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Dog Bites and Strict Liability


Dog Bites and Strict Liability – What Does it Mean for You and Your Loved Ones? 

When it comes to the law regarding dog bites, all states are typically very similar. However, where the legal rules for dog bites start to become a bit muddled is in the liability. Here in Illinois, the state follows strict liability laws. What this means is that liability for a dog bite case cannot be disputed after the fact. That is, if a dog bites someone, it is the owner’s fault and they are held liable in most scenarios.

Strict Liability and Illinois

Previously, Illinois followed a "first bite free" rule, which basically stated that victims could not receive monetary compensation from a dog owner unless the dog had a documented history of vicious behavior, meaning, they could not get compensation unless the dog had already bitten someone.

However, that rule has since been replaced by strict liability. Now, a victim of a dog bite who was bitten in a public place or at a private residence where they were lawfully permitted can receive compensation for a bite regardless of whether or not the dog had previously bitten someone. In addition, under the theory of strict liability, you are not required to prove that the owner of the dog was negligent thus resulting in the injury as you may have to in other states outside of Illinois. Since the victim of a dog bite has no need to prove negligence, it provides compensation for injuries and encourages more discretion to prevent bites on the part of the dog’s owner. The law in Illinois states as follows:

510 ILCS 5/16 (from Ch. 8, par. 366)
     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.
 (Source: P.A. 94-819, eff. 5-31-06.)

When Does Strict Liability Not Apply?

There are certain situations in which, if the victim were in breach of certain exceptions, then strict liability is not applied to the owner. In the case of these exceptions, the victim will be responsible for their own injuries. Those exceptions include:

Trespassing – In the state of Illinois, if you invite someone over to your residence, you as the owner are liable for your dog, plain and simple. However, if someone is on your property without your knowledge or invitation, then you are not responsible in the event that your dog bites or attacks the trespasser. Of course, this does not apply to those that have reason to be there, such as postal workers.

Occupational Hazard - Also known as the veterinarian's rule, veterinarians, groomers, and everyone that works in a profession where they are around many dogs have a reasonable assumption of risk that they could in fact get bitten. These specific professionals are trained to take precautions against this, and as such, the owner surrenders their responsibility to them. If a veterinarian or other dog professional gets bit, it is an occupational hazard and not the owner's responsibility. It is still the owner's responsibility to inform the professional if the dog has been aggressive lately or has bitten somebody in the past.

Been Bitten in Illinois?

If you or someone you love has been bitten in the state of Illinois, there is a chance that the owner can be held liable for the injuries that resulted from their dog. If you have been the victim of a dog bite and you need compensation for your injuries, attorneys at Sherwood Law Group are happy to help answer any question and inquiries that you may have and can be reached at 312.627.1650 or
Categories: personal injury