Have you ever felt like someone you know is irresponsible with their dog? Do you own a dog that you fear may bite someone or cause other injuries? The law is well developed on issues of liability regarding dog bites. Consider the following if you are a dog owner or a dog bite victim:
States have formulated two approaches to liability surrounding Dog Bites. The two approaches are: (1) the “One Bite” Rule and (2) Strict Liability. The One Bite Rule is based on whether the owner knew the dog may bite someone. If the dog has bitten someone once before (one bite), the owner is held liable for any bite the dog commits after that. Strict Liability is when a person is automatically liable for a damage that occurs. A strict liability State would hold the dog owner responsible for any damages the dog causes, regardless of the dog’s prior action.
Indiana follows a Hybrid of Both Approaches
I.C. 15-20-1-3 states that “(a) If a dog, without provocation, bites a person: (1) who is acting peaceably; and (2) who is in a location where the person may be required to be in order to discharge a duty imposed upon the person by: (A) the laws of Indiana, (B) the laws of the United States; or (C) the postal regulations of the United States; the owner of the dog is liable for all damages suffered by the person bitten.” The Indiana Code further states “(b) the owner of a dog described in subsection (a) is liable for damages even if: (1) the dog has not previously behaved in a vicious manner; or (2) the owner has no knowledge of prior vicious behavior by the dog.”
Essentially Indiana law states that when it comes to someone on official duty, such as a postman police officer, or firefighter the owner is strictly liable for the damages incurred with a bite.
In general, Indiana follows the “one-bite rule” approach. Dog owners are liable if a “person (owner) knew or should have known” the dog was prone to attack. The rule essentially relieves a dog owner of liability if the owner can prove they had no knowledge of their dog behaving in a dangerous manner. An exception to the one-bite rule involves involves the temperament of specific dog breeds. Some Breeds may not be given the courtesy of the one bite rule, such as: American Pit Bull, Dogo Argentino, Akita, Presa Canario, and Gull Dong.
In addition to the one-bite rule, a dog owner may be found liable for its animal’s actions if the owner does not take proper precaution to secure the animal. For example, if a homeowner allows a dog to remain unattended in the front yard of a home knowing the home’s electrical fence is not working then the homeowner may be held liable if the dog leaves the property and bites another human.
I.C. 15-20-1-4 states that “an 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.”
The offense is elevated to a Class B misdemeanor if the owner has a prior conviction for this offense. The offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor if the owner has violated this code more than once before and caused a serious bodily injury. The offense becomes a Level 6 felony if the code was recklessly violated and resulted in the death of a person. Finally, the offense becomes a Level 5 felony if the owner knowingly or intentionally violates this code, and the violation results in the death of a person. For these reasons, and the safety of others, it is important to ensure your pets are properly restrained.
Whether you intend on recovering damages as a victim of a dog bite or need an attorney’s help to defend criminal charges, contact the offices of RileyCate, LLC.