Most people have heard horror stories about dog bites, but it is less common knowledge that there are specific laws on the books to protect the general public in Lake County from animal attacks. If a dog bite leads to serious injuries, these laws provide a measure of justice by allowing injured people to seek compensation from the at-fault dog owner.
If you suffer an injury due to a dog bite, you may be eligible for compensation that a Lake County dog bite lawyer could help you recover. Contact a dedicated personal injury attorney to learn about your legal options and start working toward recouping the costs of your medical expenses.
The Basics of the Animal Control Act
The Illinois Animal Control Act regulates how owners are supposed to take care of their animals and prevent injuries to innocent parties. Though the Act applies to animals of all types, it is often used as a basis for recovery in dog bite cases.
There is a strict definition of an “owner” in the Illinois Animal Control Act that differs from the normal usage of the word. Though having property rights over a dog counts as ownership, so too does the regular custodial care of an otherwise feral animal under the Act. In other words, someone who has never paid for a dog may still be considered its owner—and be liable for damages the dog inflicts—if they exert a reasonable amount of control and care over that dog.
This can sometimes be a difficult rule to interpret, especially since there are many situations in which it does not apply. For instance, a landowner is not considered the owner of a dog simply by knowing that a dog lives on their land. In order to be liable, they must control the dog or regularly take care of it. An experienced Lake County dog bite lawyer may be able to help a potential plaintiff discern whether their case involves a liable owner under Illinois state law.
When the Animal Control Act Applies
Knowing when an injured person’s case falls under the Illinois Animal Control Act is crucial, as a case that does not meet the Act’s requirements may be ineligible for compensation. Once a plaintiff establishes that the defendant is the legal “owner” of the dog in question, several other elements must be met in order for the case to be viable:
- The injured person did not entice the dog to attack
- The injured person behaved in a calm and peaceful manner
- The injured person was legally allowed to be in the area in which they were attacked
This means that dog bites that result from intruders onto private property or from people acting aggressively toward the dog or its owner may not be eligible for compensation. For more information about the Animal Control Act, contact a seasoned lawyer.
Damages Available in Dog Bite Cases
There are two kinds of damages for which an injured person may be able to recover compensation in Illinois. The more objective of the two categories, economic damages, cover monetary losses like medical bills and the cost of repairing property damaged in a dog attack. It can also include wages lost as a result of time taken off work to recover from a dog bite injury.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, include more subjective injuries that are difficult to assign a specific value, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium with a spouse, or the strain of permanent disfigurement. In some cases, it may be necessary for a dog bite lawyer in Lake County to bring expert witnesses into the court to testify on what fair values for non-economic damages would be.
The State of Illinois allows for punitive damages as well, though only at the court’s discretion and only in exceedingly rare instances. For an injured person to be awarded punitive damages, the owner must have acted willfully or with wanton recklessness in the incident.
Talk to a Lake County Dog Bite Attorney
If you are injured by a severe dog bite, call a Lake County dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. You and your family deserve to be compensated for any injury that was not your fault. By discussing your case with an experienced attorney, you could provide yourself with better representation in court and increase the likelihood of a positive resolution to your situation.