What Is Indiana's One-Bite Law?

A dog bites a stranger's arm in Indiana.

According to data published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), Hoosiers love dogs. Approximately 49 percent of households in the state report owning a dog, meaning Indiana has the sixth-highest percentage of dog owners in the U.S.

Unfortunately, canine lovers know that even well-trained dogs sometimes bite or otherwise attack if they are in pain, afraid, or provoked. Sometimes dogs may bite for unknown reasons. A dog bite can be a severe injury that may require medical attention, stitches, or even surgery.

Dog owners are responsible for monitoring their dogs’ behavior and keeping them restrained at all times. Indiana has laws in place that hold dog owners accountable when their dogs injure other people. One of these laws is called the “one-bite” law.

In many cases, people misunderstand the one-bite law as a rule that gives dog owners a free pass when their dogs bite or injure other people. This can lead to the false belief that you rarely have grounds to file a claim when a dog bite occurs in Indiana. In reality, if you were injured in an Indiana dog bite incident, you could be entitled to compensation for your losses.

Contact the Fort Wayne dog bite attorneys Truitt Law Offices for a free consultation to learn more about what Indiana’s one-bite law could mean for you.

What Does Indiana’s One-Bite Law Actually Mean?

The idea behind one-bite laws is that dog owners shouldn’t be held liable for attacks if they had no prior knowledge of their dog’s capacity to be violent or aggressive. However, Indiana’s one-bite law does not mean that every dog is allowed one “free” bite with no consequences. After all, it would never be possible to know for sure whether a dog may have bitten someone in the past.

An Indiana dog owner may be held liable for bite injuries caused by their dog if you can prove:

  • The owner was negligent or reckless because they failed to prevent their dog from biting or attacking someone.
  • The owner knew or should have known that their dog had aggressive tendencies or was capable of biting someone.

Every dog is different, so it’s not always easy to tell when a dog’s behavior should be considered aggressive. However, the following behaviors could indicate aggressive tendencies in dogs:

  • Barking or growling loudly at neighbors, visitors, or passersby
  • Snapping or biting at someone, even if the dog does not actually bite
  • Charging into someone fast enough to knock them down
  • Evidence that the dog bit another person in the past

Other factors could affect a dog bite case, too, such as the breed of the dog and whether the dog was properly restrained at the time of the attack.

If a dog bite victim can demonstrate that a dog owner was reckless or negligent in their duty to prevent the dog from biting someone, the owner may face criminal charges in addition to civil liability in a personal injury case. Penalties may include fines, community service, probation, or prison time. If a dog bite injury proves fatal, the owner may even be convicted of a felony.

How Does the One-Bite Law Apply to Postal Carriers and Police Officers?

Mail carriers, police officers, and certain other public employees are more likely than most to come into contact with dogs during their everyday duties. Because of this, Indiana Code § 15-20-1-3 provides specific protections for those who sustain dog bites while carrying out their duties under federal law, state law, or postal regulations.

When someone else’s dog bites one of these protected employees, they can hold the dog’s owner liable even if the dog did not have a history of biting or aggressive behavior, as long as:

  • The government or postal employee was “acting peaceably” in a way that did not provoke the dog.
  • The government or postal employee sustained the bite in a location where they were required to be to carry out their legal duties.

What Are Your Rights in an Indiana Dog Bite Case?

When you suffer a dog bite injury, Indiana courts say you may have the right to sue the owner of the dog. If you can demonstrate that the owner was negligent and that their negligence contributed to your dog bite injury, you could claim money for any losses you incurred as a result of the injury.

In most cases, the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance policy would pay your claim. With a successful claim, you could receive compensation for:

  • Medical bills – The costs of any past, current, or future medical care related to the treatment of your dog bite injury
  • Incidental costs – Additional expenses you incur as a result of the dog bite injury, such as costs of travel to and from doctor’s appointments
  • Lost wages – The value of any reductions to your take-home pay caused by missed time at work while you recover from the injury
  • Lost earning potential – The projected value of any losses in your long-term earning potential if your injury prevents you from returning to your usual job
  • Pain and suffering – The subjective costs of any physical pain, mental anguish, or psychological suffering you endure because of the bite injury

When Do You Need Legal Help for an Indiana Dog Bite Case?

The moment you suffer a dog bite injury, you should start thinking about hiring a dog bite lawyer to protect yourself. It’s usually a good idea to seek legal help for a dog bite case if:

  • You suffered a serious bite injury that required expensive medical care.
  • Your injuries will need extensive care, and you don’t yet know what your long-term treatment costs may be.
  • You aren’t sure whether the dog owner is legally liable for their dog’s behavior.
  • You don’t feel comfortable communicating or negotiating directly with the dog owner’s insurance company.
  • You suspect the insurance company is minimizing the value of your claim.
  • The insurance company has denied your compensation claim entirely.

Contact an Indiana Dog Bite Lawyer Today

At Truitt Law Offices, we have more than 40 years of experience serving injured victims in Indiana, including people injured in dog attacks.

We offer free initial consultations and do not collect legal fees unless we win compensation for you. There’s no risk to you when you reach out to our team for answers. Contact us today to discuss the details of your claim with a dedicated attorney.

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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…