Postal employees face a variety of hazards throughout their day. However, one of the most dangerous parts of a USPS worker’s day is when they approach the home of a person who owns a vicious dog. While most dog owners don’t leave dangerous dogs outside where they can pose a risk to postal workers and other delivery personnel, unfortunately, some pet owners are less careful than others. In fact, a recent study conducted by the USPS found that more than 5,800 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2020 alone. In the event that a USPS worker is bitten or attacked by a dog, they can pursue a personal injury claim against the animal’s owner. At the law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, our knowledgeable USPS dog bite lawyers have extensive experience helping postal workers recover for their injuries after a vicious dog attack.
Chicago Postal Workers Are Among the Most at Risk
Postal employees in any city face the risk of a dog bite. However, certain cities, for whatever reason, see a greater number of USPS employee dog bites than others. According to a recent study by the USPS, Chicago ranked second for the number of postal workers attacked by a dog. In 2020, 59 postal employees suffered dog bite injuries. This is particularly surprising because Chicago, although a very large city, is not home to the largest number of dogs. In fact, Illinois as a whole 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.
Why Do Dogs Bite Postal Workers?
Dogs are known as man’s best friend. Why, then, are so many people injured in dog bite attacks each year? There are a few answers to this question. Some breeds are more dangerous than others. However, all breeds of dogs are capable of attacking a postal worker, so it is important to always be vigilant.
The Most Dangerous Breeds of Dogs
Certain breeds of dogs are bred to bring out the breed’s most aggressive characteristics. According to a recent study looking at the total number of fatal dog bites between 2005 and 2017, the following breeds were identified as the most dangerous:
- Pit bull terriers
- German shepherds
- American bulldogs
- Mastiffs and Bullmastiffs
In fact, more than 75 percent of all fatal dog bites over the period involved Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.
Other Reasons Why Dogs Attack
The old saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” is very applicable when it comes to dogs. Any breed of dog can attack a human without notice or provocation. Some of the reasons why a dog that doesn’t belong to a dangerous breed may attack include:
Certain canine illnesses can make a dog more prone to attack a human. For example, rabies attacks a dog’s central nervous system, impacting how their brains work. This can cause an otherwise docile animal to attack.
When a dog senses someone is invading their space or getting too close to their home or owner, the dog may take it as a threat. This can lead a dog that doesn’t typically exhibit aggressive behavior to attack. Of course, a dog’s sense of what constitutes a threat is not always accurate, which is why dogs sometimes attack invited postal workers.
If a dog is suddenly startled, it may bite out of instinct. This is why it is especially important that postal workers make their presence known if they approach a sleeping dog or a dog that doesn’t initially notice them. Often, when a frightened dog bites, the victim’s reaction of pulling away or yelling only increases the perceived threat. This can cause the dog’s attack to become more fierce.
Dogs love to play; however, some dogs are gentler in their play than others. What starts off as play in a dog’s mind can quickly escalate, especially if someone pushes the dog away, yells, runs away or makes a sudden movement.
Regardless of the reason why a dog attacks, it is rarely due to a postal worker’s fault. USPS employees are on the animal owner’s property for a purpose, and it is up to dog owners to secure their animals, so they don’t pose an unnecessary risk of serious injury—or even death.
Postal Workers Can Recover Financial Compensation After a Dog Bite
Postal employees who are bitten by a dog can pursue a personal injury claim against the animal’s owner. Additionally, they can file for workers’ compensation benefits. It is important that you understand the differences between a personal injury case and a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Versus Personal Injury Cases
As federal employees, USPS workers can apply for federal workers’ compensation benefits. The workers’ compensation system allows injured postal workers to obtain compensation for a workplace injury without the need to prove someone else was at fault. For many workplace accidents, a workers’ compensation claim is the only available remedy because, under federal law, an injured workers’ sole remedy against their employer is a workers’ comp claim.
However, USPS dog bites are different. When a dog attacks a postal worker, it often has nothing to do with the negligence of the USPS. Instead, it’s the pet owner who was negligent. This allows postal employees to pursue a personal injury claim against the animal’s owner.
