Dog bites — what to do if it hapens to you

Krysten Kelly, who was bitten by a dog in the Uptown neighborhood in August, still has scars from that attack on her arm.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

For those who get bitten by a dog, the recovery process can be long and expensive. Victims can sometimes seek out monetary recovery, but this depends on the case. For victims who aren’t able to get the information of the owners, the legal pathway is even less clear.  

The most important thing to do after getting bitten by a dog is to get medical treatment to prevent infection, said personal injury lawyer Mike Agruss. 

Treatment is also important to document the bite, Agruss said, in case the victim decides to bring a claim against the dog owner. In most cases, a person’s homeowners or renter’s insurance will be responsible for damages, he said. Then, victims can file a claim with Animal Control by calling 311 or file a police report at a district station.

Dog bites can have a serious effect on the victim, beyond “disfigurement,” said Paul Greenberg, a dog bite lawyer with Briskman, Briskman and Greenberg.

“Victims of dog bites will more often than not develop some post-traumatic stress disorder,” Greenberg said.

One person who has experienced acute post traumatic stress disorder after a dog bite is Nakia Childs, 48, who was bitten in May of 2021 while working at her job in the lobby of a luxury apartment in suburban Evanston. 

Childs’ coworkers used to call her “the dog whisperer,” she said, but after being bitten she hasn’t been able to interact with dogs in the same way.

“I play with my mom’s dog now but I won’t get in an elevator with a dog, and I still cross over to the other side of the street,” she said.

Greenberg was able to help Childs get monetary recovery in her case, but sometimes the case isn’t always straightforward.

What can make getting monetary recovery for injuries difficult is if the owner of the dog doesn’t have insurance, Greenberg said. Unlike car insurance, homeowners or renter’s insurance isn’t legally required.

In cases where the name of the owner is unknown, the legal pathway can be even more complicated.

Krysten Kelly, who was bitten in Uptown in August, is considering filing a Doe complaint, which doesn’t require a name, to try and find out who the owners of the dog that bit her were. She doesn’t know who they are, but ultimately she wants to hold the owners accountable.

“I’m trying to figure out how much money I want to spend with the risk of nothing happening at all,” Kelly said.

“I don’t want to let it go,” she said. “I live in Chicago. I mean, there’s a lot of worse things in the world than a dog bite, but I still feel victimized.”

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