Will a normal dog bite?

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.

It is important to remember that dogs bite in reaction to outside stimuli and can bite to defend themselves, defend something that is dear to them like puppies or a toy, or because they are scared or startled or not feeling well. Victims of dog bite can sue for damages, but dog ownership does not make the owner strictly liable for the damages. To recover, the victim must show four elements in order to succeed in a claim for damages as a result of dog injury:

  1.  an injury caused by an animal owned by the defendant;
  2. lack of provocation;
  3. the peaceable conduct of the injured person; and
  4. the presence of the injured person in a place where he has a legal right to be.

510 ILCS 5/16 (2019).

Thus, when the man’s best friend bites a person, one of the issues is whether the dog was justified in its action, since something provoked it to act the way it did. Whether the dog was justified in biting, depends on whether a normal dog would have reacted the way this dog did in similar circumstances. Thus, if a dog bites someone where the hypothetical normal dog would have walked away, the dog that bit was not legally provoked, and the victim can sue the dog’s owner for damages. On the other hand, if a normal dog would have bitten just as this dog did, the victim cannot prove that the attack was without provocation.

As provocation is measured from the point of view of the hypothetical normal animal, provocation can be intentional, unintentional or accidental. The injured party needs not be the provocateur, as the issue is whether the dog’s reaction was justified in view of the outside stimulus, and is from the point of view of what a normal dog would do.

Over the years, judicial decisions have identified acts that constitute provocation to a normal dog, and this usually includes some violence against the dog. In one case, an injured dog that was lying on his owner’s porch was legally provoked when two children kicked and pushed the dog several times, and the dog bit one of them. In another case the court found that the dog was provoked, when a child tried to take something from the dog’s mouth, struck the dog, pulled its and ears.

A normal dog does not get provoked by petting alone or when someone screams at the dog. Reasonable measures for self-protection against a dog that initiated the attack are also not provocation.

Dogs are living beings and sometimes they become angry, or scared, or irritated, and they bite as an offense or a defense. After a dog bite injury, it is important to seek immediate medical attention to treat or prevent infection. Victims of dog bite can seek recovery for their damages from the dog’ owner, provided that the attack was without provocation. Whether the man’s best friend was provoked depends on what a normal dog would consider provocation.

If you have suffered a dog bite, contact the Chicago dog bite attorneys Zneimer & Zneimer to seek legal help.