Pet owners financially responsible for their animal’s actions

Dog growling

The trauma of an animal attack in Chicago can last far beyond the time it takes for wounds to heal. The mental, physical and emotional repercussions can be severe and difficult to overcome. Additionally, the financial effects can devastate many families as they attempt to get their injured loved one the medical care they need. Financial loss can also be severe if the victim has missed time away from work. Current Illinois law takes all of this into consideration and allows many injured parties to seek compensation from a pet’s owner for a dog bite or other animal attack.

Attacks happen every day

 The Times Union reports that a Schenectady, NY woman recently failed to properly restrain her pit bull when a 13-year-old boy entered her driveway. The unleashed, unlicensed dog attacked and the boy sustained bites to his outer left leg, outer right thigh and his right buttocks. Doctors used 30 staples to close his wounds. The woman was arraigned on misdemeanor dangerous dog charges but is currently free on bail.

This boy is not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 4.5 million people in the U.S. are the victims of a dog bite each year. Of these incidents, 885,000 require medical attention and half involve children. In 2012 alone, 27,000 individuals underwent reconstructive surgery to repair damage done during a dog attack. In certain instances, these attacks can be so severe, they are fatal. In 2013, 32 people of all ages were fatally attacked by dogs.   

Specifics of the law

Illinois law states clearly that pet owners are liable for the harm that their pets cause. While dogs are the most common animal to be at issue in these laws, it is applicable to any animal that is kept as a pet. For the statute to apply, the following conditions must be met:

  • The animal has an owner, harborer, keeper or custodian who knowingly allows it to stay on any premises that the owner occupies.
  • Any attack or attempted attack must be unprovoked.
  • At the time of the attack, the injured party must have been somewhere they were legally allowed to be, such as a home that they were invited to enter, the sidewalk outside of a neighbor’s house, or another public place.
  • The injured individual must have been acting peaceably.

If these requirements have been met, and the owner’s negligence is clear, then a victim may successfully sue for the full amount of their injuries. In some cases, plaintiffs may receive damages for their full medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

Being victimized in a dog or other animal attack can alter an individual’s life. Injured parties or a deceased loved one’s family can contact an Illinois personal injury attorney to learn more about these laws and how they may apply to their situation.