Dogs: Man's Best Friend?

Woman strolling in the park with her dog on a leash.

As the third most popular pet in the United States, it is not uncommon to encounter dogs in any neighborhood. Because dogs are, by nature, territorial and protective, they can be not only loving pets, but reliable defenders of their homes and families. However, this instinct to defend their territory and owners can sometimes result in unwanted aggression. Accidentally infringing on a dog’s territory can result in being bitten.

Dog Bite Liability in Indiana

If you are bitten by a dog, you’ll likely need at least minor medical treatment, possibly including stitching, or even, in more severe cases, x-rays and surgery. Under Indiana law, the dog’s owner must pay for all damages resulting from a dog’s bite so long as the person who was bitten was acting peaceably and was performing a legal duty, such as delivering mail, at the time of the bite. This law does not apply to regular citizens, since they would not have a legal obligation to be on the property, unlike a police officer, mail carrier, or other person performing legal duties. The law also does not apply if the dog was provoked. The dog’s owner does not need to have any prior knowledge of violence on the part of the dog in order to be held liable in such cases.

As a private citizen or government employee not performing a legal duty, you can still recover damages resulting from a dog bite under the “one bite” rule. This rule does require that the owner have some reason to believe that the dog might be dangerous, such as a previous bite or attempted attack. Without that prior evidence of viciousness on the part of the dog, it will be difficult, or more likely impossible, to hold the owner liable. However, because this rule is the result of case law, rather than a part of Indiana Code, the judge and jury will have some flexibility in determining whether or not you are eligible for compensation.

Compensation Available For Dog Bites

If you can show that you did not provoke the dog and that the dog’s owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous, you can receive compensation for your injuries. This compensation can include payment for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost earning capacity

Proof that the costs are the direct result of the bite will be required, as well as proof that you did not somehow contribute to the incident. For example, if you were not legally present on the property, you may be determined to be partially at fault for the injury. However, you may still be able to collect compensation as long as you were 50 percent or less at fault for the incident. Additionally, you must file your personal injury suit within two years of the bite in order to claim compensation. If you do not seek compensation within the statute of limitations, then you will not be eligible for any damages.

Contact a Dog Bite Attorney Today

If you’ve suffered a dog bite under any circumstances, contact the attorneys at Truitt Law Offices. This area of the law is specific and complicated, so be certain to have the best representation possible on your side.

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About the Author

As an attorney who has practiced law in Northeast Indiana for nearly four decades, Richard Truitt has seen many changes in the way personal injury and wrongful death cases are handled. However, at least one aspect of his work has remained the same. “You always have to listen to your clients, and you have…