Indiana Dog Bite Laws You Should Know

If you have been bitten by a dog or your dog has bitten somebody else in Indiana, it is helpful to understand your rights as outlined by the state. Since personal injury laws differ from state to state, being aware of the rules that govern your case can make all the difference in recovering the damages you deserve.

There are some situations in which you may not be eligible to seek compensation. In other situations, you may be eligible regardless of the dog’s previous behaviors. No matter the details of your incident, an experienced dog bite/animal attack attorney can increase your chances of success. 

If you have additional questions about dog bite cases in Indiana, you may want to look into hiring one of the Evansville dog bite attorneys at Tuley Law Office. 

Dog Bite Laws in Indiana

As Indiana residents, we understand how much you care about your dog. While the hope is to completely avoid dog bite incidents, Indiana is one of the states that can be forgiving if an injury does occur. Especially when dealing with a dispute on private property, Indiana state law recognizes the unpredictability of animals. 

Indiana One-Bite Law vs. Strict Liability

Most states in the U.S. uphold either strict liability or the one-bite rule when determining fault in dog bite cases. Strict liability means that an owner is responsible for their dog biting someone regardless of the dog’s history. Whether the dog has been aggressive in the past or not, the owner will still be held liable when a bite occurs. 

The one-bite rule provides a bit more leniency, only holding an owner liable for a dog bite if they should have known their dog had violent tendencies. If a dog has never been mean before, they may be able to get away with one bite. However, once the dog has bitten someone, the owner is now responsible for the dog’s future actions because they have displayed violent behavior. 

In the majority of Indiana dog bite cases, the one-bite rule will be applied. This prevents the victim of a dog bite from pursuing damages if the dog was not known to attack others without any provocation. 

Indiana’s one-bite law is typically viewed as a negligence law because it helps the court determine fault; if the owner failed to take the proper precautions in preventing an injury, they will be held responsible. If the owner was acting within the realm of what they believed to be the proper action based on existing knowledge of the dog’s behavior, there may be no case.

An example of a negligent owner is one who knows that their dog will bite without being provoked and does not put a muzzle on it; or an owner who takes their dog to a crowded place when they cannot control it and have seen it attack others before. Owners who let violent dogs out without a leash will also be held liable if the dog attacks someone near their property. 

Indiana follows the one-bite rule in a majority of cases. However, cases involving government workers adhere to strict liability. The owner will be strictly liable for a dog bite if the victim meets both of the following requirements:

  • They are acting peacefully.
  • They are required by state or federal law to perform the actions they are doing at the time of the bite.

The easiest examples of this are postal workers and police officers. If you are being arrested or questioned by an officer and your dog bites them, you will be strictly liable for that bite regardless of your dog’s tendencies. Similarly, if your dog bites a U.S. postal worker in Indiana, you will be strictly liable for those injuries.

Strict liability, the one-bite rule, and holding a negligent dog owner accountable are important factors in animal attack cases. 

Indiana Dog Bite Statute of Limitations

The Indiana statute of limitations on dog bite and animal attack lawsuits is two years, the same as all other personal injuries. 

A statute of limitations is the period of time after an accident for which the victim can file a lawsuit to pursue damages from the liable party. This ensures that the details of an accident are still fresh during proceedings and prevents victims from bringing cases retroactively to get money. Indiana assumes that if the victim waits beyond the statute of limitations, the suffering caused by the initial accident was probably not significant enough to truly warrant compensation. 

Breed-Specific Dog Laws in Indiana

Several Indiana municipalities have bans or regulations on specific dog breeds. There are Rottweiler and pit bull laws in Indiana which either prevent ownership altogether or add extra hurdles to owning these types of dogs. 

Some cities require you to take on extra risk of liability when you purchase a particular breed. Check with your local city hall or on your town’s website to see if you are subject to these laws. 

Common Dog Bite Claim Defenses

Two arguments that a dog bite defendant may use in an effort to escape paying damages are trespassing and comparative negligence. 

