributing factor to dog bite frequency. The more dogs and people interact, the more likely a person is to suffer a dog bite.
The proliferation of so-called aggressive breeds may also be a factor. When owners train dogs to be aggressive, bites tend to be more severe, and on occasion, have resulted in death.
Another cause of bite claim frequency in Illinois is the state’s stricter Animal Control Act. Unlike other states, there is no liability-free bite the first time a dog injures someone. Under the Illinois statute, dog owners are liable for injuries the first time a dog bites someone.
Limitations on Dog Bite Liability
Despite the first bite liability provision in the Illinois law, there may be limitations on a dog owner’s responsibility for bite injuries. An accident lawyer reviewing a dog bite claim will often evaluate whether:
The owner was in control of the dog or if the actions or negligence of another caused the dog's aggressive behavior
The dog was confined or on a leash
The victim intruded into the dog’s confinement area or provoked the dog to bite
The answers to these questions help determine if the victim is entitled to compensation for injuries.
Physical and Emotional Scars
Dog owners have a responsibility to control their pets and may be liable for injuries they cause. The physical and emotional trauma of a dog bite can leave lifelong scars, and victims have a right to pursue compensation for their injuries and suffering.