Dog bites and other animal attacks are very common in Illinois. Given the large number of animals in our society, it should come as no surprise that accidents and animal attacks are not a rare occurrence. Many people contact our office after suffering an animal attack to discuss their legal right and options. A common and very important question we frequently receive is, “will insurance cover a claim for a dog bite?” In many cases, the answer should be yes! Eames Law Group has obtained many insurance settlements on behalf of injured dog attack victims, including a settled lawsuit in LaSalle County totaling $260,000.00. Keep reading to learn more about when insurance can potentially come into play after an animal attack has resulted in personal injuries.
In Illinois, the owner of a dog that attacks someone is strictly liable for the injuries sustained by the dog bite victim. Under the Animal Control Act, 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 a such dog or other animal is liable for civil damages sustained as a result. These damages can include all of the financial compensation which is available in a personal injury case, including money for medical bills, money for wages lost due to an inability to work as a result of the injuries, money for pain and suffering, and even money for disfigurement caused by the dog bite.
Under the Animal Control Act, the “owner” of the dog is defined as any person who has “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.” Because Illinois imposes strict liability on dog owners whose pets attack or injure people, such owners cannot use as a defense an argument that they were unaware of the dog’s dangerous propensity or the fact that the dog did not attack anyone in the past. It is important to emphasize though, that a potential defense for the dog owner would be if the victim provoked the dog before the attack.
Oftentimes, compensation for damages sustained as a result of a dog attack can be obtained under the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Generally, there is no special policy addendum covering dog attacks explicitly. Rather, if available, such coverage will fall under the liability portion of the insurance policy. So, a homeowner’s insurance policy or a renter’s insurance policy would be the best place to start when investigating potential insurance coverage after an incident. Given how the Animal Control Act defines the “owner” of the animal, it can be sufficient if the dog is merely a guest of the residence which contains the insurance policy. It will all come down to the relationship between the dog and the property owner or lessee.
Unfortunately, there are exclusions that can apply in insurance agreements when it comes to animal attacks. For example, it is common to see that some breeds of dog are explicitly excluded from coverage by the insurance policy. Some provisions in insurance policies may indicate that attacks by pit bulls or rottweilers will be excluded from coverage. For this reason, it is important to speak to a top dog bite attorney, Brent Eames, to discuss your legal options if you or a loved one has been injured by an animal.
The Eames Law Group is an experienced law firm that guides people involved in injury claims all across Illinois. We help residents of Illinois gain their lives back after accidents, by managing medical bills and financial setbacks. The Eames Law Group can help people obtain the appropriate compensation and medical assistance from accidents. Eames Law Group has been recognized as a top accident attorney in Chicago based upon A+ rankings for professionalism and reputation.
For more information, contact us to meet with the Eames Law Group and learn about the legal services they offer.