Illinois Dog Bites, Statistics, and What to Do if You’ve Been Bitten

 Dog bites are both social and legal concerns that affect millions of Americans each year. Ranging from playful to serious bites, dog injuries have heavy consequences for both victims and owners. Understanding the complex nature of dog bites in the United States is important for everyone sharing their lives with a canine friend or encountering them daily.

Imagine taking a walk  in the park and you encounter an unexpected attack from an unleashed dog. While uncommon, such encounters are painful experiences, both physically and emotionally. 

In this article, we’ll explore the world of dog bites across Illinois and the United States. We’ll uncover the principles that govern accountability, responsibility, and justice in the aftermath of a dog bite encounter.

Importance in Understanding Dog Bite Laws

Understanding dog bites is important for the general public and dog owners alike. Dog owners must ensure safety for others, while the general public should understand the available avenues toward justice if they are attacked. Knowing the behaviors and triggers that can lead to biting encounters enables you to take preventive measures, including proper training and responsible supervision.

Understanding dog bite laws can also help you navigate legal responsibilities and potential consequences of a dog bite or attack. About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, most of them children. And Illinois consistently ranks in the top 10 states each year in the number of dog bite claims. Ultimately, understanding dog bites enables a safer and harmonious coexistence between canines and humans in our communities.

National Statistics on Dog Bites in the U.S.

Dog bite incidents happen every year across the United States.  Of the 4.5 million dog bites recorded each year, 800,000 individuals seek medical attention. The hospital bills for these bites can be very expensive and can necessitate an ER visit. Oftentimes, these dog bites result in a lawsuit to recover monetary compensation for damages — medical bills, lost wages, etc.

Stray dog bites, on the other hand, are more common in the United States because they are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior due to lack of proper training and socialization. Stray dogs are responsible for ~15.5% of dog bite incidents. Resource guarding also plays a significant role in these dog bite figures since stray dogs don’t have the luxury of a square meal provided by owners. Stray dog bites can be especially dangerous, since they are less likely to be vaccinated for rabies and other diseases.

Dog bites mostly target certain body parts compared to others. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that nearly half of all dog bites in the United States occur on the arms or hands.

The CDC also reported that puncture wounds are common after dog bite injuries. These injuries result from the powerful teeth and strong jaws from dogs, resulting in punctured skin and body tissue.

Common Scenarios Resulting in Dog Bites

Common scenarios that result to dog bites include the following:

  1. Protective Behavior: Dogs can be protective of their puppies or owners. Sensing a perceived threat to their own, canines can initiate an attack in order to defend them.
  2. Territorial Behavior: If a dog views you as a threat to its territory, it may resort to biting you to protect its perceived territory.
  3. Fear Response: A dog can bite if it feels startled. This occurs if you suddenly reach out to its pet, surprise it when asleep, or approach it unexpectedly.
  4. Lack of Socialization: Dogs that have not socialized with other people or animals may result in an aggressive response in unfamiliar situations.
  5. Pain or Injury: Even the most social dog may bite if it gets injured. If you attempt to handle or touch a dog in pain without proper caution can set off a defensive response.

Health Hazards Associated with Dog Bites

Dog bites can lead to serious health hazards. The most common injuries resulting from bites include tissue damage, lacerations, and puncture wounds. These injuries can lead to pain, bleeding, and hospitalization in severe cases.

They also carry a high risk of infection resulting from bacteria in the dog’s mouth. Such infections result in swelling, pus formation, and redness. In severe cases, a dog bite can spread to the bloodstream causing septicemia.

Dog bites can also lead to long-term complications, including psychological trauma, loss of sensation of function in affected areas, and nerve damage.

While rare in the United States, dog bites are also related to the risk of rabies. The risk of rabies transmission has significantly reduced due to the widespread vaccination programs. In case of a bite, you must immediately seek medical attention, including tetanus vaccination, cleansing, and antibiotics.

Illinois Dog Bite Laws and Regulations

Illinois dog bite/attack laws strongly favor the victim. Illinois dog bite laws follow a strict liability statute.  That means that if your animal attacks someone and the attack is unprovoked, you will be responsible. Period. 

The Illinois Animal Control Act requires dog owners to be accountable for all injuries caused by their canine companions regardless of the dog’s prior behavior. As long as the victim is lawfully on public or private property, the dog owner must cover their medical expenses and other damages.. Usually this is covered by a dog owner’s insurance policy (homeowner’s). If they have no insurance, they will be forced to pay out of pocket. 

The law also considers negligence on the victim’s part. If the victim provoked the dog, the owner’s liability reduces. Additionally, a trespassing victim or one engaging in a criminal act is held responsible.

However, victims of dog bites can pursue compensation through civil action if the dog owner is accused of negligence or harboring a dangerous animal. Legal experts and Illinois dog bite attorneys like Brian Lewis can provide dog owners and victims with a comprehensive understanding of rights and responsibilities under the Illinois dog bite laws.

Dog Bite Statistics in Illinois

While California usually leads the pack (no pun intended) in terms of annual dog bite numbers, Illinois is consistently within the top 10, mostly because Chicago has seen alarming increases in dog bite incidents each year. The Sun Times reports, “Citywide, there were a total 5,952 dog bite complaints fielded since 2019, according to a WBEZ analysis of 311 data. Complaints had dropped during the pandemic but have recently gone back up; there have been 1,054 complaints in 2023 through mid-October.”And these incidents aren’t cheap, especially in the state of Illinois. The Insurance Information Institute claims that “Illinois had the highest average cost per claim at $73,797, followed by Wyoming with an average cost of $73,324.”

Map courtesy of Chicago Sun Times

Dog breeds with a history of aggression include German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Pitbulls. However, some areas have witnessed reduced dog bite incidents due to training, awareness, and responsible dog ownership. Regions with breed-specific laws experience increasing dog bite incidents due to inadequate training and socializations.

What to Do If You’ve Been Bitten: Call Brian Lewis

In case you’ve been bitten, you must immediately seek medical attention and document your injuries. Take photos of the wound, obtain witness statements, and file a police report. Remember to keep all records of treatment and medical bills so if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim, you’ll have evidence already prepared.

You mustn’t discuss details with insurance companies before consulting an attorney to comprehend legal and compensation rights. An attorney helps you navigate legal complexities and negotiate settlements.

Brian Lewis is an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney that handles dog bite cases. If you or a family member have been bitten and are seeking damages to cover medical expenses, lost wages, emotional trauma, and more, give him a call today. Initial consultations are free and he works on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t pay a dime until your case is won.

Brian fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. Get him in your corner today.

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