Proximate Cause in Dog Injury Actions

The Chicago Personal Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. represent victims of dog bites, dog attacks, or other injury-inducing incidents caused due the action/behavior of a dog, or other animal. The more common occurrence with dog-related injuries and fatality are those which involve actual contact between the victim and dog, such as a bite, attack, scratch, or where a dog jumps on a person and causes them to fall. However, a dog can also inflict harm, such that liability attaches, absent the presence of physical contact with the victim.

In Illinois, a person can be held liable for injuries caused by a dog that is under their care, custody or control, whether through ownership or otherwise (see, Defining ‘Dog Owner’ in Injury Actions), but only for injuries proximately caused thereby. The concept of ‘proximate cause’ can be tricky to grasp, because understanding the causal link between accident and injury can be easily misconstrued by those without formal training in the legal field. Evaluating proximate cause requires a case-specific analysis into the factual circumstances of an incident, to determine whether the defendant should be held legally responsible for the harm caused to the plaintiff.

Consider the following incidents in which the dog never actually comes in contact with the victim’s body:

  • A dog runs out in front a vehicle and causes a car accident
  • A victim falls down a flight of stairs due to fear of a growling dog
  • A dog chases a bicyclist, and as a result the victim falls or is struck by a car
  • A victim sustains psychological harm due to a near-attack incident
  • An ATV-rider collides with a dog, and is thrown from the vehicle
  • A victim is scalded by water after stepping backward to avoid a dog

In each of these scenarios, the dog clearly set into motion the events that caused the victims’ injuries. In other words, the dog was the factual cause (cause-in-fact) of the resulting harm. However, whether the dog was the proximate cause (legal cause) of the injuries sustained requires further analysis. In example, a slight change in the factual circumstances of each of the above-listed incidents, can impact the ability to establish a causal connection between the accident and injury. At Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. we know that properly assessing liability demands a thorough analysis into the details associated with your particular incident from the outset of initial consultation.

There are several inquiries that an attorney may take into consideration in evaluating a dog-injury case. Just a few include: Where did the incident occur?; Was the victim in a place they were entitled to be (i.e. guest v. burglar)?; Was the dog restrained?; Was the dog 'provoked'?; Was the victim warned about the dog and assumed the risk?; Did the dog act in a predictable (foreseeable) manner?; Was the victim’s reaction to the dog or in the alternative, the dog’s reaction to the victim, unreasonable?; Did the victim contribute to his or her injuries, and if so, to what extent?; Was the victim behaving 'peaceably'?; Was the dog owned, harbored, cared for, or kept by another person or entity?; Did a person or entity knowingly permit the injury-causing dog to remain on property under their ownership or control?

Having an experienced attorney evaluate your case is important, because often time a victim is unaware that they may be entitled to compensation. During our 35+ years in practice, we have noticed the increasing impact that web-search capabilities have had on a victim’s decision to pursue compensation for their injuries. In example, injured person may misinterpret the outcome of a prior case simply because the facts of that case appear to be similar, when in fact the issue and/or rule of law extending from that matter does not apply to your scenario. Knowing your rights and options is critical, and is best achieved through the assistance of a skilled legal professional.

The attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. have been representing clients in personal injury actions for well over three decades. We have the skill and proficiency necessary to assess a victim’s entitlement to compensation, and effectively address issues of causation and liability. Our prior personal injury victories demonstrate our ability to attain results. Let us do the same for you.

If you or a loved one were injured in an incident involving a dog or other animal that occurred in Cook, Kane, Lake, DuPage, or McHenry County, the injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. want to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve. Contact us at 773-516-4100 to schedule your no-cost, no-obligation consultation today.

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