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Regulations on Rover: Understand Your Local Dog Bite Laws

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Between an outraged dog bite victim and a defensive dog owner, things can get heated. Fortunately, most states have specific laws regarding dog bites, which lay out how to determine fault and what bills get paid. Since we at Hipskind & McAninch, LLC, are located in the Belleville and practice in the Metro East area, we’ll cover both sides of the Mississippi River today as we talk dog bite law.

Illinois Dog Bite Statute

After you’ve been bitten, the first thing you probably want to know is “Who’s paying for this?” Obviously, it should be the dog owner, right? Well, usually. To prove that a dog or other animal owner is liable for your bite injury in Illinois, you must prove:

  • The dog attacked, attempted to attack, or injured you (prove the incident occurred in the first place)
  • You had a lawful right to be in place you were when the attack occurred (you weren’t trespassing)
  • The dog or other animal was not provoked (you didn’t taunt it, scare it, etc.)

In Illinois, you do not have to prove that the pet owner had previous knowledge of the dog’s violent tendencies. If the dog bites you with no provocation, and you meet the standards set above, the owner is considered liable.

This concept is called strict liability, meaning absolute legal responsibility for an injury regardless of the owner’s carelessness, prior knowledge, or other similar circumstances. If, however, you provoked the dog into biting you, or you were on private property without permission, the dog owner may not be liable for your injury. (You can bet he’ll argue you provoked the dog, so lawyer up for the best results.)

In dog bite cases, the main party that can be held liable is almost always the dog owner. In rare cases, a third-party homeowner, landlord, or pet-sitter could possibly be liable in addition to the dog owner.

Missouri Dog Bite Statute

In nearby Missouri, the dog bite statute looks almost identical to that of Illinois, and it is also a strict liability state for dog bites. One difference to note is that Missouri dog bite laws apply specifically to bites, whereas the Illinois law applies to other injuries, like if a dog knocks a person over, scratches him, etc.

In addition, Missouri law specifies that an owner who is found liable for a dog bite injury must pay a $1,000 fine on top of the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

Dangerous Dog Breed Ordinances

It may come as a surprise, but entire cities can ban specific dog breeds within city limits through the use of city ordinances. These ordinances restrict or ban breeds that are considered dangerous or have possibly violent tendencies. In Illinois, these are the cities, ordinances, and breeds that are banned:

  • Barry; Section 5-5-2: bans pit bulls
  • Champaign; Section 7-5: bans wolf hybrids
  • North Chicago; Section 8-17-1: restricts pit bulls
  • Prospect Heights; Section 9-1-12: pit bulls declared “dangerous”
  • Village of Buffalo Grove; Section 6.12.125: restricts pit bulls and Rottweilers
  • Village of Cahokia; Section 90.52: bans pit bulls
  • Village of Hanover; Section 91.11: declares pit bulls “vicious”
  • Village of Maywood; Section 93.30: restricts pit bulls

Missouri has too many to list here, but you can view them on DogsBite.org. Remember – this isn’t a government website, and their information might not be complete. If you want to know specifics about any law, you should always talk to a lawyer.

Dog Bites and Insurance

In addition to cities’ restrictions on “dangerous breeds,” insurance companies also consider how dangerous or aggressive a dog breed may be before providing homeowners coverage. Some breeds commonly found on the “breed blacklist” include pit bull terriers, Rottweilers, German shepherds, Siberian huskies, and Great Danes.

In 2013, dog bite claims cost insurance companies about $490 million, with the average claim costing close to $30,000. These accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance claims that year.

Insurance companies are constantly evaluating risk, and they use research to create these blacklists to minimize their chances of having to pay for a dog bite claim. Each insurance company’s list is different, but the majority of companies have at least some un-insurable breeds. This makes a difference between whether you can file a claim against the dog owner’s insurance company, or must sue him personally to get compensation after a bite.

Getting Help After a Dog Bite

If you suffered injuries due to a dog bite, you’ll want to seek medical assistance immediately, and call a knowledgeable dog bite attorney. Assuming you were not trespassing or provoking the dog, your attorney should be able to argue that the dog owner is strictly liable for all your costs.

It can be helpful to write down the details surrounding the incident as quickly as possible. You should also hold onto any medical records or bills resulting from your dog-bite medical care.

Between establishing the facts of the case, researching city ordinances, proving liability, and persuading insurance companies to pay their share, you’ll want an experienced attorney on your side. If you’d like to speak with a Belleville dog bite attorney, please contact Hipskind & McAninch, LLC, for a free consultation at (618) 641-9189. No matter your legal issue, we’re here to help, and our 100+ Google reviews prove it.

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