Why Do You Need a Dog Bite Attorney?

If you’re the victim of a dog attack and get bitten in Fishers, Indiana, or Hamilton County, such an unpleasant experience can leave you badly injured and worse, severely traumatized.

In fact, some dog bites are so bad they require immediate medical attention. Such instances may necessitate the services of a dog bite lawyer who understands how critical it is to pursue a claim against the pet owner.

Moreover, a dog bite attorney knows and understands the laws that govern dog bites or attacks in Fishers, Indiana, or Hamilton County. Armed with this vital information, they would have the capability to negotiate and assist in the filing of a claim.

Why It’s Important to Hire a Lawyer After a Dog Bite

The last thing you want to worry about after you or your loved one has been injured in a dog attack is a lengthy, contentious lawsuit. Thing is, in dog bite cases, even if someone’s dog is clearly to blame, you may find yourself struggling to get just compensation.

An injury lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the legal system can help you succeed in your claim so you can move on with your life. This is why it’s absolutely essential to work with a dog attack attorney that will help you navigate the legal system and will do their utmost to represent you and ensure your injury claim is granted.

When you hire an expert Indiana dog bite injury attorney, they will:

  • Look into the dog’s history of aggressive behavior.
  • Find eyewitnesses willing to attest to the dog’s viciousness in the past.
  • Examine the attitude and behavior of the dog owner to determine whether they’ve taken the necessary precautions to ensure their dog is under control.
  • Coordinate with medical experts to come up with an accurate and fair calculation of the cost of your injuries.
  • Negotiate with insurers to get fair compensation and prevent them from reducing the value of your claim by blaming you or your loved one unfairly for the dog attack.

Understanding dog bite laws can be difficult, and when insurance companies come into the picture, the process of obtaining compensation gets even more complicated. Even when it’s clear you are entitled to compensation, the insurance company will almost always oppose your claim.

Having a dog bite lawyer by your side can make a world of difference in how insurers will treat your claim. So, if you or a loved one becomes the victim of a dog bite, it’s important to get in touch with a dog bite attorney as soon as you can.

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How Common Are Dog Bites in Indiana?

According to the Dogsbite.org website, nearly 1,000 Americans daily require emergency treatment because of serious dog bite injuries.

Every year, approximately 12,480 Americans are hospitalized as a result of dog bite injuries. From 2005 to 2020, dogs were responsible for the death of 568 Americans.

The latest dog bite statistics concerning Indiana place it as one of the top 20 worst states for dog bites. Back in 2018, it ranked No. 17, with 368 dog bites reported to insurance companies at a cost of $37,475 each, totaling an astounding $13.8 million. In 2021, the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm reported that dog bite claims cost insurers a total of $881 million dollars. The number of dog bite claims in 2021 totaled 17,989, with claims from the top three states for dog bites – California, Florida and Texas – leading the pack.

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Understanding Indiana Dog Bite Laws

In the United States, each state has its own set of laws in place to address incidents where a pet dog bites someone other than its owner.

The state of Indiana’s dog bite liability laws embodied in the Indiana Code, Title 15, Section 20-1-1, et seq., describes how dog owners have potential civil liability for dog bites (but not for other injuries brought on by a dog).

Owner Liability for Attacks Involving Government Officials

According to Section 15-20-1-3, a dog owner is automatically liable for injuries caused by a dog bite incident if the following conditions are met:

  • The victim was not acting aggressively toward the dog (rather, they were “acting peaceably”).
  • The victim was in a location where they were required to be in order to fulfill a legal obligation (as in the case of police officers) or deliver the mail (i.e., postal carriers).

Even if the dog has never bitten anyone or displayed aggressive behavior before, the owner may still be held accountable in these circumstances. Do note, however, that this rule applies only if the dog bite victim was performing their legal duty under state or federal law when they were attacked.

Owner Liability for Negligence and Intentionally Irresponsible Acts

Based on Section 15-20-1-3, dog owners may also be held criminally liable due to negligence or intentionally careless acts if the following conditions are present:

  • They don’t take reasonable steps to restrain their dog, even when they know full well that they should have.
  • The dog enters or intrudes on another party’s property.
  • The dog bites or attacks another person even without being provoked, resulting in bodily harm.

In this case, the owner could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.

However, if the dog owner had previously been convicted under this section or the attack results in serious bodily injury, the case could be upgraded to a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.

If the owner willfully violates Section 15-20-1-3 and the dog attack results in a person’s death, the case becomes a Level 6 felony punishable by six months to 2.5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

In cases where the owner intentionally or knowingly violates this section and the dog bite results in a person’s death, it becomes a Level 5 felony punishable by one to six years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Is There a “One Bite” Rule in Indiana?

Indiana courts allow for a person who was bitten by a dog to sue the dog owner for damages. They can file claims for dog bite-related medical bills, loss of income, and physical or psychological pain and suffering.

