Law may be why dog attack stats so high

Local News

ILLINOIS — Dog attacks on people cost insurance companies millions of dollars. For National Dog Bite Prevention Week, State Farm released its top ten states for those claims.

It says it paid nearly $14 million in dog-related claims in the state last year. With 323 claims in 2016, Illinois ranks second behind California.

Some say, with the number of dog attacks they hear about in the news or their line of work, it isn’t that much of a surprise.

When Zach Zobel looks at his puppy, Chipper, it’s hard not to think of a dog bite.

“I’ve personally never been bitten by a dog, but Chipper, when he was three months old, got attacked by a larger dog. I don’t really know much about the situation, but his owner at the time left him at the vet and said they don’t have the money to pay for it.”

He says Chipper doesn’t hold any grudges. Ryan Bradley says that’s not often the case with people who get bit.

“There’s quite a few calls about this.”

As a partner at Champaign law firm, Koester and Bradley, he says they tend to get those calls once or twice a month. Bradley says it could be how Illinois law views those incidents.

“When it comes to liability, in a lot of other states, dogs get ‘one free bite,’ in essence because that’s what’s necessary to put the owner on notice that there’s actually a problem. In Illinois, it’s called strict liability, so there’s no ‘one free bite’ for a dog in Illinois.”

The attorney says it could be a reason why the state ranks so high on the dog attacks claim list. Bradley says, most cases are settled with the insurance company long before they make it to court. He says even though they can be tricky, there are a few questions which always need an answer.

“In most situations, what these come down to is whether or not the person was bit, provoked the animal and whether or not they were where they should’ve been.”

For Bradley, the claims might be common, but Zobel says his dog is proof not every attack victim will seek an attorney.

“I think a dog-on-dog bite is probably more common than a dog attacking a human.”

Attorneys say, if you have a dog, you should be prepared. They say it’s important to talk to your insurance agent or whomever prepared your homeowner’s policy to make sure pets are covered.

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