If you’ve been attacked or bitten by an aggressive dog, you may suffer from expensive and debilitating injuries, and you’ll need to file a claim or lawsuit to recover compensation.
Different states have dissimilar laws regarding dog bites, which can impact the outcome of a dog bite lawsuit. Some states follow a strict liability rule, which means that the owner is automatically liable for any injuries their dog causes, while others require the victim to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous.
Indiana has strict liability laws for dog bite incidents, so you can recover damages from the dog’s owner in order to pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Three major factors will determine the outcome and the amount you can recover in your Indiana dog bite lawsuit, and these include whether the dog has already bitten a victim before, the severity of your injuries, and whether or not you were partially or fully responsible for the accident. In this blog, we will explore the factors that can impact your dog bite lawsuit.
Indiana follows a “one-bite rule” when it comes to dog bite cases, meaning that dog owners are generally not held strictly liable for the first time their dog bites someone as long as they did not have prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous tendencies. If the dog has no prior history of aggression, the owner couldn’t have known that the dog would harm someone.
If you’re the first victim of the dog in question, you’ll have a harder time recovering compensation than if the dog had bitten someone previously, but it’s not impossible. You’ll need to prove that the owner acted negligently in some way to prove that they’re liable for your injuries.
For example, if the dog’s owner allowed it to roam freely or if they failed to restrain the dog and keep it from biting you, that can be considered negligence in court and they may be liable for your damages.
You can prove that they acted negligently through eyewitness testimonies and photographic or video evidence.
The next element that will directly impact your case is the overall severity of your injuries. Your injuries determine the amount of compensation you can recover, and if you suffered from a devastating bite that causes permanent scarring, disfigurement, nerve damage, or emotional damage, you may be able to recover a great deal in both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are meant to reimburse for damages that have a monetary value, such as your medical bills, ongoing treatment, and any wages that you lost or will lose due to your injuries. If your medical bills, lost wages, and other monetary losses are worth $30,000 for example, you would seek that monetary amount from the dog’s owner or their insurance company.
Noneconomic damages compensate victims for non-monetary losses like emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. For example, if you suffer disfigurement from the attack, you could develop post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and you may struggle to socialize and enjoy life.
If a dog bites you, you could suffer from any one of these moderate or severe injuries:
- Puncture wounds: Deep, narrow wounds caused by the dog’s teeth that can damage tissue, muscles, and nerves.
- Lacerations: Open cuts or tears in the skin and underlying tissues that can be caused by the dog’s teeth or claws.
- Fractures: If a dog bites with enough force, it can cause bone fractures in the affected area.
- Infections: Some dog bite infections include rabies, tetanus, cellulitis, and sepsis. Dog bite infection symptoms include fever, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, confusion, redness, swelling, blisters, and vomiting.
- Nerve damage: Depending on the location, a dog bite can cause damage to nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation.
- Scarring and disfigurement: Severe dog bites can result in permanent scarring, disfigurement, and emotional trauma.
- Psychological injuries: In addition to physical injuries, dog bites can also cause psychological trauma such as fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dog bite accidents are not always exclusively the owner’s fault. You could be partially or wholly responsible in some situations. Situations in which you may be fully responsible include:
- Trespassing: If you were trespassing on the owner’s property at the time of the bite, you may be considered at fault.
- Provocation: If you provoked the dog, such as by hitting or teasing it, you may be considered at fault for the dog bite.
- Assumption of Risk: If you voluntarily assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog, such as by interacting with the dog despite knowing its aggressive tendencies, you may be considered at fault.
- Criminal activity: If you were engaging in criminal activity at the time of the bite, such as breaking into the owner’s property, you may be considered at fault.
Sometimes, accidents are both the fault of the victim and the defendant. For these situations, Indiana uses a modified comparative negligence system. Modified comparative negligence is a way to apportion fault and damages in personal injury cases where both you and the dog owner are partially at fault for the accident.
What are some situations in which you could be partially at fault?
- Failure to exercise reasonable care: If you failed to exercise reasonable care to avoid the dog, such as by approaching it in a threatening or unsafe manner, you could be considered partially at fault.
- Ignoring warning signs: If you ignored warning signs or signals from the dog, such as growling or barking, you may be considered partially at fault.
- Failure to avoid a known aggressive dog: If you were aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies and still chose to interact with the dog, you may be considered partially at fault.
In a modified comparative negligence system, you can still recover damages as long as you’re less than 51% at fault, and your percentage of responsibility directly impacts your compensation. Let’s say that you’re found 50% at fault and the damages are $200,000. You would only recover $100,000 because you were 50% liable. If you’re 51% or more at fault, you will not be able to recover damages from the dog’s owner.
Injured by an Aggressive Dog? Contact an Indiana Dog Bite Lawyer
If you were bitten or attacked by a dog, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer to help you with your case. An experienced injury attorney can assist you with gathering and presenting evidence, and they’ll work to maximize the amount of damages you can receive for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.
Contact the Indiana dog bite injury attorneys at Crossen Law Firm. We’re dedicated to helping personal injury victims and will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 317-401-8626, or you can contact us online here.