However, in Indiana (as with some other states like Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, etc.), the so-called “one bite” rule applies. This means that dog owners can only be held responsible for their pet’s actions if they knew or should have known that their dog was likely to bite or behave aggressively against others.

In court, there are different ways to show that the owner knows their dog is aggressive. For example, the victim of a dog attack might find evidence to show that the owner knew the dog had bitten someone before or that they were aware their dog had already exhibited aggressive behavior toward other people.

The one-bite rule in Indiana is also called the “negligence” rule. The court’s task is to try and figure out if the attack resulted from the dog owner not doing enough to keep their dog from hurting the victim. When a dog owner knows that their dog bites or tends to become vicious even when unprovoked, they are expected to take steps to stop their dog from biting or acting aggressively toward others.

Again, it’s important to remember that the one-bite rule doesn’t apply when a dog attacks a mail carrier, police officer, or any other person who is doing their job according to state law, federal law, or U.S. postal regulations. It doesn’t cover situations where a dog that belongs to someone else bites a regular private citizen.

How Much Is My Dog Bite Claim Worth?

A 2022 article published by the Insurance Information Institute states that in 2021, the average cost per claim was $49,025. The average cost per claim across states greatly varies. In general, however, medical costs have gone up, and plaintiffs are getting bigger settlements, judgments, and jury awards.

Then again, every case involving a personal injury is different. It can be hard to figure out how much a claim is worth, but every dog bite victim has the right to seek damages.

Dog bite victims usually receive the same kinds of compensation as any other personal injury plaintiff; that is if they can prove that the dog owner acted carelessly or exhibited irresponsible behavior, leading to the attack.

This includes money awarded to cover dog bite-related bills or expenses, such as those involving:

  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Surgery and health checks
  • Medicines and physical therapy
  • Loss of income and the potential to earn
  • Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
  • Scars and disfigurement
  • Property damage
  • Wrongful death

If a dog bites you, you should put your safety first. If you need assistance, your first call should be to 911. Once you are deemed safe, Indiana law requires that you report the incident to the health department nearest you. Doctors are also required by law to report all incidents of animal bites.

To have a better chance of getting a successful claim, you might have to show that all of your medical bills were the result of the dog bite. So if you’re hurt, it’s crucial that you see a doctor right away. If you wait to see a doctor, it might become more difficult to prove that the dog attack caused your injuries.

After getting hurt in a dog attack, it’s not always easy to get the full amount you’re owed. But with the help of a dog bite law firm that has successfully dealt with a number of dog bite cases through the years, you’ll have experts who can back up the value of your claim with solid, irrefutable evidence.

How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Indiana?

The Indiana Civil Statute of Limitations gives plaintiffs two years to file a personal injury and injury to personal property lawsuit, including those involving  dog bites and other animal attacks.

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What Happens If You’re Injured But Not Bitten in an Attack?

A dog can still hurt a person even if it doesn’t bite them. For instance, a dog could knock a person down, causing the latter to hit their head on the ground or pavement.

When incidents like these happen, the laws concerning dog bites don’t apply. Still, the person who was hurt or injured can get compensated by suing the dog owner for negligence.

Also, Indiana laws about dog bites only apply when a dog bites a person. If another dog bites your pet, you’ll have to provide evidence of the dog owner’s negligence to be able to claim for the damages arising from the attack, including vet expenses, medicine, etc.

Common Defenses to Dog Bite Claims

In Indiana, there are three common ways to defend a dog owner against a one-bite rule dog bite claim:

  • The dog owner has no idea that their dog is capable of biting someone for no reason (i.e., their pet never showed any violent or aggressive tendencies prior to the incident).
  • The dog was responding to provocation.
  • The person who got bitten was on the dog owner’s property without permission.

In cases of strict liability (involving attacks on government workers), dog owners usually only have the following defenses:

  • The dog didn’t bite the victim.
  • At the time of the injury, the victim was in the wrong place.
  • The victim did something to provoke the attack.

Dog Bite Law Firm

As with most personal injury cases, dog bite claims in Fishers, Indiana or Hamilton County can get complicated when you don’t have a dog bite injury attorney guiding you through the process.

Insurers can make it extra difficult to facilitate claims, and you can end up taking the blame for the dog bite incident or receiving a small compensation even when you clearly deserve more.

Therefore, it makes total sense to get a personal injury lawyer to defend your claim and ensure you are compensated fairly for any pain and suffering you experience.

Some of the locations around Fishers which our dog bite law firm serves include: Hamilton County, Indianapolis, Carmel, Noblesville, Lawrence, Westfield, Zionsville, Beech Grove, Speedway, Greenfield, Anderson, Brownsburg, Elwood, Greenwood, Lebanon, Plainfield, Fall Creek and Delaware Townships, and more.