How Do Dog Bite Lawyers Determine Who Is Responsible for an Attack?

dog after biting dog bite victim
Image by

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly five million people get mauled or bitten by dogs every year. More than 800,000 dog bite victims require medical treatment every year, and some attacks are even life-threatening.  The victims of dog attacks can seek help from a personal injury attorney to receive compensation after a dog attack. A lawyer for dog bites will be able to help determine who was responsible for the attack.

Who Might a Dog Bite Involve?

The first party a dog bite attorney is likely to consider is the dog’s owner. In dog bite cases, a dog’s owner is at least partially responsible for the pet’s actions. However, dog bite cases are not always so simple, and there are several different parties to think about when working with a lawyer for dog bites.

Dog Owners

Pet owners are accountable for their animals, including in cases where a dog damages property or injures a person. Some states impose strict liability on dog owners. In those states, the owners are fully responsible regardless of the events surrounding the attack. Illinois and Missouri are both strict liability dog bite states. This offers some clarity to victims of dog bites in these states. 

Dog bite victims in Illinois and Missouri, along with their personal injury attorneys, always know the dog’s owner is fully culpable. Compare this to states without strict liability dog bite laws. Without strict liability, the victim’s personal injury attorney must prove the owner was aware their animal might harm someone. The victim and their attorney must also prove the owner did not take adequate preventative measures. 

Even in Missouri and Illinois, a dog’s owner may seek to avoid responsibility. They might claim the victim was trespassing, provoked the animal, or was otherwise at fault. A dog bite lawyer in these states can help the victim prove that the responsibility should, in fact, fall strictly on the owner. Even when the dog’s owner is accountable, other parties can be responsible as well.

dog after biting dog bite victim
Image by

Dog Keepers and Harborers

Those who keep or harbor dogs may also be responsible after a dog bite. For example, if a shelter is harboring a dog when the animal attacks a victim, the shelter may be responsible. For another example, imagine your neighbor’s partner moves into the home and brings a dangerous dog. In that case, your neighbor might be responsible when their partner’s dog attacks. Any party in possession of a dangerous dog can share responsibility with the dog’s ultimate owner. A personal injury attorney can help the victim assess all responsibility, even beyond the dog’s owner.

Temporary Caretakers: Walkers, Watchers, and Professionals

Just as dog keepers and harborers are responsible, so are temporary caretakers. Temporary caretakers include veterinary clinics, grooming facilities, animal hotels, and related caretakers. This also includes people who watch or walk dogs, whether as a favor to a friend or as a paid profession. For example, imagine a professional dog walker fails to pay attention while walking a dangerous dog through a park. The walker might be negligent, and therefore responsible, if the dog bites a child.

Children and Parents

According to the CDC, children are the most common victims of dog bites and maulings. Children are less experienced with dogs than adults are, and might not be big enough to fend off an attack as well as adults can. The owner of a violent dog may try to claim that a child caused an attack by doing something they should not have. Common claims include that the child went onto private property or agitated the animal.

Children cannot be held responsible for their actions in all of the same ways adults can. This is why the court might look to the parents during dog bite cases. If an adult with children under 18 years of age takes responsibility for a dangerous dog, and the dog bites one of the children, the adult may be responsible. Similarly, a dog owner may claim that a parent failed to keep their children away from a dog the parent knew to be dangerous but was otherwise contained.


A landlord might be responsible for the actions of a dangerous animal living on their property. Landlords must be notified of dangerous pets on their property. Once they receive notification, they must take steps to ensure the animal is removed, or at least has proper containment. They might be legally responsible if they do not take steps to prevent attacks by dangerous dogs on their property.

landlord with dog on property
Image by

Businesses With Dogs at Work

Many companies allow dogs in their workplaces. Some say it promotes morale and a certain type of company culture or helps dog owners prevent daycare costs. Some employees consider this a great perk, but it also exposes businesses to some level of responsibility. If an employee gets attacked by a dog while they are at their office, the company may share some responsibility for the event with the dog’s owner. The same is true if if a guest gets attacked when visiting a place of business.

Finding a Lawyer for Dog Bites

When you are the victim of a dog bite or other attack, a personal injury lawyer can help you identify all responsible parties. Then you can work together to hold them accountable. Identifying the responsible parties is an important step toward seeking compensation. Your settlement can cover medical costs and compensate you for pain and suffering. An experienced lawyer for dog bites will be familiar with the relevant local laws. This expertise helps identify responsible parties and proceed accordingly.
The personal injury attorneys at Hipskind & McAninch have a reputation for winning dog bite settlements in Illinois and Missouri. Our experience helps us guide victims through every step of a successful case. If you or a loved one has suffered a dog attack, contact us today to identify the responsible parties, build a case, and receive your settlement.


Dog Bites