If You or Your Child Were Bitten by a Dog, Contact the Dog Bite Lawyers in Springfield, IL at the Noll Law Office Today.
One of the benefits of living in Springfield, Illinois, is having so many parks and residential streets with sidewalks that make it very easy to get outdoors for a walk or run. Springfield has “leash” ordinances, in which dogs, pets, and companion animals are expected to be on a leash or otherwise restrained in their yards. This is because while most beloved animal pets are friendly fur balls, aggressive dogs can create extremely unsafe conditions for children and other innocent citizens. Dogs that are not properly restrained can attack persons who are innocently walking down their road, playing in the park, or even visiting a friend at their home. Click here for more information about what to do following a dog bite incident at a dog park.
If you or your loved one has been bitten by a dog, you should call the dog bite lawyers at the Noll Law Office in Springfield, Illinois at (217) 414-8889. The Noll Law Office understands that dog bites can cause nerve damage, tear muscles, scarring or result in the loss of appendages. However, physical injuries are part of the story. Victims of bites can suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and other emotional damages due to a dog attack. Whether it happened to you or your child, you may be able to obtain coverage for necessary medical treatment and financial compensation for the damages incurred as the result of a dog bite.
If you or your loved one has been bitten by a dog, the dog bite lawyers at the Noll Law Office in Springfield, IL, would be honored to discuss your case at a free initial consultation. They have experienced trial lawyers who have successfully litigated dog bite claims throughout the State of Illinois. They focus on providing excellent representation and take the time to explain the litigation process to their clients. They only take a fee if they successfully obtain a settlement or jury verdict in your favor.
I’ve Been Bitten By a Dog in Illinois. Who Pays for My Dog Bite Injuries?
Usually, the owner of a dog is responsible for the injuries created by the animal with very few exceptions. Assuming a person is able to prove liability, most homeowner’s insurance policies will pay for injuries caused by a dog. There are always exceptions to every rule which is why hiring experienced lawyers is important to determine what insurance coverage there may be to cover the victim’s injuries. Insurance companies are notorious for not paying the fair value for a claim.
How Do You Prove Liability Against a Dog Owner in Illinois?
There are two main legal ways to prove liability in Illinois which can make a dog owner responsible for the damages their dog inflicts. The first legal mechanism to prove dog owner liability is statutory and is called the Illinois Animal Control Act. The second was created at “common law,” and is referred to as a “negligence” claim. While similar, as discussed below, the different causes of action require the victims of dog attacks to prove different legal elements in order to make the dog owner legally responsible for the injuries.
Proving Dog Owner Liability Under the Illinois Animal Control Act.
510 ILCS 5/16, commonly known as the Illinois Animal Control Act provides, “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.”
Under the Animal Control Act, there are four elements that must be proved by the injured party against the dog’s owner:
- Injury caused by an animal owned by the defendant;
- Lack of provocation;
- Peaceable conduct of the person injured; and
- The presence of the injured person was where he had a legal right to be. Smith v. Pitchford, 219 Ill. App. 3d 152, 154 (5th Dist. 1991)
Proving Ownership of the Dog
The first hurdle people have is determining who owned the animal that bit them. This could be very simple if you know the person, or the owner provides you with their name. However, it gets very tricky when you do not know the person. This is why it is important that when you are bitten, have a local animal control agency such as Sangamon County Animal Control or the police department investigate the bite. They should be able to identify the owner of the animal so there is proof.
What is “Provocation” under the Illinois Animal Control Act?
Under the Illinois Animal Control Act, the term “provoked” means any action or activity, whether intentional or unintentional, which would reasonably be expected (to cause a normal animal in similar circumstances to react in a manner similar to that shown by the evidence) (or) (to cause an animal with an unusual and dangerous nature to react in a manner similar to that shown by the evidence). Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 110.04.
A classic example of provocation would be hitting the animal with a stick. However, legal inquiries can arise when someone simply startles a dog such as tripping over a sleeping canine. In those types of cases, the courts (and jury) will look at whether the dog’s bites or attack are in reasonable proportion to the provocation that occurred.
This creates a question of fact as to what constitutes provocation under the statute and is often referred to as the “reasonable dog” standard. The dog bite lawyers at the Noll Law Office have experienced attorneys who have successfully litigated provocation issues in front of courts and juries alike. They can listen to your case and explain how provocation may or may not be an issue in your case.
What is “Peaceable Conduct” under the Illinois Animal Control Act?