The trespassing defense is used to argue that the injured person was on the owner’s property without permission. Indiana state law protects homeowners from liability for trespasser injuries. This does not apply to government employees or anybody on the property carrying out a necessary duty. Even if a police officer or mailman did not ask permission to be on the property, they can recover damages if they are bitten or attacked by a pet. 

The comparative negligence defense hinges on the condition that the injured person shared responsibility for their injuries. Indiana’s comparative fault law allows someone to recover damages if the other party was at least more than 50% responsible for the accident. If the injured person was provoking a dog, they may be found partly responsible for the bite, and could receive reduced compensation—or none at all. 

Damages From a Dog Bite Case

Dog bites and animal attacks are forms of personal injury, meaning the victim can recover both economic and non-economic damages. The economic damages a victim may recover will address the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages if the victim cannot work
  • Property or valuable item damages

The non-economic damages a victim may recover will address the following:

  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Lasting trauma or fears
  • Decreased quality of life from a physical injury

If the victim of a dog bite or animal attack dies as a result, the surviving family may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. 

When pursuing damages for a dog bite injury, it is important to remember that the events may have future ramifications. An experienced dog bite injury lawyer will ensure that the compensation you receive also accounts for future issues that may arise as a result of the accident.

Dog Bite and Animal Attack Law FAQs

Do these laws apply if my pet is bitten/attacked?

Indiana dog bite laws only apply to people. If a dog bites another dog, it is your responsibility to prove that the other owner was negligent if you wish to receive compensation. These benefits can include veterinary expenses and emotional suffering damages, but they can be more difficult to recover. 

What if I’m injured by a pet but not bitten?

If you are attacked or injured by another person’s pet, you can still file a negligence lawsuit against the owner. However, the specific dog bite statutes don’t apply, so you will need to prove that the other owner was at fault. This could happen if somebody’s dog scratches you or knocks you to the ground, causing significant injury. 

If I was bitten by a dog, should I report the dog bite right away?

In Indiana, dog bite reporting is extremely important. Ensuring the victim’s safety is the primary concern, which often means the first call will be to emergency responders. Calling 9-1-1 often leads to an official police report. 

However, after you are safe, you are also required to report any and all animal bites to the local health department. If you develop any disease as a result of the bite, it can help the health department take the appropriate action in containing an outbreak. Physicians are also required to report all animal bites in Indiana.

Mandatory dog bite reporting helps the state track how and where incidents happen, along with any other valuable information that may be associated. These reports also serve as evidence during a dog bite claim or lawsuit. Having an official record to refer to during a personal injury case shows that it was legitimate and provides strong foundational details on which to base an argument. 

What happens when animal control is called for a dog bite?

The fate of the dog will be determined based on the severity of the accident and the behavioral history. In very severe cases, dogs may be put into quarantine, removed from their owner’s care, or put down by animal control; this is also the case if the animal had been violent before. 

If animal control is called for a first-time dog bite from a dog that has not been violent before, no actions will be taken until the details of the situation are clarified. Was the injured person partially at fault for the bite? Could the owner have prevented the accident? How bad was the injury? These are all questions that will be asked in a dog bite case before dramatic decisions are made.

What should I do if a tenant’s dog bites someone on my property?

If you are a landlord who rents property to dog owners, it is very rare that you will be solely liable for that dog. However, you may be assigned partial liability in a case if either of the following are true:

  • You knew the dog was violent and failed to remove it, OR
  • You took on a caretaker role for the dog

Landlords can be held liable for bite injuries from a tenant’s dog in cases where the landlord showed extreme negligence and/or did not have the proper insurance to cover the dog bite injuries. 

Hiring a Dog Bite Attorney From Tuley Law Office

There are many factors that go into any dog bite or animal attack injury case. Understanding the laws that govern your specific situation can help you receive the necessary compensation or protect you from being wrongfully sued. 

Our Evansville personal injury law firm has an experienced team of attorneys that specialize in different types of accidents. We have handled a variety of dog bite cases and know how to navigate the relevant Indiana laws. 

If you have been involved in an Indiana dog bite incident, call (812) 625-2053 or fill out the contact form on our website to reach out to our team for legal guidance. We will assume the burden of pursuing compensation so you can focus on recovery and still get the monetary benefits you are entitled to.