Dog Bites: What’s the Law?
Dogs are a man’s best friend. They are our loveable companions. But sometimes, the unexpected happens and a dog bites a person causing serious injury. So what’s the law? In Illinois, the legislature passed the Animal Control Act that states “if a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in a place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable.” 510 ILCS 5/16.
If we break down the statute, it means:
- The dog (or animal) attacked (and the person is injured)
- You did not provoke the dog (or animal)
- And you had a lawful right to be in the place where the incident occurred.
This seems easy enough. But there are a few important points to consider. First, the dog cannot be provoked. Courts have held that provocation is viewed from the dog’s perspective. Stehl v. Dose. The provocation must be reasonable in response to the triggering event. Robinson v. Meadows. So, the provocation must be directed toward the dog and the dog’s response must be proportional to the provocation. Robinson v. Meadows. There is a lot of gray area in these definitions and it is oftentimes left up to the jury to decide if there was any provocation.
Second, there can be no recovery if the person who was attacked is not in a place where they have a right to be. A person cannot be trespassing on another’s property and recover damages. For example, a person cannot recovery damages from a dog bite if he or she walks into someone else’s backyard (without invitation) and gets attacked by a dog.
Last, it is important to consider that even if the plaintiff proves all of the elements of the statute, the amount of money won can still be decreased by the plaintiff’s own negligent conduct.
The ability to recover from a dog (or animal) bite is very fact specific. Contact our office and we would be more than happy to go over what to expect in your case.