This term is not defined under the Animal Control Act. Some may say that since the term is undefined, the conduct at the time of the dog bite must be analyzed in accordance with the purpose and intent of the Animal Control Act. According to Illinois courts, the purpose of the Animal Control Act is to “encourage[e] tight control of animals for the protection of the public” and “provide coverage for plaintiffs who, by virtue of their relationship to the owner of the dog or other animal or lack of such relationship, may not have any way of knowing or avoiding the risk that the animal poses to them.” Meyer v. Naperville Manor Inc., 634 N.E.2d 411 (1994).
However, what is more likely is that courts and juries will need to examine the conduct on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the victim of the dog bite was acting peacefully. This could create results that “peaceable conduct” in one case may not be considered “peaceable conduct” in another. It is important to discuss the facts of your case with an experienced dog bite attorney like those at the Noll Law Office in Springfield, Illinois.
“Lawful Right To Be” under the Illinois Animal Control Act.
Generally, everyone can enter a common way such as a public road or sidewalk. Questions tend to arise when people visit homes and are attacked. An owner of the property who provides a path or walkway from the public way to his door, without some indication (sign, posting of notice, or words) warning away those who seek lawful business with him extends a license to use the path or walk during the ordinary hours of the day. A person who uses the path or walkway is a licensee and therefore is in a “place where he may lawfully be” within the meaning of the Animal Control Act. Smith v. Pitchford, 219 Ill. App. 3d 152, 154 (5th Dist. 1991)
However, the defendant may be able to prevail by demonstrating that the victim of the attack was in an area closed to the public, or that a warning (such as signs or the dog’s presence) was given to the victim before the incident. Frostin v. Radick, 397 N.E.2d 208 (1st Dist. 1979). Illinois courts arguably expanded this theory in the decision of Claffley v. Huntley so it is important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced dog bite lawyer.
Daniel Noll and Sarah Noll are extremely familiar with the Animal Control Act. They have each successfully litigated dog bite cases to jury verdict. If you have been bitten by a dog anywhere in Springfield, IL, or anywhere in the State of Illinois, contact them today for a free initial consultation. They can help investigate the case and seek coverage from the dog owner’s insurance company for your medical bills, pain and scarring, and other damages which may exist.
(Negligence) Claims Against a Dog Owner
Before the Animal Control Act was passed, victims of dog attacks had to prove that the owner of the domestic animal had knowledge that the animal was dangerous. This could be very difficult to prove because most animal owners did not want to admit that they knew their beloved pet was vicious.
As more and more animal control investigators and police officers document dog attacks, injured persons have a way to check on the history of the animal. The dog bite attorneys at the Noll Law Office can help you obtain animal control records to determine if the animal had previously bitten anyone. Looking through the dog’s animal control records, it may be found that animal control officers declared the dog as vicious which can warrant further actions and penalties against pet owners under various local ordinances.
There are also other sources of independent information that can prove that the dog’s owner knew that the animal was dangerous such as:
- Veterinary records can be extremely helpful to determine if a dog required a muzzle to visit the veterinarian’s office or if it bit at veterinarian staff.
- Neighbors who have observed the dog. They tend to know if a dog has attacked other people or animals.
The lawyer you hire to represent you on your dog bite should know how to obtain a private investigator to canvas the neighborhood for information related to the dog. They should also know how to identify records from other attacks by the animal in question and seek them out if they exist.
If there is proof that the dog that attacked you was previously vicious, your attorney will probably file a negligence action. In Illinois, the owner or keeper of an animal is strictly liable for the injuries caused by the animal if it can be shown that the animal had mischievous or dangerous propensities and that the owner had knowledge of it.
The Noll Law Office has a wealth of experience in reviewing all these issues. If you believe you have been attacked by a vicious animal, contact a local, experienced law firm for help. They can help you navigate the insurance process, identify legal issues, and help you present your case to a jury.
Three Main Areas of Concern from Dog Bites
Injuries from dog bites can range from mild to severe – including, death. Generally, there are three main areas of injury and concern with dog bites:
- The injuries sustained from the dog bite
Initial dog bites and scratches can sever through skin, muscle, and tendons, requiring surgical repair and evaluation for blood loss. Dogs’ canines are designed for slicing and puncturing through tissue. As a result, amputations of the fingers and other body parts can become necessary very quickly.
If the bites are deep, surgical closure and reattachment of the ligaments and muscles may be required. Nerves may be damaged, and non-viable tissue might need to be removed from underneath the skin. Nerve, muscle, and ligament damage can make it difficult or impossible to work. Blood loss from severe attacks may result in emergency transfusions and hospitalizations. People can bleed out or go into shock after a vicious attack.
Dogs’ mouths are filled with bacteria which means infections are a concern after every bite. The act of biting introduces contaminants into the human body which at minimum results in an inflammatory reaction but at its worst can cause rampant infection. Many physicians prescribe preventative antibiotics after a dog attack to avoid these types of diseases. If left unchecked, the infection can lead to amputation and death. With minor dog bites, subsequent infections can often lead to worse injuries than the injuries from the initial attack.
