In 2017, State Farm alone paid $132 million to 3,600 dog-related injury claims. With 124 claims and $4.6 million, Indiana ranked number 9 for states with the highest dog-related injury claims. The United States Postal Service report ranked Indianapolis at 16 for cities with the highest number of attacks on postal workers in 2017. With this in mind, it is important for dog bite victims to know their legal protections.
Of course most dogs are absolutely wonderful and this would never apply, but it’s important to know just in case you run into an angry pooch who would rather take a chunk out of your arm than roll over and let you rub his belly.
Theories of Liability
Indiana dog bite statutes create strict liability for injuries, but only apply to certain individuals – postal workers, police officers, and others acting within their federal or state imposed duty. There are other ways for victims to recover under the law, however, and we discuss them below.
Indiana law imposes a duty of reasonable care on dog owners to keep control of their pets based on the animal’s propensities. If the dog itself or its particular class of animal is known to possess violent propensities the owner mush takes reasonable care to prevent those propensities from resulting in injury. Plesha v. Edmonds. When a dog owner is negligent in their control, they may become liable for injuries regardless of a victim’s age or status.
In Indiana, a landlord can be found liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog if, at the time of the attack, the landlord retained control over the premises and the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities.
In dog bite cases, the negligence standard applies to landowner liability to trespassers as opposed to the general duty owed to trespassers of refraining from willfully or wantonly causing injury. In Plesha v. Edmonds, children regularly trespassed to reach a park and the owners were aware the dog would become aggravated and attempt to break off his leash. The court found the owners were unreasonable in their care to keep control and prevent the dog from biting, even though the dog was on the owner’s land.
Negligence Per Se
Some areas have animal ordinances that may require additional action from dog owners. When an owner fails to comply with an ordinance, such as leash laws requiring dogs outside the home or fenced in area be on a leash, they can be found negligent per se and liable for injuries caused by their dogs.
Accidents happen and Indiana law allows victims to recover compensation for their dog bite injuries.