Dogs are the most common pet in the United States. In fact, there are more than 48 million U.S. households that own at least one dog. And while most dogs are friendly, loving animals, that isn’t always the case, especially in a city like Waukegan. Postal workers with the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) frequently find themselves around unfamiliar animals, which puts them at greater risk that the general public. Those USPS workers who are injured as a result of a dog bite face tremendous hurdles on their road to recovery—both financially and emotionally. However, dog bite victims can pursue a claim for compensation through a Waukegan dog bite lawsuit.
At the law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, our Waukegan dog bite lawyers have more than 35 years of hands-on experience connecting the victims of animal attacks with meaningful compensation. We offer all prospective clients a free consultation, during which we will listen to your story, answer your questions, and provide you with an overview of the recovery process.
How Common Are Dog Bites?
Dog bites are much more common than most people think. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that there are more than 4.5 million people who are bitten by dogs each year. That is more than 1,000 dog bites per day across the United States. As a result of these attacks, more than 850,000 people sought medical care related to dog attacks. Thus, about one in five people who are attacked by a dog require medical attention.
In Chicago specifically, USPS workers face an increased risk of dog bites. According to a recent study by the USPS, Chicago ranked second for the dog bites affecting USPS workers. The study found that 59 postal employees suffered dog bite injuries in 2020 alone. This is particularly surprising because Illinois has one of the lowest rates of dog ownership, with less than 49 percent of households owning a dog. Across the country, 57 percent of homes own a dog.
Types of Dog Bite Injuries
Dogs have incredibly powerful jaws and extremely sharp teeth. When a dog decides to attack, they are capable of easily causing severe, irreversible injury. Some of the most common dog bite injuries include:
- Puncture wounds,
- Broken bones,
- Face injuries,
- Emotional trauma, and
- Nerve damage.
Regardless of the seriousness of the wound inflicted by a dog, dog bites present a high risk for infection. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five dog bites become infected. An infection can occur even if a wound is properly cared for. The most common infections after a dog bite include:
- Rabies, and
While it is not always easy to tell if you are experiencing the early signs of an infection, keep an eye out for the following symptoms of infection and go to the doctor or emergency room immediately if you experience one of the following:
- Blisters around the bite area;
- Muscle or joint pain;
- Redness, swelling, draining pus, or pain at the bite wound;
- Stomach pain; and
Dog bite injuries can dramatically and immediately change your life. However, a Waukegan dog bite lawyer can help you determine if you may be eligible to recover financial compensation for your injuries.
Dog Bite Liability in Illinois
Illinois is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite law. As a result, if a USPS worker is bit by a dog, they do not need to prove that the owner of the animal was negligent to successfully bring a dog bite claim against them. However, strict liability does not apply in every case; for example, a dog owner is not strictly liable under any of the following circumstances:
- The victim provoked the animal;
- The victim was not “peaceably conducting” themselves; and
- The victim was trespassing.
In the event that strict liability does not apply, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t win a dog bite lawsuit. However, you will need to show that your injuries were the result of the animal owner’s negligence. For example, the following are examples of a dog owner’s actions that may be considered negligent:
- Taking a dog on a walk without a leash;
- Letting a dog roam without a leash while in a public area;
- Not installing fencing to keep an animal on the owner’s property;
- Having a fence that allows the animal to escape; or
- Failure to provide a warning to passersby that a dangerous dog lives on the owners’ property.
Can a USPS Employee Recover if They Were Attacked by a Dog But Not Bit?
When we talk about dog attacks, most people think about bites, and for good reason, a majority of dog attacks result in the animal biting the victim. However, that is not always the case. For example, you may trip and fall as you are running away from an aggressive dog that is chasing you, or maybe the dog scratches your face while trying to bite you. Under Illinois dog bite law, you can still bring a lawsuit against the animal’s owner because the dog bite statute applies equally to all types of injuries caused by the dog. Not only that, but the state’s strict liability framework applies with the same force as it does in cases where the dog actually bites the victim.
Tips to Avoid a Dog Bite
If you are like most people, encountering an unfamiliar dog at some point in your day-to-day routine is inevitable. While most of the animals you come across won’t approach you or present much of a danger, it is always a good idea to be prepared. Below are a few tips pedestrians can rely on to help reduce the risk of being attacked by a dog:
Always Remain Alert
Perhaps the most important piece of advice to avoid a dog attack is to always stay aware of your surroundings. Whenever you are walking, watch for dogs under cars and hedges and in neighbors’ yards. If an unleashed dog confronts you, it is best to have already noticed the dog before it notices you.
Evaluate the Situation
If an unfamiliar dog approaches, stay calm and size up the situation. Is the dog awake, asleep, eating or with puppies? How large is the dog? Does the dog seem agitated? Gather as much information as you can so you can better determine what you should do next.
Don’t Let a Dog Know You Are Afraid
If you approach an aggressive dog, it’s normal to be afraid. However, try not to appear visibly scared to the animal. Dogs can sense fear and may interpret it as a sign of weakness or aggression.
Don’t Startle a Dog
If you must approach a dog that doesn’t notice you, try to make soft, calm noises to make the animal aware of your presence from a distance. However, if the dog takes an interest in you, try not to turn and run, as this may trigger the animal’s “chase” response.
Don’t Assume a Dog Is Friendly
While most dogs are friendly, that’s not something you want to rely on when you are approaching an animal you are not familiar with. And remember, even friendly dogs that you’ve met before can suddenly snap for unexpected reasons or no reason at all, so it’s best to remain vigilant, even with dogs you’ve met before.
Keep an Eye on the Dog at All Times
Dogs will typically attack humans when the human is not facing them. So, to reduce the chances of an attack, you should always keep your eyes on the dog without making direct eye contact.
If a dog approaches in a non-aggressive manner, the best approach is to remain friendly by talking in a soft voice. Of course, you should never try to pet the dog or offer it food.
Do Not Run Away
One of the biggest mistakes people make around aggressive dogs is that they turn and run in hopes they can get to safety before the dog catches up to them. However, doing so can trigger the animal’s chase and attack instincts. If a dog approaches you, stand your ground. If you have a backpack or purse, or any another object, use the item to create a barrier between you and the dog.
Carry Dog Repellant
If you frequently come into contact with unfamiliar dogs, it is probably a good idea to carry a can of dog repellant. Dog repellent is an aerosol spray that contains an extract derived from cayenne peppers. Most spays are accurate up to a distance of about ten feet. When repellent comes into contact with the dog, the dog will put its tail between its legs and retreat. Dog repellant doesn’t cause long-term damage to a dog, and after about 15 minutes, the effects will wear off.
Have You Been Attacked by a Dog While on Your Route?
If are a USPS worker and were recently attacked by a vicious dog, the Waukegan dog bite lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg want to help. For over three decades, we’ve been providing dog bite victims with compassionate yet aggressive representation, helping to connect them with meaningful compensation for what they’ve been through. We understand that your life may not ever be the same after a dog bite, and we are here to help you recover—financially and physically—in any way we can. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our Illinois dog bite lawyers, give us a call at 877-595-4878. You can also reach us through our online contact form.