Dog bites often result in extensive scarring. The nature and extent of the scarring will not often be completely diagnosable until at least six months after injury. Hypertrophic scarring and keloid scarring may require cosmetic surgery in particular if they are located on the face. Surgical release of the scars can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most working-class people don’t have that type of cash sitting around, can’t take time off work in an unpaid capacity, and their private health insurance may not cover cosmetic procedures.
Common Injuries from Dog Bites
The goal of the dog bite lawyers at the Noll Law Office is to help injured persons determine the full nature and extent of the injuries sustained by the attack and obtain insurance coverage for medical treatment. Their lawyers work to also obtain financial compensation for pain and suffering, scarring, and loss of normal life.
Some of the most common injuries from dog bites include:
- Puncture wounds
- Lacerations or tears in the skin
- Lacerations of the veinous structure
- Laceration of the nerves
- Broken bones
- Crushing injuries
- Punctured lungs
- Blood loss
- Muscle tears
- Ligament Tears
- Nonviable subcutaneous tissue from oxygen loss
There is also a component of mental anguish, especially in severe cases. Unfortunately, a dog bite is a traumatic experience and one that is hard to overcome. Many people who are victims of severe attacks are embarrassed by the scars that form afterward. This is especially true when the scars are located around their face and visible body parts.
Victims of dog bites might suffer from stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They may have a fear of dogs or could be replaying what occurred in nightmares that last for weeks, months, or even years to come. In those cases, counseling and other mental health assistance are often required to help with those emotional needs.
What to Do After a Dog Bite in Illinois
Get medical treatment! If severely injured, contact 911. Get an ambulance to take you to the emergency room as this emergency medical treatment may be lifesaving. Blood loss from punctured veinous structures is nothing to mess around with. This is especially true if you cannot see the depth of the underlying wounds.
Even if the dog bite is minor and you can take care of it on your own, it’s still important to go to the doctor. They can clean your wound thoroughly and inform you whether it’s infected. They may prescribe antibiotics and/or a booster shot to prevent an infection that might hurt you a week or two down the road. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in those circumstances.
If possible and safe for you, you should take photos of what occurred, including the area, the dog, and anything else in the area which may serve as evidentiary value (lack of “beware of dog signs,” etc.). It is helpful to gather the names and contact information of any witnesses as well as the dog owners. The more information you have, the better.
Most doctors and police entities will report dog bites to animal control officers so that they can determine whether a canine is vicious and if it’s up to date on vaccines. If not, you should call the local county animal control agency or police department to document and investigate what’s occurred. Normally, the county animal control agency will investigate a dog bite and write a report. They may make a determination as to whether the dog was provoked and try to identify the owner. If you are busy seeking medical treatment, they can conduct the investigation so you can attend to your physical needs. Police officers can provide similar investigations.
After you have obtained medical treatment and contacted the police, you are ready to call the dog bite lawyers at the Noll Law Office in Springfield, IL, for help at (217) 414-8889. They are happy to speak to you regardless of whether the bite occurred yesterday or a few months ago. Generally speaking, the quicker you are able to contact the Noll Law Office, the quicker they are able to attempt to obtain evidence before it is lost or destroyed. Their law firm will get to work right away on your dog bite case to take the pressure of the insurance process off you so you can focus on getting better.
Do I Have a Valid Dog Bite Claim?
In order to determine whether you have a case, the lawyers at the Noll Law Office will need to speak to you at a free initial consultation. They can review any paperwork you have and make an initial determination if you have a viable case. They will need to hear your version of the facts and determine if any additional evidence would be necessary (and how to obtain it) to prove your case. Normally, they will be able to provide you with an assessment of the merits of your case during the initial consultation.
How the Noll Law Office Will Help with My Dog Bite?
If you have a pile of medical bills, increasing fear and anxiety, scarring, and even long-term rehab needs from a dog bite, you need to seek out an attorney who can work to obtain insurance coverage for your injuries. Call the Noll Law Office today for a free case evaluation. They will talk to you about your legal rights and the steps you can take today to try to obtain coverage for your medical bills as well as financial compensation for pain and suffering.
They are local, experienced lawyers who are dedicated to helping their clients. They live, work and raise their family in Springfield, Illinois. They are from the community and for the community. Both Daniel and Sarah Noll are experienced dog bite trial lawyers. If they represent you, they will meet with you from the initial consultation and stay by your side until the case is concluded. Your case won’t be handed off to a junior associate. You will have experienced, caring attorneys at your side. Call them today at (217) 414-8889.