If you suffered injuries in a dog attack, whether or not the dog bit you, then one thing you need to know is how much time you have to take legal action against the dog owner (or someone else) for damages. The law refers to this window of opportunity to file a lawsuit as the statute of limitations. If you do not take legal action within the period the statute of limitations sets out, then you will likely lose your rights to receive compensation.
In Illinois, the statute of limitations for a dog bite-related lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the attack, in most cases. However, that time frame can vary depending on a variety of legal factors, so do not assume you always will have two years. You may have more time, or you may have less. Consulting an experienced dog bite injury attorney as soon as possible after a dog attack is the most reliable way to ensure that you do not miss out on your rights to receive money damages for dog bite injuries.
The Statute of Limitations Is an Expiration Date, Not a Target Date
The two-year window to take legal action for a dog bite injury set forth in Illinois law is an outside time limit for filing a lawsuit.
Do not wait one year and 11 months to talk to a lawyer about a dog attack that injured you or a loved one. Call as quickly as you can. The sooner you speak with an experienced dog bite injury lawyer after suffering an injury, the better your chances of recovering the compensation you deserve.
Why? Here are just a few of the many reasons.
Your Lawyer Will Need to Preserve Evidence ASAP
Because the preservation of evidence is vitally important in a dog bite case. The fact is, the more time that elapses, the more likely it is that evidence will fade or get lost or misplaced.
Consider one potentially important element of evidence: the dog. The owner of a dog that attacks and inflicts injury may have it put down, or may give it away, potentially making it more difficult for your lawyer to prove ownership and/or legal responsibility for the dog’s actions.
Eyewitness testimony, too, can play an important role in proving a dog owner’s (or someone else’s) legal liability for a dog attack injury. Over time, memories fade and witnesses get more difficult to locate. The sooner a lawyer can start working to preserve evidence that may prove crucial to your case, the better your chances of getting the money you deserve for your injuries and losses.
Your Lawyer May Need to Investigate to Find Liable Parties
Investigating your dog bite case takes time. While you may have two years (or more, or less) to file a lawsuit for your dog bite injuries, your lawyer may need a chunk of that time to collect evidence, evaluate who has a legal liability to you, and plan an effective strategy for getting you the money you deserve. Waiting until the last minute only makes those tasks more difficult.
In conducting an investigation, your lawyer may discover that more than one party has a legal liability to you for the harm you suffered in a dog attack.
In any given Illinois dog attack, those parties could include:
- The dog owner, who effectively faces automatic liability under Illinois law for any unprovoked dog attack against someone who is “peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be.”
- The dog’s handler or custodian, if different from the owner, for failing to take reasonable steps to keep an individual safe from a dog attack;
- The owner or occupant of the property where the dog attack occurred, for failing to fulfill duties to keep visitors to the property safe.
What Your Lawyer Finds Can Affect How Long You Have to File a Lawsuit
The circumstances of a dog attack injury can affect the amount of time you have to take legal action. As we mentioned above, the general statute of limitations in Illinois is two years, but that rule has exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions.
- Dog attack victims who were minors when they suffered injuries typically have until two years after their 18th birthday to sue in their own capacity, but their parents or legal guardians can also take legal action on their behalf before then.
- If you suffer an injury that you do not (and could not, with reasonable diligence) discover right away, then the statute of limitations period does not start to run until you do (or reasonably could) discover it. Please note, this is a highly unlikely scenario and very difficult to prove. For example, if a dog bite infects you with a viral disease that takes a long time to show symptoms, then you may have an extended time period. But again, it is a very bad idea to let the statute of limitations expire without a lawsuit on file.
These are just a few of the many potential complexities and complications that can affect how much time you have to file a lawsuit for a dog bite injury.
Seek Advice From an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer Right Away
Given the numerous considerations above, the best course of action for any dog bite victim (or parent of a dog bite victim) is virtually always to seek the advice of an experienced dog bite attorney as soon as possible after a dog attack. By seeking timely advice from a skilled lawyer, you give yourself and/or your loved one the best possible opportunity to take full advantage of your legal rights to compensation for your injuries and losses.
To learn more, contact an experienced dog bite injury attorney today.