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Who is liable when a dog bites someone in Illinois?

If you or a loved one ever suffers a serious injury due to a dog bite or attack, you may wonder who, if anyone, may be legally responsible for your injuries. In some states, the law says the owner of the dog may be liable, but only if they already knew the dog had a propensity for violence. Since the dog essentially gets one free bite/attack before the owner knows it is actually dangerous, this particular legal principle is known as the "one-bite rule."

Fortunately for victims of dog bites here in Illinois, we do not follow the one-bite rule.

Illinois' dog bite statute

Illinois' Animal Control Act specifically states:

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.

Therefore, dog owners are liable for any injuries caused by dog bites so long as the victim can prove five things:

  • The victim has an injury caused by a dog bite or attack
  • The victim was in a place in which they have a lawful right to be
  • The victim was conducting themselves peaceably
  • The dog was not provoked
  • The dog is owned by the defendant (i.e., the dog's owner)

One important thing to note, however, is that the Animal Control Act does not just apply to dog bites, but also to any kind of attack from all kinds of animal, so long as the animal has an owner -- i.e., a person who actually owns the dog OR a person who was in control of the dog at the time of the attack.

Also, as you can see from the text of the statute above, negligence on the part of the dog owner is not required to bring a claim under the law. Ultimately, Illinois' Animal Control Act is far better than the "one-bite rule" followed in other states -- at least from the perspective of dog-bite victims.

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