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Strict Liability and Indiana Dog Bite Laws

Every state has dog bite laws that determine the liability of dog owners and potential charges that could occur if a dog bites another person. However, Indiana dog bite laws tend to work a little differently than most other states when a person is attacked and bitten by a dog in Indiana. This is because Indiana has strict liability when it comes to dog bites.

But what does “strict liability” mean exactly, and how can it affect your dog bite case? Let’s find out.

What Does “Strict Liability” Mean Concerning Dog Bites?

Strict liability means that the law is very stringent, with few—if any—exceptions where the law is concerned. With dog bites, strict liability law usually means that a dog owner can be held liable when their dog bites someone, even if their dog has never shown any previous signs of aggressive behavior.

This is different from states where you can only hold a dog owner liable if they knew their dog was aggressive and had previously bitten someone. However, though Indiana is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite laws, that strict liability only applies in certain situations, meaning there are some exceptions.

What Are the Indiana Dog Bite Laws?

According to Indiana Code 15-21-1-3:

 If a dog bites a person without provocation, and that person was acting peaceably, the owner of the dog is liable for all damages suffered by the person who was bitten. The owner of the dog is liable even if the dog has not previously behaved in a vicious manner or the owner has no knowledge of prior vicious behavior.

However, this legislation technically only applies to those who were bitten by a dog in a location while they were carrying out a duty, such as mail carriers, police officers, and government workers.

If someone who is not a mail carrier, a police officer, or a government worker is bitten by a dog, the law still allows them to file a claim, but the way liability and negligence are handled is different and in accordance with what is known as the “one bite” rule.

Indiana’s “One Bite” Rule

Based on past court rulings, Indiana dog bite laws allow any person bitten by a dog to sue the dog owner for damages. However, whether or not the dog owner will be found guilty and liable for damages is based on the “one bite” ruling of negligence.

The “one bite” rule essentially means that you can only hold the dog owner liable if you can prove that the owner knew—or should have known—that the dog was aggressive and likely to bite someone.

For example, if you wanted to sue a dog owner, you might need to show proof that the dog bit someone in the past and that the owner knew about this. Or you could try to prove that the dog owner had witnessed their dog acting aggressively toward others in the past.

With strict liability, a mail carrier could hold a dog owner liable without needing to show proof that the dog owner knew the dog was aggressive. Whereas with the “one bite” rule, you would need to gather evidence to show proof that the owner was aware that their dog was aggressive.

What Should Dog Bite Victims Do if They Are Bitten by a Dog in Indiana?

If you are attacked and bitten by a dog in Indiana, your health should be your number one priority. So if your dog bite injuries are severe, you should seek immediate medical attention. However, once your injuries have been dealt with, or if you can stay at the scene where you were bitten, you should call the police so the incident can be reported.

If you intend to file a claim against the dog owner, you will need as much evidence as possible to help you prove what happened and win your case. And police reports are a very important piece of evidence. You can also take pictures of the dog and your injuries for evidence, as well as get contact information from anyone who witnessed what happened.

Beyond that, you should get in touch with an Indiana dog bite victim attorney. Because the strict liability only applies to mail carriers, police, and government workers, you will need to provide substantial evidence and build a strong case to prove that the owner knew their dog was aggressive. And an attorney can help you do this.

When you file a claim based on the “one bite” rule, it is more likely that the defendant (dog owner) will have defenses they can use to try to deny your claim and avoid accountability. So you will need a lawyer to help you argue these defenses.

When you file a claim against a dog owner, they could use the following defenses to prove that they are not guilty and that you instead are responsible for what happened:

  • You were provoking or teasing the dog
  • You were trespassing on their property

If the dog owner can prove that you provoked their dog, then they can use comparative negligence to claim that you were partially or entirely responsible for what happened. And if that is the case, you would only be able to recover damages so long as you are not found to be more than 50% at fault.

If you were proven to have been trespassing, then Indiana law will also prevent you from holding the dog owner responsible if the dog attacked and bit you on the owner’s property. You will need to work with an attorney to ensure the dog owner cannot use these defenses against you. Otherwise, your claim could be denied entirely, or you might not recover enough compensation to fully cover all of your damages.

Crossen Law Firm: Consult an Indiana Dog Bite Lawyer Today

If you were bitten by a dog in Indiana, get in contact with someone from our team as soon as possible. Dog attack cases can be challenging, especially if you are filing a claim under the “one bite” ruling as opposed to strict liability.

Our Indianapolis personal injury lawyers can review your claim, offer you guidance, ensure the negligent dog owner is held liable, and help you recover a high-value settlement to help pay for your injuries and other potential damages.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our dog bite victim attorneys, call (317) 401-8626 today or contact us online.