While dogs are known as “man’s best friend,” they can also pose a significant threat. About 4.5 million people are attacked or bitten by dogs each year. This amounts to more than 1,000 people receiving emergency medical treatment each day for dog-bite-related injuries. What is more, approximately 28,000 people each year undergo reconstructive surgery as a result of a dog attack.
Any dog attack is a traumatic and life-changing experience. However, of course, the worst of these incidents involve dogs inflicting fatal injuries on their victims. Between 2005 and 2017, there were 433 deaths caused by dogs. Two breeds of dogs, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, are responsible for over 75 percent of these fatal attacks.
Recently, a criminal trial began stemming from a 2017 fatal dog attack that claimed the life of an 82-year-old woman. According to a recent news report, the woman was walking her small dog when she was attacked by two of her neighbor’s Pit Bulls. One person who witnessed the attack explained that they initially thought one of the dogs was dragging a roll of carpet down the street; however, when she realized it was an older woman, she immediately called the police. When police arrived, they fired ten shots at the dogs, killing one of them.
The dogs posed a nuisance before the fatal attack. Other neighbors previously filed complaints about the animals to no avail. The criminal trial against the dogs’ owner took four years to go to trial, resulting in delayed justice—at best for the woman’s family.
Dog Ownership Spikes Due to COVID-19
Over the past two years, pet ownership in the United States has increased dramatically. In large part, this is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in people spending significantly more time at home, whether it’s been due to lay-offs, working from home or just a general sense of precaution. Of course, while the number of pet-owning households increased generally, dogs are the most common new pet.
One unanticipated consequence of the increased number of dogs is a corresponding rise in serious and fatal dog attacks. As the above case illustrates, waiting for a criminal trial can take years before a resolution is reached. Further, due to the high burden of proof in criminal cases, it can be challenging for the government to secure a conviction. Even if prosecutors obtain a conviction, there is little a judge overseeing a criminal case can do to compensate grieving family members for their loss adequately.
Pursuing a Dog Bite Wrongful Death Case
In addition to criminal liability, owners of vicious animals that fatally attack another person can be held civilly liable through a dog bite wrongful death claim. A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to other types of personal injury cases in that family members seek to hold an animal’s owner liable for the death of their loved one. These cases are separate from criminal proceedings. Thus, family members can pursue a wrongful death claim even if the government chooses not to prosecute a dog owner or a jury determines they are not criminally liable.
Another important difference between criminal cases and wrongful death claims is the damages a family can obtain. While criminal court judges can order limited restitution, the defendant is personally responsible for paying any damages award. Given this reality, often, restitution obligations go unmet.
On the other hand, family members can typically benefit from the animal owner’s insurance policy in a wrongful death claim. This ensures that there are sufficient assets to fully cover any damages award returned by a jury. While the damages in a dog bite case vary significantly, they may include:
• The loss of support the accident victim would have otherwise provided to their family;
• The loss of society and companionship the accident victim would have otherwise provided to their spouse;
• The loss of instruction, education and moral training the accident would have otherwise provided to their children; and
• The grief, sorrow and suffering of the surviving family members.
An experienced Illinois dog bite lawyer can help families identify the full extent of their damages, ensuring that they are fairly compensated for their losses.
Contact the Knowledgeable Wrongful Death Attorneys at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg
If you recently suffered serious injuries as a result of a dog bite or lost a loved one due to a vicious animal attack, contact the Illinois dog bite lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. We have more than 30 years of experience aggressively pursuing compensation for dog bite victims and their families. Over this time, we have developed an effective, methodical approach that removes as many of the burdens from your family as possible. This allows you to focus on overcoming your grief and starting the process of moving on with your lives after the tragedy. To learn more and schedule a free consultation, give Briskman Briskman & Greenberg a call at 877-595-4878. You can also reach us through our online contact form.