William W. Hurst
Law Office of William W. Hurst, LLC
50 S. Meridian St., Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204
There are 4.5 million people bitten by dogs annually, according to the American Veterinary Association, and almost one in five of the affected people require medical attention. Children are the most common victims, and are usually the most severely injured.
Indiana code § 15-20-1-3 states that if an animal without provocation bites someone behaving in a peaceful manner, while you in a location where you have a duty of care, you are liable for the resulting injuries. According to the statue, you are absolutely responsible if the dog bites someone in a public place, or if someone is lawfully on your property. According to the law, you owe even a trespasser a duty to not be negligent in confining your dog.
In one case, neighborhood children routinely cut across a family’s property to go to a nearby softball field, which the family knew about it and allowed. According to a county ordinance, dogs must be confined within a fence on a dog owner’s property, or on a leash or chain. The family in question allowed their dog to roam freely, which then bit a neighborhood child crossing the property en route to the softball field. The court ruled against the dog owner.
Dog owners may need to confine pets to avoid possible liability, but liability can vary depending on circumstances and local ordinances. In the case above, the owner was found liable under the local ordinance for not confining his animal within a fence or on a leash, even though the animal was on private property. In addition, state law also required a pet owner to observe a duty of care even toward a trespasser when confining an animal. If you have been the victim of a dog bite under similar circumstances, a personal injury lawyer can tell you if you have a viable legal claim.
If you are a dog owner, however, and you properly restrain your animal, you are unlikely to suffer liability for bites. In Stewart v. City of Indianapolis, the court ruled for the dog owner when a neighborhood child attempted to crawl under the Stewarts’ garage door and was bitten by their dog. The court ruled the dog, being left in an enclosed garage, was therefore confined, and the family was not responsible for the bite.
If you were bitten by a dog, contact us now at (317) 636-0808 to schedule a free consultation. We can help explore your options and see whether Indiana law entitles you to compensation for your injuries.
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