North Chicago woman left with physical, emotional scars after dog attack

In a FOX 32 special report: a dog attack dispute.

Two weeks ago, we told you about a Woodlawn woman who was hospitalized after she mauled by two dogs.

Now, a North Chicago woman says she got a nasty bite from her neighbor's dog.

It can happen in the blink of an eye, and the trauma can last a lifetime. But protecting yourself has to begin immediately.

We dug deeper to find out what your rights are if you find yourself under attack.

“He hopped up, and he snapped,” Crystal Walls said.

Walls says it happened in a flash.

“He ripped it off all the way down to here,” Walls said.

Her neighbor's dog attacked her face and bit off part of her lip.

“I can see my face just spraying out, and I'm like oh my god, what did he do?” Walls said.

The attack was so violent she was rushed into emergency surgery and spent the night in the hospital, taking a toll both physically and mentally.

“I'm extremely in fear. Traumatized is just an understatement,” Walls said.

Walls is now recovering, but medical bills will soon start coming in. And we wanted to know - just who's on the hook after a dog attacks?

“We love our dogs, but they're animals, right? And so, animals have certain triggers or certain feelings that are very unpredictable,” said attorney Brian Salvi.

Salvi is an attorney at Salvi, Schostok and Pritchard. His firm has handled dozens of dog bite cases and he says the first thing victims should do is contact police and document everything.

“Take pictures, and then monitor how you're feeling very closely,” Salvi said.

The victim's first line of defense, Salvi says, is the dog owner's homeowner's or renter's insurance.

“The person who owns or keeps the dog is ultimately responsible for what happens,” Salvi said.

And if a case ends up in the hands of a lawyer, it’s controlled by what’s called the Animal Care and Control Act. That act requires victims to prove certain things, including whether or not the dog was provoked.

“The courts analyze what provocation is, through the eyes of the dog,” Salvi said.

Walls says in her case, she did call police and document the damage. But her neighbor doesn't have insurance, which Salvi says could mean he doesn't have the funds to pay for her bills.

“The people who have assets to protect get insurance,” Salvi said.

Still, Walls is hopeful someone will take on her case so she can heal.

“It has rearranged my whole life,” she said. “I'm not going to let it just die down.”

The attorney also says to report any dog bite to animal control so that a record can be built on the animal. That will make it easier to track and take action if the dog has a history of attacks.

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