Indianapolis Dog Bite Lawyers
Multimillion-dollar track record
When dog owners fail to restrain their pets or provide sufficient warning that their dogs are dangerous, it can result in a terrifying experience. If you have been attacked or bitten by a dog, Crossen Law Firm can help you pursue maximum compensation for your injuries.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our reputable dog bite lawyers, dial (317) 401-8626 now or contact us online.
Our Indianapolis dog bite attorney has decades of experience handling all kinds of personal injury claims. While no amount of payment can make up for what happened, it can provide the financial resources you need to pay off expensive medical bills and make up for lost wages.
Most dogs are loyal companions who love to play and be affectionate. Unfortunately, even the best “good boy” can have a bad moment. More than 800,000 people need medical attention because of dog bites each year, and of those dog bites, 334,000 are severe enough to require treatment at a hospital. More than 3.7 million other people are bitten but are able to take care of their injuries without medical care. That may seem like a lot of bites, but context is important: according to the NIH, there were more than 89.7 million dogs in the United States in 2017. Consider how many millions of interactions those dogs had without biting someone!
Who is most likely to be bitten?
- Children account for more than half of all dog bites annually.
- 26% of all children who are bitten by dogs need to visit a doctor or go to the hospital.
- Dog bites are a bigger problem for children than mumps, measles, and whooping cough combined.
- There is a higher incident of dog bites for children than injuries from skateboards, ATVs, bikes, or playgrounds.
- Children are most commonly bitten in the face, neck, or head.
- Nationally, dog bites rank as the 13th leading cause of nonfatal emergency room visits in the United States (this is the latest data, which is from 2018).
- In 2020,18 children and 28 adults were killed by dogs.
- In 2020, 24% of fatal dog maulings occurred off the dog owner’s property
- In 2020, 43% of fatal dog attacks involved multiple dogs
Dog bites in Indiana
March 2021: Two dogs and a cat were killed, and another dog was wounded by a pair of unleashed pitbulls in an Indianapolis neighborhood in separate incidents.
Animal Care Services (ACS) in Indianapolis show that the city is on track to record more than 4,000 calls related to aggressive dogs this year — a roughly 25% increase over the previous two years.
A 2020 Moneywise article ranks Indiana as 17th in the nation for the number of dog bites: 328 claimed to insurance companies for the year, at an average settlement of $37,475.
January 25, 2020: A one-month-old baby was killed by his family’s pit bull mix dog in Lafayette, Indiana.
July 1, 2020: A 62-year-old man was killed by his own pit bull in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Indiana Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) dogs bit an average of one person every five days between 2017-2019. This was more than in any other American city and included low-level offenders, unarmed offenders, other police officers, and innocent bystanders.
Dog bite laws in Indiana
Like 16 other states, Indiana has the “one bite” law — but with a twist.
“One bite” means that dog owners may be held liable for damages related to dog bites if the owner knew or should have known the dog was likely to attack or bite others without being provoked. That means that if you are at your friend’s house and his dog, who has always been well behaved and friendly, suddenly bites you, your friend isn’t necessarily liable. He is, however, required to keep his dog under reasonable care and control. The twist is that this “one bite law” doesn’t apply to all people:
Indiana Code IC 15-5-12-1 Section 1 states,
“If a dog, without provocation, bites any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may be required to go for the purpose of discharging any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States of America, the owner of such dog may be held liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
In other words, the owner of the dog (no matter how innocent up until this point) is liable if his dog bites a U.S. postal carrier, a police officer, or any other state, local, and federal official carrying out official duties.
A final note: In Indiana, physicians treating dog bite injuries are required to report such injuries not more than 72-hours after the incident.
When is a dog bite a crime?
Sec. 4. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), the owner of a dog commits a Class C misdemeanor if:
(1) the owner recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally fails to take reasonable steps to restrain the dog;
(2) the dog enters property other than the property of the dog’s owner; and
(3) as the result of the owner’s failure to restrain the dog, the dog bites or attacks another person without provocation, resulting in bodily injury to the other person.
(b) The offense under subsection (a) is:
(1) a Class B misdemeanor if the person has been convicted of
one (1) previous unrelated violation of this section;
(2) a Class A misdemeanor if:
(A) the person has been convicted of more than one (1) previous unrelated violation of this section; or
(B) the violation results in serious bodily injury to a person;
(3) a Class D felony if the owner recklessly violates this section and the violation results in the death of a person; and
(4) a Class C felony if the owner intentionally or knowingly violates this section and the violation results in the death of a person.
