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December 7, 2017
Written by: Costa Ivone

Dog Bite Lawsuits in Illinois

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According to insurance industry statistics, Illinois was home to more dog-bite claims in 2013 than 48 of the other states. It was second only to California.

When a person is injured by a dog bite—or in any other way by any kind of animal—what remedies does the law provide? In Illinois, there are two answers to that question, depending on whether a dog-bite lawsuit proceeds under the common-law rules for wild and domestic animals or under the Animal Control Act.

The Common Law Approach

The common law in Illinois—the law as developed by court opinions over the years—divides animals into two categories: wild animals (those that are not commonly domesticated—think lions, tigers, and bears) and domestic animals (i.e., pet dogs and cats).

In general, the owner of a wild animal is strictly liable for any injuries it causes. That means that the owner does not need to be negligent in any way to be liable for damages to an injured plaintiff.

The rule is different for domestic animals: The owner is only strictly liable under the common law if the animal had an uncommon dangerous propensity to cause injury, and the owner knew about it. This is often referred to as the “one bite” rule, since after an animal bites someone, the owner knows about its dangerous propensity to do so. Without such knowledge, the owner is only liable if negligent in some other way.

Critically, this division between wild and domestic animals, and between strict liability and negligence, no longer controls in all Illinois dog-bite lawsuits.

Illinois’ “Dog Bite Statute” – The Animal Control Act

The General Assembly has expanded the scope of strict liability in animal-injury cases, including dog-bite lawsuits. Specifically, section 16 of the Animal Control Act provides:

If a dog or other animal, without provocation, . . . injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of [the animal] is liable in civil damages . . . for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.

In other words, an owner is now strictly liable even for injuries caused by a domestic animal if (1) his or her animal injured someone without provocation while that person was (2) peaceably conducting himself or herself (3) in a place where he or she could lawfully be. The owner need not have known of a dangerous propensity or otherwise been negligent.


Although it may strike some as odd that there is an entire area of law devoted to their furry friends, dog bites and other animal-caused injuries are no laughing matter. In 2013, dog bites in Illinois caused $8.9 million in damages, at an average of almost $30,000 per injury.

If you, your children, or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite in Illinois or in any other way by an animal and are looking for dog bite attorneys, contact the lawyers of Costa Ivone today so that we can start the process of getting you the compensation you deserve.

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