In 2020, there were nearly 17,000 dog bite claims filed in the United States. With a recent surge in dog adoptions, this number may go up. Dog bites can be physically devastating and emotionally traumatizing. If you have experienced an injury due to a dog bite, Camden & Meridew, P.C., can guide you in seeking compensation under Indiana dog bite laws.
Understanding Indiana Dog Bite Laws and Timing
As your Indiana dog bite lawyer will tell you, the dog bite laws that apply to your situation vary, depending on the role of the victim and the responsibilities of the dog owner. For civil cases involving personal injuries, there are three sources of Indiana dog bite laws:
- State statutory sources;
- Local sources, such as city or county ordinances; and
- Negligence law and the so-called Indiana one bite law.
Dog Bites in Indiana: The Statutes
Getting help from an Indiana dog bite lawyer is important because you don’t want to pursue your claim in the wrong way. Although Indiana has a very specific code section, Indiana Code § 15-20-1-3, concerning dog bites, it applies to only a very narrow category of victims who are acting peaceably in their roles as:
- Mail carriers;
- Police officers; or
- Others who are carrying out their duties under state law, federal law, or U.S. postal regulation.
This statute holds a dog owner strictly liable, meaning that the owner is liable for damages even if this is the dog’s first time biting someone and the owner had no knowledge of prior similar behavior.
A second statute, Indiana Code § 15-10-1-4, provides for criminal liability of dog owners who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally fail to take reasonable steps to restrain their dogs and, as a result, the dog enters another property and bites someone without being provoked. This statute, however, applies to criminal cases.
Dog Bite Issues: Local Ordinances and Negligence
Local governmental entities often have ordinances related to the responsibilities of pet ownership. There are a few local ordinances that may apply to your situation if the dog owner in question did not follow an ordinance. Following are some examples around Indianapolis:
- Fishers Ordinance No. 082117;
- Hamilton County Ordinance No. 08-12-19-A; or
- Indianapolis Municipal Code 531-102a.
If dog owners do not follow local ordinances, that fact could help you in a negligence case. Your Indiana dog bite lawyer will research local ordinances and codes to determine whether they impact your dog bite case.
Indiana One Bite Law: Not Necessarily One Free Bite
The scienter—or knowledge—requirement is often brought up in dog bite cases. This is based on a common belief that a dog owner is not liable for the “first bite” under a so-called one bite law. The idea behind this rule, which has been specifically adopted in some states, is that owners should not be liable for a dog’s first bite if they had no reason to know of the dog’s propensities.
You won’t find this rule stated in an Indiana statute, however. The more important rule is that a dog owner should know the natural propensities of their dog. If these propensities might be reasonably expected to cause injury, the owner must use reasonable care to prevent the injuries.
It is best to work with an attorney who is familiar with Indiana dog bite laws and with what courts think about the often-misunderstood one bite rule.
Potential Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
There are many potential defenses a dog owner may raise in response to your dog bite claim:
- Provocation by teasing or tormenting;
- Comparative negligence; or
- Criminal behavior by the injured person.
Anticipating the possible defenses will help you understand the strength of your claim, and an Indianapolis dog bite attorney can help you determine the best strategy to address any defenses made by the dog owner or the owner’s insurer.
Damages for Dog Bite Claims
The trauma of suffering a dog bite can be felt in various areas of your life, including your financial and emotional health. Courts have awarded compensation to cover several types of damages:
- Medical bills;
- Pain and suffering;
- Lost wages and income;
- Rehabilitation costs;
- Scarring; and
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Experienced Indiana dog bite lawyers can advise you on the potential compensation that applies to your situation. With their knowledge of what has worked in the past and how courts have been analyzing dog bite claims, your attorney can help you understand the extent of your claim.
Indiana Dog Bite Laws: What Are Your Next Steps?
Once you understand how Indiana dog bite laws apply to your case, the next steps involve collecting information, coordinating with insurance companies, and filing your claim for your dog bite case. For assistance from a qualified Indianapolis dog bite attorney from start to finish, call David Allen at Camden & Meridew, P.C. Schedule a consultation by calling 317-770-0000 or complete our online contact form.