Compensation Sources in Dog Bite Injury Cases

The Chicago Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. represent the victims of dog bites and dog attacks in seeking financial recovery for their injuries and damages. Often time, those injured by a dog either do not know, or fully contemplate, potential sources of compensation for damages sustained in the attack. In some cases, a victim is bitten or attacked by a stranger’s dog while on public or private property, and they do not understand their legal rights and entitlement to compensation, and/or the person or entity at which to direct their claim. In other cases, a friend or neighbor’s dog inflicted harm, and the victim may feel hesitant to seek recovery against such person, but may not realize that there is an insurance policy to cover such incident.

Recently, we discussed the need to differentiate between ‘establishing liability,’ and ‘liability sources’ in dog bite injury cases falling under Illinois’ Animal Control Act. See, Liability in Dog Bites and Animal Attacks. While the two are indeed separate considerations, it is helpful to also consider their interaction with another. In other words, while an award for civil damages depends on a victim’s ability to establish liability, obtaining the compensation awarded depends on the resources available and/or defendant’s ability to pay.

Some examples of liability sources in Dog Bite Injury Cases include:

  • Homeowner’s Insurance Policy of Dog Owner
  • Renter’s Insurance Policy of Dog Owner
  • Victim’s Homeowner Insurance Policy
  • Victim’s Renter’s Insurance Policy
  • Personal/Private Dog Owner Liability
  • Business Owner
  • Government (county, state, municipality)

So, your next inquiry may be—which source should I seek compensation from? Answering this, however, will depend on the unique factual circumstances of your incident. While it would be nice to provide a concise response that would apply to all sources, or even just a particular source, such advice could be potentially misleading. In other words, every matter needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in order to determine the appropriate source(s) to direct liability at.

In example, with regard to insurance-based compensation associated with a policy held by the dog’s owner or the victim, determining the availability of coverage will generally depend on whether the contractual provisions stated within the policy include, exclude, or limit, liability for certain injuries or damages. Policy provisions related to animal liability often include terms pertaining: location (proximity to covered property); animal (type or breed of animal); persons covered/named insured (household members/resident of household versus other people); liability limits (maximum amount per person or per incident).

The problem with many insurance policies, is that coverage terms are often vague, ambiguous, or open to interpretation. When an insurance policy fails to specifically define a term, or a term is ambiguous, courts will generally construe the language in question in favor of the insured, and against the drafter of the policy. Consequently, dog bite victims should not make their own assumptions regarding exclusion under a particular policy, nor should they allow an insurance company to reach the same conclusion, without first having the matter reviewed by a legal professional that is experienced in handling similar claims.

Further, because the vast majority of dog-related liability claims do involve some type of insurance policy, it is crucial that victims select an attorney that has the proficiency and skill to address insurance law issues, at both the trial court and appellate level. With more than three decades of practice experience, the Chicago Dog Bite and Animal Attack Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. remain dedicated to protecting the rights of victims, and will fight aggressively to obtain to obtain the compensation that you and your family deserve.

Contact us online, or by calling 773-516-4100, and allow us to review your matter, at no cost to you, during your FREE comprehensive case evaluation.

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