(c) This subsection does not apply to a nonaggressive dog that goes beyond the owner’s premises onto agricultural or forested land. An owner of a dog commits a Class D infraction if the owner of the dog allows the dog to stray beyond the owner’s premises, unless the dog is under the reasonable control of an individual or the dog is engaged in lawful hunting and accompanied by the owner or a custodian of the dog. However, the offense is a Class C infraction if the owner has a prior unrelated judgment for a violation of this subsection.
- Class C misdemeanor: Up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail and /or up to $5,000 in fines
- Level 6 felony: 6 months to 2.5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- Level 5 felony:1 to 6 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
Definition of “owner”
IC 15-20-1-2 “Owner”
Sec. 2. As used in this chapter, “owner” means the owner of a dog. The term includes a person who possesses, keeps, or harbors a dog.
What Defenses can a dog owner claim?
The owner may claim that he is not liable for your dog bite in two cases:
- If you provoked the dog in some way: the defense here would be “comparative negligence.” The owner (or owner’s home insurance company or attorney) would attempt to prove that you were partially responsible for the dog bite. Under Indiana’s modified comparative fault law, as long as you are less than 51% responsible for the attack, you can still collect some damages, but they may be reduced proportionately.
- If you were trespassing: unless you fall into one of the categories above, (mail carrier, police officer, etc…), you are trespassing if you are on someone’s property without permission. Someone who breaks into a house, for example, would not receive any damages if he or she were attacked by the owner’s dog.
Each dog bite case is different and has its own set of circumstances. Because insurance companies are concerned with making a profit, they are apt to argue liability on the behalf of their customer/insured person. They may also argue that your injuries are not as severe as you say they are. Therefore, not all claims are necessarily paid.
This is why you need the help of the experienced dog bite attorneys at Crossen Law Firm. We know how to fight insurance companies that unjustly deny compensation. We also make sure that insurance companies don’t try to lowball you. Being bitten is traumatic enough — you don’t need the extra stress of having to argue with a recalcitrant insurance company for your compensation.
Indiana doesn’t have statewide leash laws. Each local government is responsible for making its own local ordinances.
In Indianapolis, dogs are required to be on a leash or within three feet of their owner while in the city. Owners can be fined $50 for walking their dog without a leash.
In Marion County/Indianapolis, it is unlawful for “the owner or keeper of an animal to allow that animal to be at large within the city.” At large means not confined without means of escape in a pen, corral, yard, cage, house, vehicle, or other secure enclosure, unless otherwise under the control of a competent human being.
Popular dog breeds in Indiana
For the past 29 years, Labrador Retrievers have been the most popular dogs in the U.S., but in Indiana, they are eclipsed by the German Shepherd, according to Reader’s Digest, or by the Great Dane, according to Martha Stewart, or by the Rottweiler, according to The Delite.
At an event at the Indianapolis State Fair in 2017, these five breeds of dogs were available for rescue more than any other breed:
- Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd
All five of these types of dogs are on the list of the top 10 most dangerous breeds in the United States, which may be a reason these dogs had been surrendered to the rescue centers in the first place.
Dangerous dog breeds
A study of dog attacks between 2005 and 2017 found the 10 most dangerous dog breeds to be:
- Pitbulls: They accounted for 284 deaths (66% of all fatalities).
- Rottweilers: They accounted for 45 deaths (less than 11% of all fatalities).
- German Shepherds: They are the most popular family-owned guard dog in the U.S.
- English Mastiffs
- Siberian Huskies
- Labrador Retrievers
- Doberman Pinschers
- Akita Inus
This list was compiled based on the number of human fatalities and on the number of attacks reported.
Keep in mind the fact that there is plenty of other (mixed breed) aggressive dogs. The list includes only breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Simply because a dog is one of the breeds on the “Dangerous List” doesn’t mean that it is hopelessly aggressive. It’s true that some breeds were bred to be hunters or fighters or guard dogs, but dogs are individuals and can be trained.
Depending on the type and extent of your injuries, a dog bite can be life-changing and require expensive, ongoing treatment. Contracting rabies or other dangerous infections could even put your life at risk.
Dog attacks can lead to:
- Mental trauma: Being attacked by a dog is a traumatic and frightening experience. It can cause a phobia of dogs, insomnia, paranoia, intrusive thoughts, and anxiety, all of which can be symptoms of PTSD.
- Broken bones: This happens more often with children, who are often smaller than the dogs attacking them. However, for adults, the small bones in the hand are especially vulnerable to bites. Depending on age and health, the average human bone can withstand 25 psi (pound-force per square inch) before snapping. Consider the fact that the average German Shepherd can exert 200-600 psi pressure. According to the NIH, some dogs can exert up to 2,000 pounds of force per square inch.
- Nerve damage: Nerves can be stretched or even completely severed. In many cases, surgery is required, but in some cases, paralysis is the long-term result.