There are a few differences between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim. While you need to prove another party’s negligence in a personal injury case, the damages available are typically far greater than through a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation claims provide injured workers with medical benefits and income-replacement benefits. However, they do not allow an injured worker to obtain compensation for their non-economic damages. On the other hand, an injured postal worker who successfully brings a USPS dog bite case can obtain compensation for their economic and non-economic damages. This includes:
- Past medical expenses,
- Future medical costs,
- Lost wages,
- Decrease in earning capacity,
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress,
- Disability or disfigurement, and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Thus, to fully recover after a dog bite injury, USPS workers should pursue a personal injury case rather than a workers’ compensation case whenever possible. At the law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, our injury lawyers handle both personal injury and workers’ compensation claims. We command in-depth knowledge of each of these claims, which we use to maximize the compensation our clients recover.
Illinois Dog Bite Law
When it comes to dog bite law, Illinois is a “strict liability” state. Strict liability is a legal concept that creates liability regardless of a party’s fault. In the context of dog bite law, it means that a dog’s owner is liable for any injuries caused by their dog. You don’t need to prove that the owner knew their dog was dangerous, that the dog had attacked someone in the past, or that the owner failed to properly secure their dog in an enclosure or a leash.
Not all Illinois dog bite cases fall under the strict liability theory, however. To benefit from the strict liability statute, a dog bite victim must:
1) Not have provoked the animal;
2) Be “peaceably conducting” themselves; and
3) Be in a place they are lawfully allowed to be.
Of course, postal workers are legally permitted to be on a pet owner’s property. Thus, provided you did not provoke the dog, the owner will likely be held strictly liable for your injuries. However, it is still important to work with an experienced dog bite lawyer when bringing your claim to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries. Often, insurance companies minimize a postal worker’s injuries in an attempt to reduce their recovery amount. At Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, we have over 35 years of experience negotiating with insurance companies to secure full and fair compensation for our client’s injuries.
How USPS Workers Can Stay Safe When Delivering Packages
On average, 15 postal workers are bitten or attacked by dogs each day. Every single one of these attacks is preventable had the owner taken the necessary precautions to secure their animal. While it isn’t up to a USPS worker to avoid an attack, there are certain things postal employees can do to reduce the risk of a dog bite.
The USPS provides the following advice to postal workers to avoid the chances of an animal attack:
1.) Carry a can of dog repellant;
2.) Update dog warning cards to keep other postal workers in the know about the presence of dangerous animals;
3.) Make notes on the Mobile Delivery Device when you encounter a vicious dog; and
4.) Report any incidents—even close calls that don’t result in a bite—to a supervisor.
The fact remains, however, that postal workers will occasionally come into contact with dangerous dogs along their route. Postal employees have a job to do, and it isn’t practical to avoid every home that has a dog. In the event a dog approaches you while on your route, take the following precautions:
1.) Try to stay calm
It’s a natural tendency to run or scream when a dangerous-looking dog approaches. However, doing so will only trigger the animal’s natural instinct to pursue you. Instead, try to remain calm and stay still while keeping your eyes in the dog’s general direction.
2.) Do not make eye contact
While you don’t want to turn your back on a dangerous animal, you also should avoid making eye contact. Some dogs take direct eye contact as a threat, which may increase the likelihood of an attack.
3.) Put something between you and the dog
Slowly and calmly, bring your satchel or some other object between you and the dog. This will not only interfere with the dog’s line of sight but can also act as a physical barrier if the dog attempts an attack.
4.) Slowly back away
Once you’ve identified the threat and placed an object between you and the dog, slowly start to back away from the animal while facing it. Do not turn around, as this may give a frightened animal the opportunity to attack you.
Remember, even dogs you’ve encountered on your route before can unexpectedly attack. It is imperative that you remain vigilant throughout your entire route.
Are You a Postal Worker Who Was Attacked by a Dog?
If you are a USPS worker who was recently attacked by a dog, reach out to the Chicago USPS dog bite lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg for immediate assistance. Since 1987, our dedicated team of personal injury lawyers has been helping dog bite victims hold negligent animal owners accountable. We’ve secured favorable settlements and jury verdicts on behalf of countless clients, enabling them to move on more easily with their lives after suffering serious injuries. We offer all prospective clients a free consultation, during which we will explain the recovery process in clear and understandable terms. That way, you can make the best decision for yourself and your family. As part of the Briskman Guarantee, we handle all dog bite cases on a contingency basis, meaning we won’t ask you to pay for our legal services unless and until we can get you the compensation you deserve. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago USPS dog bite lawyers, give us a call at 877-595-4878. You can also reach us through our online contact form.