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Dog bites, unfortunately, cause the most catastrophic injuries in children, often resulting in permanent scarring and nerve damage. While most family pets are friendly, the canine mouth is structured for puncture wounds and tearing, which can cause extensive tissue damage in an extremely short period of time. If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, you should follow up with a physician as often as necessary in order to obtain the appropriate referrals for treatment. Oftentimes, the full extent of scarring and other permanent or residual injuries cannot be determined for six months or more.
The Dog Bite Attorneys at the Noll Law Office would be happy to discuss the filing of a claim on your behalf. Our lawyers are experienced in filing dog bite claims. At our free initial consultation, our personal injury attorneys will discuss the circumstances surrounding the injury as well as the potential value of your case. We will give you an honest, no strings attached assessment of your case. Please feel free to contact us at (217) 414-8889 to set up an appointment with one of our experienced Dog Bite Lawyers today.
There are multiple types of actions that can be filed. Common questions about dog bite suits include:
- What kind of lawsuits should I file?
- How do I file a lawsuit?
- How is an insurance company involved in a dog bite claim?
- Who is sued in a dog bite lawsuit, the individual who caused the injury, or the insurance company?
- What happens during the lawsuit?
- What are the costs of litigating a dog bite suit?
- How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of lawsuits should I file?
In Illinois, the law is clear where dogs are concerned. A person who has been injured by a vicious animal can sue under theories of negligence, intentional tort, or other causes of action. However, Illinois law is extremely strict where dog bites are concerned. The basis of recovery typically rests under the Animal Control Act. Under Section 16 of this statute, persons who have been injured by a dog bite do not even have to prove negligence:
Sec. 16. Animal attacks or injuries. If a dog or other animal, 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, 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. Source ILGA.Gov
How do I file a lawsuit?
The lawsuit will typically be filed in the county where the dog bite occurred. For example, a person injured by a vicious dog in Decatur, Illinois, would likely file suit in the Macon County Courthouse. The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure states:
§ 2-101. Generally. Except as otherwise provided in this Act, every action must be commenced (1) in the county of residence of any defendant who is joined in good faith and with probable cause for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against him or her and not solely for the purpose of fixing venue in that county, or (2) in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose. 735 ILCS 5/2-101. Source: ILGA.Gov
The “Plaintiff” is usually the person who was injured, or, if the injured persons died as a result of their injuries, the administrator of the probate estate, who files the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased person and living heirs. The lawyers will file a “Complaint at Law,” describing the negligent acts of the Defendant and describing the types of injuries sustained. For example, the Complaint may allege that a neighbor’s dog bit a child who was running to obtain an errant ball. The Complaint will request that monetary damages be paid for the associated medical bills and permanent loss to the child.
How is an insurance company involved in a negligence claim?
Most types of negligence lawsuits involve situations where the “tortfeasor” or “Defendant” (i.e., negligent person or entity) carries insurance. The insurance companies often “indemnify,” or pay monetary benefits, to the injured person on behalf of the Defendant in cases of negligence.
In dog bite cases, a claim is usually filed with the dog owner’s residential property’s insurance provider, requesting coverage of the injury. The insurance provider will then usually pay for the injured person’s medical bills, lost wages, and other reasonable damages. Recently, insurance companies have started to “exclude” certain types of dogs, such as Pitbulls, from coverage. Our attorneys will work with you to determine the best insurance provider to file a claim with to cover your medical bills, and to determine any “exclusions” of coverage that may exist.
Who is sued in a negligence action, the individual who caused the injury, or the insurance company?
Generally, the dog’s owner is sued as the Defendant. However, when the lawsuit is filed, the insurance company usually pays for the Defendant’s attorney and other costs of litigation. The insurance companies then typically will “indemnify” the Defendant and pay for any funds obtained through settlement or jury verdict.
Consider the earlier example of a child, chasing a ball into a neighbor’s unfenced yard. If the neighbor’s Labrador then ran up and bit the child without provocation, the neighbor would be sued as a Defendant. The parent of the injured child would file suit on behalf of the child, seeking coverage of the child’s medical injuries and any permanent disability or scarring sustained. The insurance company that provides residential insurance coverage would usually “indemnify” the home owner. If the case went to jury trial, the damages (i.e., money) awarded by the jury would be paid by the insurance company to the extent of policy coverage.
What happens during a dog bite suit?
As discussed above, the Plaintiff or their legal representative will file suit against the Defendant. The process begins when the attorney files a “Complaint at Law,” seeking monetary damages for the Defendant’s negligent behavior.
After the Complaint is filed, the Defendant is served. Your attorney will arrange for “summons,” to be issued, and request local law enforcement or a private investigator to serve the legal paperwork on the Defendant. Once the Defendant is served, he or she typically has 30 days to enter an appearance and claim any possible legal defenses. Usually, an attorney enters an appearance on behalf of the Defendant.
After the Defendant’s attorney has entered an appearance, discovery will commence. This process usually involves exchanging copies of the evidence held by the Parties, and taking the depositions of witnesses. Depending on the complexity of the litigation, experts will may be retained for trial. Their depositions will also be taken.
Your attorney may also choose to file requests for admission and other legal documents in order to simplify the issues presented at trial. Following the close of discovery, summary judgment motions and other pre-trial motions will be heard. Trial preparation will then begin in earnest. Witnesses will be subpoenaed, trial exhibits prepared, and other pre-trial paperwork will be filed. Jury instructions will be prepared. Jury trial should follow shortly thereafter. When the jury awards a verdict, the sums are usually paid by the insurance company. If a person died as a result of their injuries, the probate judge will decide how the funds are distributed.
What are the costs of litigating a dog bite suit?
Costs of litigation vary wildly in dog bite claims, but are typically much less expensive than Medical Malpractice, Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect, or other complex cases. Costs in dog bite claims usually range from $3,000.00 to over $10,000.00. This is because there is a great variety in the complexity of litigation. Our Personal Injury Lawyers will be able to explain the differences in types of litigation, and how it will affect your litigation costs.
For this reason, our attorneys litigate these cases on a “contingency fee” basis, whereby we are only paid if successful in obtaining a settlement or jury verdict. The costs of litigation are paid from the settlement or jury verdict funds, together with the legal fees. Our lawyers will provide you with a frank analysis of whether the costs of litigation are outweighed by years of litigation and potential loss at trial.
How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
To expedite legal review of your claim, you should bring a copy of the medical records, police investigations, photographs, videos, Facebook pages, text messages, correspondence, insurance information, and any other evidence in your possession to your claim. Usually, animal control will investigate the dog bite, and write a report summarizing their findings. The Noll Law Office will review the records, together with any other evidence in your possession, and provide you with a free legal opinion as to the merits of your claim.
Our Dog Bite Attorneys have over 50 years combined legal experience. Our family firm is renowned for compassionate communication with clients and aggressive advocacy in court. If we accept your case, we will keep you abreast with all steps in the litigation process.
If you or a loved one would like a free consultation, call today at (217) 414-8889. You will not be a charged unless our firm obtains a settlement offer on your behalf or wins at trial.