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Is Your Dog Bite covered by The Animal Control Act in Illinois

Dog bite law in Illinois is governed by The Animal Control Act.  The Act actually applies to all animals.  Under 510 ILCS 5/16, “if a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.”   The law further defines “Owner” as any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian, or who knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by him or her. Liability extends beyond just the owner, to the person in control of the animcal at the time of the injury. The primary defense to dog bite cases is provocation.

Until to The Animal Control Act, the Common Law required that the owner have prior knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensities.  The Act eliminated the “one-bite” rule.  Prior to The Animal Control Act, the plaintiff was required to prove that the dog owner either knew, or was negligent in not knowing the dog had a propensity to injure people.  The Act codified the law that it is the person in control of the animal at that moment that must control the animal.

As a result of the Statute, an owner is liable when the animal either attacks OR injures any person.  While the public generally thinks about dog bites, an aggressive violent action is not required.  Any action, which results in injury, is covered by the Statute.   Dog owners have been held liable in situations where a dog chased a bike rider causing the rider to fall, when a dog runs into the road and causes a car wreck, and when a dog greeting a person knocks the person over.

When presenting a case at trial, lawyers look to the Jury Instructions that explain the law to a jury.  Under current Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, a jury is instructed that the law for injuries caused by animals provides that any of the following can lead to liability:  that the owner of an animal, a person keeping an animal, a person harboring an animal, or a person who knowingly permits an animal to remain or about any premise occupied by that person, is liable in damages for injuries sustained from any attack or injury by the animal on a person peacefully conducting him or herself in a place where he or she may lawfully be unless that person provoked the animal or unless that person knew of the presence of the animal and of the unusual and dangerous nature of the animal and provoked it.

Provoked is defined by the Instruction as any action or activity, whether intentional or unintentional, which would reasonably be expected to cause a normal animal in similar circumstances to react in a manner similar to that shown by the evidence or to cause an animal with an unusual and dangerous nature to react in a manner similar to that shown by the evidence.

Unfortunately, the victims of dog bites are frequently children who are left with lifetime scars.  If you or a family member has been bitten or injured by the conduct of a dog or other animal, the lawyers at Kurasch & Klein, Ltd are ready with the knowledge and skills to fight for your rights.  We are here to answer your questions.  Our lawyers are willing to pursue all of your damages.   You may be entitled to damages for scars, pain, loss of normal life, necessary medical bills, among other damages.  In some circumstances the plaintiff may be entitled to damages for emotional trauma.  If you have a question call and speak to one of our lawyers today.