Unlike other states, Illinois law provides for damages in animal attack cases that do not necessarily involve an actual animal bite. The Illinois Animal Control Act ensures that an animal's owner (or other responsible party) may be held liable if the animal under their care attacks an individual, leading to injury whether or not the victim is bitten.
There are, of course, many scenarios in which an aggressive animal may cause injuries that do not include an actual dog bite.
The fact is the very presence of many animals, particularly aggressive breeds of dog, inspire fear in many individuals. And if that fear (or emotional distress) leads to injury, the owner (or other responsible party) may be held liable in a civil court.
The question is: Did that owner take reasonable care to control the animal given the specific circumstances surrounding the attack? That said, these cases are not all that cut and dry.
Say, for instance, you are riding a bicycle past a home with a dog in an unfenced yard and the dog races out in an aggressive manner toward you. You veer out away from the dog and run into a tree, suffering serious injury and damaging your bicycle. After the crash, you notice that the dog is actually chained and cannot reach beyond the yard, itself posing no real danger to you. Who is liable for your injuries?
That's a good question. Because what must first be determined is whether or not the owner understood the dog to be aggressive, or that it was evident to on comers that the animal was chained and could not advance beyond the owner's property.
If it can be proven that the chain was reasonably visible and that the owner had no indication that the dog could be perceived a serious threat by on comers, you may be on the hook for your injuries.
If, however, a neighbor can attest to prior incidents where the dog demonstrated a pattern of aggression, for instance, and that, given the dog's past, it is reasonable to assume that passersby might be so frightened by its behavior that they might be injured in the process of escape, the owner could be found negligent and liable for damages. And those damages could include emotional distress if that distress accompanies physical injury.
So complex are these cases that in almost every instance a practiced personal injury attorney with experience in dog bite cases should be consulted to carefully review the circumstances, determine the appropriate party or parties that may be responsible and develop a course of action, whether negotiation with a homeowner's insurer, or filing a personal injury claim.
The attorneys of Panio Law have ample experience in personal injury cases involving animal attacks. We are very familiar with the county and municipal codes applicable in these casers and can help document evidence, witness testimony and win damages for our clients.
If you have any questions about an animal attack case, call (708) 928-8680. We can help.