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When Pet Owners Are Liable for Animal Attacks

 Posted on August 14, 2018 in Premises Liability

When Pet Owners Are Liable for Animal AttacksDomesticated animals can behave in unpredictable ways that may cause injuries. A malicious attack, such as a dog bite, can leave lasting physical and emotional damage. More benign actions can also result in injuries, such as an excited dog jumping on someone and knocking him or her over. Guests who are hurt because of the actions of someone’s pet can seek personal injury compensation from the pet owner. Illinois law holds a pet owner strictly liable for injuries unless the victim is at fault for the animal's reaction.

Strict Liability

According to Illinois law, an animal owner is liable for injuries that the animal causes to others as long as:

  • The animal attacked or attempted to attack the victim;
  • The victim did not provoke the animal to attack him or her; and
  • The victim was lawfully on the property when the attack occurred.

Illinois holds pet owners strictly liable for their pet’s actions, as opposed to the negligence standard. This means that the owner cannot deny liability by claiming that he or she had no prior knowledge that the animal may act violently. In states that use the negligence standard, the owner is liable if he or she knows of the animal’s violent tendencies and does not make a reasonable effort to protect guests.

Exceptions to Liability

There are three circumstances in which the pet owner is not liable for injuries that his or her pet may have caused to others:

  • The pet acted benignly;
  • The victim was trespassing on the property; or
  • The victim provoked the pet.

In a recent case, an Illinois appellate court denied an injury compensation request from a woman who claimed that a dog distracted her and caused her to fall down a set of stairs. The court reasoned that it was the woman’s own negligence in walking down the steps that caused her accident and not the dog that drew her attention.

For trespassing cases, the pet owner is not liable if the victim is on the property without the property owner’s knowledge or permission. A trespasser should reasonably expect that a dog will act aggressively to strangers.

Provocation often involves the victim taunting or being mean to the animal. However, an innocent mistake, such as stepping on an animal, could be considered provoking the animal’s reaction. The determining factor is whether the animal’s response is reasonable based on the victim’s actions.

Presenting Your Case

As the plaintiff in an animal injury case, you may need to prove that you did not provoke the animal and were not trespassing on the property. A Barrington, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Joseph M. Lucas & Associates, LLC, can show why the pet’s owner is liable for your injuries. Schedule a consultation by calling 847-381-8700.


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