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Articles Posted in Dog Bites

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As part of National Dog Bite Awareness Week, the United States Postal Service released its dog bite numbers which showed that Chicago ranked second in the nation for dog bites of postal workers, with 59 attacks.  The same survey showed that Illinois ranked sixth in the nation for dog bites of postal workers.  The Postal Service released a list of tips to reduce the number of dog bites for postal carriers.  The dog bite lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer have handled dog bite cases for delivery people and dog bite attorney, Peter Zneimer notes that these tips would apply not only to postal workers but to any person delivering something to a residence, such as pizza delivery people, Door Dash or Uber Eats delivery people,  or Amazon delivery people:

*  If a delivery person comes to the front door, put the family dog in a separate room with a door and close the door.  The dog bite lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer have litigated more than one dog  bite case where the home owner lost control of their dog when a delivery person was at the door and the dog powered through the door crack or pushed the screen door open to bite the delivery person who the dog viewed as a threat.

*  Do not take a pizza, food delivery or package directly from the delivery person’s hands into your own hands with the family dog  in striking range.  The family dog may view this motion as a threat to the dog owner and may bite the delivery person to  protect its owner from the perceived  threat.  This is a common one.  The dog bite attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, are currently litigating two cases where the pizza delivery persons (our clients) were bit by the home owner’s dog while in the the act of handing the pizza to the home owner.

In OctDog1-224x300ober 2015, a 45-pound dog named Chelsea bit a mailman. “Walking” in a normal dog’s paws, the Illinois Appellate Court determined that the mailman’s action could have provoked Chelsea to bite him, and therefore the mailman could not recover damages from Chelsea’s owners for the dog bite.

The mailman, Mr. Claffey, was delivering the mail in Glencoe, Illinois, when his job brought him to the Huntleys’ home. The Huntleys’ front door had a mail slot and two flaps, one on the outside and one on the inside of the door. A spring kept the inside flap shut. Trying to ensure that the inside flat will not damage the mail, Mr. Claffey stuck his right hand through the mail slot, lifted the inner flap, and used the left hand to insert the mail.

In addition to a mailbox with two flaps, the Huntleys had two dogs, one of which was Chelsea. Prior to sticking his hand through the mail slot, Mr. Claffey knew that the home had dogs, and heard dogs barking before he placed his hand in the mail slot. The mailman’s mailbox activity caught Chelsea’s attention, and the dog sprung into action, and bit the mailman’s right hand. Mr. Claffey managed to pull his hand away from Chelsea’s jaws, but the top of his hand was ripped and painful. Mr. Claffey sued the Huntleys for the dog bite for damages under the Illinois Animal Control Act.

The Illinois Animal Control imposes liability on animal owners if the injured person demonstrates that he or she (1) suffered injuries from the animal; (2) was at a place where he or she had the lawful right to be; (3) conducted himself or herself peaceably; (4) and the attack was without provocation.  The statute reads as follows:

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

510 ILCS 5/16. Continue reading

The Chicago dog bite lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, receive many calls from personal injury victims of a dog bite. According to the CDC, over 36% of households in the United States own at least one dog.  While dogs can be close friends, sometimes this best friend will bite.  Dog bites often cause painful deep wounds, nerve damages or infection. Children become victims of dog bite more often than adults, and the injuries are more severe. The majority of the injuries occur at home with familiar dogs. As the number of dogs in a household increases, so does the likelihood of being bitten.  According to the CDC, adults “with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home. Among adults, men are more likely than women to be bitten by a dog.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that in 2017 approximately 350,000 people treated at hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal dog-related injuries. Of them approximately 10,600 were children two years old or younger.
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Dog bites are unexpected, devastating, and sometimes deadly. As increasing numbers of Americans welcome canines into their homes, it is crucial to be educated about breeds and aware of the risks that may come with ownership. Pit bulls in particular have a longstanding reputation as an aggressive breed, dominating headlines about dog bite injuries that happen across the U.S.

The latest statistical information compiled by DogsBite.org reveal the grim reality behind the most fatal attacks. Between 2005 and 2018, pit bulls killed 311 people. In 2018 alone, pit bulls accounted for 72% of deaths caused by dogs in the United States. Put another way, pit bulls were the cause of 26 out of 36 total dog bite deaths.  Both adults and children are at risk for injury, with 42% of victims being children and 58% adults. Of the 26 attacks, 22 happened on the dog owner’s property. This illustrates the risks of not only owning pit bulls, but even visiting those who own them.   The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. note that the vast majority of their dog bite cases involve pit bulls.

The costs of a dog bite does not end with medical treatment, either. Complications like infection can arise from the injuries. Facial and reconstructive surgery, not to mention therapy, can quickly add up as additional expenses. The American Society for Plastic Surgeons reported over 28,000 reconstructive procedures done for dog bites in 2015. The Animal Control Act in Illinois places full liability on the owner of the dog; However, reaching a settlement can take months or years, depending on the severity of the injuries.

The Chicago attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer handle numerous dog bite cases, and have seen many cases where the bite was  not solely the dog’s fault.   Dogs are living beings who can feel startled, stressed, or in a threatening situation and can try to defend themselves by barking or biting.  Dogs have loved ones and may try to protect their puppies.  Illinois law recognizes that dogs are feeling, living creatures, and puts the burden on the dog bite victim to show that he or she was conducting himself or herself peacefully and did not provoke the dog.  The Illinois Animal Control Act provides that the dog owner is “liable in civil damages” to the victim if the dog “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…”  (510 ILCS 5/16).

The Animal Control Act does define what is “provocation”.  Because the statute does not define the term, the courts give the term its ordinary and popularly understood meaning within the purpose and objective of the statute. The purpose and objectives of the Animal Control Act are to “encourage tight control of animals in order to protect the public from harm. . ..” Wilcoxen v. Paige, 174 Ill. App. 3d 541, 543 (3d Dist. 1988).  Because the law applies to all dogs, it measures the provocation from the perspective of a fictional normal dog, and not from the vantage point of any one specific dog. Provocation is a question of whether the victim’s conduct would upset a normal dog to react the way the specific dog reacted.  Such fictional dog is average and “neither unusually aggressive nor unusually docile.” Kirkham v. Will, 311 Ill. App. 3d 787, 794 (5th Dist. 2000). A normal dog may react to violent conduct, and in reacting a normal dog would act proportionally. Continue reading

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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