- Permanent scarring: Not all people have the opportunity to have plastic surgery, and plastic surgery can’t eradicate all scars.
- Head and neck injuries: This is especially common in small children who are attacked by dogs.
- Cuts and bruises: Cuts may need stitches or antibiotics, and bruises are painful.
- Tissue and nerve damage: As dogs bite through the skin, they may do damage to nerves, tendons, and muscles because of the enormous pressure their jaws wield. Some dogs bite down and then shake their victim, which can cause extensive injuries.
- Concussions: It is possible to be knocked to the ground by a large attacking dog. Owners are supposed to keep their dogs under control so that this doesn’t happen.
- Injuries to the face: According to the American Society for Plastic Surgeons, almost 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery in 2018 as a result of dog bite injuries.
- Rabies: According to the CDC, no one has developed rabies from a dog bite where the dog was quarantined for 10 days and shown to be in good health. If this quarantine is possible and the dog is healthy, there is no need for a preventative course of rabies treatments. Indiana law requires all dogs over three months old to be vaccinated against rabies. On the other hand, if the dog can’t be traced after the attack (possibly running wild), the person would have to undergo an expensive and painful regimen of shots.
- Infections: Dog saliva can cause a wound to become infected with tetanus or Capnocytophaga, and could even lead to sepsis. Unfortunately, 1 out of every 5 dog bites becomes infected.
It is important to remember that your injuries are not your fault. The dog’s owner, keeper, or harborer should be held liable for your injuries. A dog bite injury firm can help you prove liability and recover your losses.
Be aware of warning signs
Although dog owners may claim that their pet attacked out of the blue with no warning signs whatsoever, there are usually warning signs that the dog could become aggressive or even that the dog is preparing to attack.
- Becoming very still and rigid
- Making a low guttural bark or growl
- Looking away or, conversely, looking straight at you with a fixed stare
- Ears high/tail high/ hackles raised
- Lips drawn tight
- Lunging forward or charging
How to avoid being attacked by a dog
- Don’t enter the home of a dog who doesn’t know you when the owner isn’t there.
- Don’t try to take a prized object like a bone or toy — and don’t get between the dog and its loved possession.
- Don’t try to break up two dogs that are fighting by getting in between them.
- If a dog is fearful and backing away from you, don’t pursue the dog or back it into a corner.
- Avoid dogs that are chained up.
- Turn sideways if a dog is approaching aggressively — show that you are not a threat.
- Don’t approach a sleeping dog, a dog that is eating, or a dog with puppies.
- Don’t stare or make challenging eye contact.
- Try to distract the dog with a noisemaker (or pepper spray if necessary).
- If the dog actually attacks, try to put something between you and the dog’s jaws as a barrier. If worst comes to worst, roll into a ball and protect your face and neck.
It is important to note that intact (unneutered) males are responsible for 70-76% of all reported dog bite incidents. Neutered dogs are 3 times less likely to bite.
Indiana House iIll 1201 mandates all animal shelters in the state to spay or neuter all animals before offering them for adoption.
What to do if you are bitten by a dog
- If your wounds are severe or the dog is still uncontrolled, call 9-1-1.
- Ask for contact information from the dog owner and also from any eyewitnesses.
- Wash the wound with mild soap and warm running water for 5-10 minutes.
- Stop the bleeding with a sterile cloth.
- Apply antibiotic cream if possible.
- Seek medical attention. You need to make sure that you don’t need stitches or surgery, and you need the wound cleaned out properly so that it doesn’t get infected. Always see a doctor within 8 hours.
- Report the bite to the police department and your local health department (the doctor or emergency room will do this for you).
- Take pictures of your wounds right after they happen and also as they begin to heal. You need as much documentation as possible.
- Consult an experienced dog bite attorney.
You only have 2 years to file a claim
Dog bite lawsuits are subject to Indiana’s 2-year personal injury statute of limitations. In other words, you have until the second anniversary of your attack to file a civil claim against the dog’s owner in pursuit of damages. If you try to file a claim after this deadline expires, the court will almost certainly dismiss your case, and you will be unable to seek further legal action. Since dog bite cases can sometimes take weeks or even months of investigation and preparation, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after a dog attack to ensure you are compliant with all applicable deadlines.
Consult with our attorneys now
The Indianapolis dog bite lawyer at Crossen Law Firm is equipped with the knowledge and resources to negotiate with insurance companies for fair compensation. We have already recovered millions for our clients. Let us help you get the payment you deserve. You won’t owe us any fees unless we win your case.
Get started on your case today by scheduling a free consultation about your situation. Call 317-401-8626 or contact us online.
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