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Bitten by a dog in Illinois? State law and legal remedies.

Dogs have a reputation as man's best friend. In many cases, this old saying holds true. Dogs can offer companionship and help keep the ones we love safe from intruders. Unfortunately, either due to confusion over when a guest is an intruder or poor training and socialization, there are cases when dogs bite.

Even more concerning, these cases appear to be on the rise.

Who is at risk to get bitten by a dog?

Anyone could be the victim of a dog bite. However, there are certain segments of the population that are at a greater risk of getting attacked by a dog than others. One such group involves children. Of the estimated 4.5 million dog bites that occur annually, the majority of victims are children. Young kids often have no boundaries and do not yet have the skills to determine when a dog is friendly or dangerous. This requires owners to take extra precautions to keep both their dogs and the children who may approach safe from any potential injury.

Postal workers are another specific portion of the population at risk. According to the Claims Journal, a publication that focuses on insurance news and resources, mail carriers experienced an increase in dog bite cases in 2016. There were 6,755 reported incidents, making 2016 the most dangerous year for dog bite attacks in three decades.

What does Illinois state law say about dog bites?

In an effort to help reduce the risk of a dog attack incident, Illinois has a number of laws regarding dog ownership. Owners, for example, are required to inoculate any dog that is over the age of four months against rabies. The state also allows for the impoundment of dogs that are found running loose through the community. Furthermore, if a dog is impounded a second time due to running at large the state can require the dog be either spayed or neutered.

The law also addresses liability for animal attacks. Essentially, a dog owner is liable in full for the costs that result from the attack if the attack was unprovoked. The law also defines a bite to include getting "nipped, gripped, wounded, or pierced, and further includes contact of saliva with any break or abrasion of the skin."

The regulations within the law do not stop after a bite occurs. If a dog bites, the owner must also follow certain procedure. This includes submitting the animal to observation for at least ten days to ensure that the dog is not suffering from any disease like rabies. The dog must also receive an examination by a licensed veterinarian. The vet will then submit a report to the Department of Agriculture of the State of Illinois. The report should include the owner's name and contact information as well as a description of the dog's breed, age, microchip number, disposition and clinical condition. A dog owner that fails to follow these requirements can face criminal charges. Owners that attempt to keep their dog from authorities or euthanize the animal prior to following these requirements can face a Class A misdemeanor charge for a first offense or Class 4 felony charge for a subsequent offense.

What should I do if a loved one is bit by a dog?

The first step is to seek medical attention. Once the injury is addressed, it is important to determine the ownership. This person is very likely liable for the costs resulting from the injuries.

In some cases, there are exceptions to the general rule of liability. These exceptions include extenuating circumstances involving police dogs or if there is a dispute about whether the attack was provoked. As a result, it is wise for victims of dog bites to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can review the details of your case and help you determine the best course of action.

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