The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer and Zneimer P.C. have handled many dog bite cases and most are governed by the Illinois Animal Control Act. Historically, under common law, a dog was allowed “one free bite;” which meant that a dog owner was not liable for injuries caused by a bite if that dog had never bit anyone else. More recently, the law has evolved so that a dog owner will only be liable if he if his negligence caused the injury. The “one free bite” rule and negligence standard are common in many jurisdictions throughout the country, but not in Illinois. Illinois is one of the few states that have passed laws that apply strict liability to dog owners whose dog bites a victim. The Illinois law is helpful to victims of dog bites and now Illinois ranks second to California, in the number of dog bite claims brought per year.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that any dog, regardless of breed, has the potential to bite and cause minor to severe injuries, no matter how well-trained it is. Even the most seemingly friendly and gentle canines, at the slightest provocation, can get aggressive and attack. Insurance giant, State Farm, knows this all too well. Last year, State Farm disbursed a total of 13.9 million dollars for 323 reported dog-bite claims in Illinois alone.
Based on that same report from State Farm, the state of Illinois is second only to California when it comes to the number of dog-bite claims. Dog attacks are found to increase when children are out of school and more people are out with their dogs. Lake County Animal Care and Control reports 1,100 dog bites against humans last year though there has been no fatal dog attack in the county. However, officials in the same county are confident in their efforts to reduce these numbers.
There has been a spattering of gravely serious incidents such as the one involving an 8-year old girl from Zion which occurred early October 2015. As chronicled by the Chicago Tribune, the family’s pit bull attacked the girl to her face. When officers arrived at the scene, they found the girl bleeding profusely with a towel pressed to her face. Some cases were so bad it ended with the dog being euthanized.
While a small number of parks and trails prohibit dogs altogether, the overwhelming majority permit dogs in some form or another, with certain limitations. Where dogs are allowed, it is typically under the condition that the dog’s owner will adhere to leashing, permit, vaccination, and other dog-related restrictions and/or regulations. With so many pathways, trails, and parks that are currently open, scheduled to open, or set for future construction, in and around the Chicago area, the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. have concerns over the risks that dogs present to the persons that occupy these multi-use spaces.
As Dog Bite Attorneys, Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. recognizes that breed-specific legislation has been a highly debated topic in the Illinois, specifically in regards to pit bull and rottweilers. However, the state has continued to reject the necessity, effectiveness and constitutionality of statewide breed-specific legislation (BSL) for more than a decade, stating “it’s the deed, not the breed.” While local municipalities have the authority, granted through ‘home rules,’ to enact ordinances to regulate the residents within the boundaries of their jurisdiction, there are currently only a handful of cities and villages in Illinois that have BSL in place. While this may change in the future, questions remain regarding the benefit of polices that completely restrict a particular breed, which many equate to the efficacy that gun-control and drug laws have had on thwarting the actions of persons that engage in unlawful drug or gun related activities.
According to the American Insurance Institute, nearly half of all dog bites occur while the dog is off the owner’s property. While in some cases, a dog may attack another person or animal while in its owner’s presence (i.e. unleashed dogs; improperly secured collar/harness; pulling/breaking away from owner’s control), many bites and attacks are caused when a dog escapes from their owner’s property. Often time, the dog’s owner is completely unaware that their dog has escaped. The Dog Bite Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of a promising new technology, which might aide in the reduction of dog-related incidents.
Micro-chipping pets has long been used as a means of recovering lost animals, however, the benefits of such microchips were dependent on whether (1) the animal was actually brought in to be scanned; (2) the scan was successful in identifying the owner (3) and the owner’s contact information was current. Traditional microchips can neither track a dog’s location, nor notify a dog owner that their dog has escaped their property, and therefore serve a highly limited purpose-the possibility that the dog and its owner may be reunited. Though, a new product, ‘Escape Alert,’ offers to change dog-to-owner reunification. As discussed by the Chicago Tribune in ‘Pet escape: How to deal with it-and prevent it,’ with the use of this device,
“a pet owner can set up a virtual boundary – his or her yard, for example. When their dog or cat crosses the boundary, they get immediate text and email alerts. Neighbors, friends, veterinarians and local animal shelters can also get notifications. Next comes the cool part: The implanted GPS chip then tells the pet owner the animal’s exact location via cell phone, iPad, text message or computer.”
The Chicago Dog Bite Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. represent clients in a wide range of dog-related incidents, including those in which a person sustained injury while trying to prevent or intercept an animal-on-animal attack. Any animal lover would agree that ensuring the safety of their beloved pets, which are often considered to be members of the family, is an important concern. However, it is also necessary to consider your own safety, particularly when a dog owned by another bites, attacks, or attempts to attack your own dog or cat. Prompted by a recent dog attack in a Chicagoland suburb, we feel compelled to remind dog owners of the risk for injury or fatality caused as a result of intercepting a potential or presently occurring attack on your animal.
In September, a McHenry man and his wife, Steven and Annette Cuda, were both injured while attempting to save their 6-month-old golden retriever puppy, Addie, from being mauled by two pit bulls. According to reports, the two dogs either escaped or were allowed to roam from the owner’s premises, and subsequently charged at the retriever as Mr. Cuda was taking Addie on an evening walk. Mrs. Cuda, who was driving home at the time of the attack, heard her husband yelling around the corner, and joined her husband in an attempt to stop the attack.
In the aftermath of the incident, three victims required emergency medical treatment. Both of Addie’s owners sustained injuries to their hands, and Mr. Cuda reports that he separated his shoulder, when he tripped over one of the pit bulls during the attack. In addition, Addie sustained multiple dog bite related puncture wounds, and has already undergone two surgeries. Mr. Cuda described the attack as the most terrifying thing he has ever gone through, further stating that “the more my dog screamed or cried, the more vicious the pit bulls became.”
Two victims are recovering from their injuries after they were bitten by a pit bull in Chicago’s South Shore community. The incident occurred on March 1, 2014 in the 6900 block of South Shore Drive.
According to Chicago Police Department, several individuals had called police over concerns that a pit bull was loose in the neighborhood. Sometime following the pit-bull’s escape, the dog bit two individuals, including a 17-year-old boy and a man of an unknown age.
When police arrived, in response to the numerous calls received regarding the loose pit-bull, officers were forced to shoot the dog, due to claims that it was “charging” towards them.
The Chicago Dog Bite Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. take note of the alarming increase in recent years of payout amounts for claims brought forth under homeowners and renter’s insurance policies for dog bites and dog attacks. According to the National Insurance Institute, the amount paid by insurers for dog bite injury claims have increased from $324.2 Million in 2003, to $489.7 Million in 2012. This represents a nationwide increase of over 50% in the past decade.
When reporting data is delineated by location and insurance provider, the increase in dog bite claims in Illinois is profound when compared with other states. For example, a recent report by State Farm showed that Illinois ranked second in claims paid by that insurer in both 2011 and 2012. Although California ranked first, when adjustments for population are made, Illinois dog bite claim payout totals were still nearly 40% higher. Last year alone, Illinois dog bite claims accounted for 10% of all claims paid by State Farm for dog attack incidents.
In addition, Illinois also ranked amongst the highest in dog bite attacks on postal workers in 2012. According to a 2013 Postal Service study, which compiled a list of the top 10 U.S. cities for dog bite attacks on postal workers, Chicago Illinois was ranked as third, with a total of 41 dog bite incidents occurring in 2012. When compared to the total amount of 2012 dog attacks on postal workers, 5,900, and the fact that there are over 100,000 U.S. cities, this figure is significant considering that many cities with higher or comparable populations did not make the list. Further, Chicago’s 2012 ranking drastically increased from its ranking of 13th in 2011.
Nearly two years following the vicious dog attack on a 15-year-old boy in Zion Illinois, parties to the dispute reached a settlement agreement granting the victim $1.125 Million for his injuries. According to the Jury Verdict Reporter, this amount represents the largest award for a dog bite attack in Illinois history. As attorneys, who represent dog bite victims in Illinois, this settlement is significant in terms of victim rights, because it sends the message that careless dog owners can and will be held accountable for their inability to control a dangerous animal.
The tragic attack occurred on June 29, 2011, while 15 year old Jordyn Bankston was out riding his bicycle in the Lake County community of Zion. As Jordyn stopped to talk with his friends, a 120 lb Bull Mastiff escaped his owner’s fenced in yard, and charged towards the boys. Although the boys tried to escape, the massive dog was able to reach Jordyn, clenching the child’s arm with his forceful teeth and dragging him to the ground. Despite two neighbors attempting to intervene by kicking the dog, the savage dog attack continued, reports say, for nearly 10 minutes. The boy was eventually freed when a third neighbor burned the dog’s nose with a lit cigarette.
Jordyn was rushed to a nearby hospital in Waukegan, where he remained for nearly a week. As a result of the vicious attack, Jordyn suffered lacerations and puncture wounds to his arms, shoulder, legs, thigh, buttocks and head. Due to the extent of his injuries, the boy also required plastic reconstructive surgery. According to the dog bite attorneys representing the child and his family, “It was a very, very traumatic event. He thought he was going to die.”
In November 2008, Trina Wells visited her brother and sister-in-law. Her relatives owned a lab-husky mix named Tank. After Trina Wells arrived at her relatives’ home, she played with Tank. At one point the dog ran out of the front door, but her sister-in-law went outside and brought the dog back. The dog wanted to play in the yard. Tank escaped again. As Trina Wells and her sister-in-law were talking, they saw Tank roll out underneath a truck and appeared to have been hit. They noticed that Tank was moving slower than he normally did but they could not see any broken bones or blood. As they approached Tank, he was trying to go to the street again, and Trina Wells put her arms around Tank to stop him from running away. He collapsed on her hands and as she was trying to get her hands, Tank bit her into her left thumb, and then died.
The plaintiff filed a complaint against the her brother and sister-in-law, Matthew Cooper and Amy Cooper, for injuries she suffered when the dog bit her. A jury awarded her $140,000, and her brother and sister-in-law appealed.