Americans own almost 78 million dogs. Nearly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S., according to the NCBI. We recognize many of these dog bite victims are children and one out of every 5 people bitten requires medical attention, while 27,000 people required reconstructive surgery after dog bites in 2012.
Our Indianapolis dog bite lawyers have worked on some of the state's most serious animal attack cases, often involving devastating injuries that include long-lasting physical and psychological trauma. And while most dog bite incidents are often unprovoked and last mere seconds, they have proven to leave our clients with a lifetime of unpleasant memories.
Keller & Keller has more than 70 years of experience in representing dog bite clients of all ages and level of injury. Our success in handling these claims is partially the reason we have been nominated by our peers as being an AV-rated firm, meaning we are recognized by other lawyers as possessing very high to preeminent legal ability and have achieved the highest reflection of expertise, experience, integrity and overall professional excellence.
Many of the clients we represent for personal injury dog bite claims will share two similar after-effects: physical injuries and psychological scarring.
Dog Bites in Indiana
Indiana’s laws are quite favorable to victims of dog bites. If a person or their child has been bitten by an unprovoked dog in Indiana, there is a high probability that they can be compensated for any resulting damages by the dog’s owner or the owner’s insurer. In Indiana, a dog owner is responsible for preventing their dog from biting another person so long as the person bitten did nothing to provoke the dog. The owner is liable even if they did not know the dog to be vicious or if the dog had never acted in a vicious manner before. Generally, a dog owner who has home owner’s insurance or another form of liability insurance will be responsible for compensating the victim.Learn About Indiana Leash Laws
There is No “One Bite Rule” in Indiana
Many states give dog owners a free pass on their dog’s first bite. They require that an owner know of at least one past incident where their dog had bitten someone for liability to attach to the owner. This is not the case in Indiana. The owner is liable for the first bite. Indiana’s dog bite law imposes what attorneys call “strict liability” on a dog owner. This means that a court will automatically find that a dog owner is liable without the victim having to prove that the owner did something negligent or that the incident was the owner’s fault.
A Trespasser May Still Be Compensated
In Indiana, dog owners even owe trespassers a duty to not be negligent. While it is not quite as easy for a trespasser to get compensation for his or her injuries as a result of a dog bite, it is certainly still possible. Dog owners owe trespassers a duty to not be negligent in confining their dogs within their property. Negligence, generally, is when a person acts unreasonably and that unreasonable action results in harm to another person. Many cities and counties in Indiana have their own laws that define exactly how a dog owner must confine their dog to their property or control them in public places. When a dog owner violates one of these laws and it results in the injury of anyone, even a trespasser, they have likely been negligent and the victim is owed compensation for their injuries. Many of these laws require that a dog owner have their dog on a chain or within a fence when on their property. If they allow their dog to roam their property without a fence or a chain, they can be liable for a trespasser’s damages if the dog attacks the trespasser. This is especially beneficial to children and people who may not even know that they are trespassing when they get bit. This case is a great example.
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Definition of “Dog Owner” in Indiana
In Indiana, “owner” not only means the owner of a dog the term also includes a person who possesses, keeps, or harbors a dog. In some states, liability can be transferred to a landlord whose tenant owns a dog that attacks someone else, or even a friend who is watching the dog for the dog’s owner. Courts have generally interpreted Indiana’s dog bite liability law to impose responsibility on the owners themselves (or their insurance company) in these situations. This Case involved a woman whose dog attacked a letter carrier while the dog was in the possession of her family members. The court found that the owner of the dog was liable for the letter carrier’s injuries. In this case, an Indiana court found that the owner of the dog, and not her landlord, was responsible for the victim’s injuries. Under Indiana law, in order for a landlord to be liable for a dog bite, he must have knowledge of the dog’s viciousness, and fail to have the dog removed from the property..
What are the Damages in an Indiana Dog Bite Case?
Victims of dog bites are not only compensated for their medical bills, but can be compensated for things like psychological issues/counseling, pain and suffering, permanent and temporary disability, loss of wages from injury, physical scarring, and even plastic surgery to correct scarring. Punitive damages are damages that require a dog owner to pay the victim an amount that goes beyond making up for the injuries they caused. Punitive damages are imposed upon the dog owner to punish them for being extraordinarily negligent. This is more likely to occur in a case where a dog owner knows that his or her dog is particularly dangerous, but does nothing to prevent an attack from occurring.
Physical Injuries from Dog Bites
Scarring-With regard to physical scarring, it's not uncommon for many of our clients to require consultations with plastic surgeons to help assess the likelihood of possible reconstructive surgery.
Surgery-Some clients will require immediate surgery, while our younger clients will need a combination of present and future surgeries to correct their scars. Without the assistance of a qualified dog bite lawyer, many insurance companies will balk at offering this type of long-term care.
Broken bones-While less common, it is possible for a dog's jaws to exert enough pressure to cause a broken bones and wounds that require serious reconstructive surgery.
Rabies-A life-threatening condition, rabies should always be a concern anytime a dog (or any animal) punctures a person's skin. If the dog cannot be found, or the owners can not be reached, it is impossible to know if the animal has had its rabies vaccine, and an immediate visit with a local ER is always recommended. Approximately 18,000 people are treated for possible rabies exposure each year.
Infection-Another risk dog bite victims often face is infection. Infection occurs in 15 to 20 percent of dog bite victims. Immediate medical attention is the first step to prevent infection; a competent doctor can best decide the appropriate treatment needed to stop it from spreading.
Emergency treatment is almost always a necessity following a dog bite, however, these treatments can be expensive and may require ongoing check-ups. Many times an insurance company will try to settle dog bite claims as quickly as possible knowing that the injuries will require ongoing medical care and have potential long-term consequences. One of the biggest advantages to hiring an experienced Indianapolis dog bite lawyer is that it allows you to take the time to receive full and complete treatment.
Psychological Scars from Dog BitesThe immediate concern with any dog bite is the treatment of visible wounds, but with almost every attack there will eventually be psychological after-effects that can leave a victim with an inflated sense of fear when they are around animals, possibly causing panic attacks and fostering ongoing negative behavior.
With regard to children, it's especially common for them to experience flashbacks at the very sight of a dog. This type of psychological trauma can be long-lasting, and the only way to properly address it will be to seek therapy sessions with trained counselors that can work to alleviate irrational fears.
Our office will often include psychological trauma as a part of your claim, ensuring that the insurance company fully compensates you for all of your injuries and not just those that are visible.
Dog Bite Liability
The first priority of your Indianapolis dog bite attorney will be to establish liability and locate the appropriate insurance policy to compensate you for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and any future corrective surgeries.
Many dog bite injury claims will face complications with regard to insurance coverage, such as renters that don't carry insurance; policies that have exclusions for particular dog breeds; and homeowners that deny liability.
In addition to locating appropriate coverage, having an attorney helps decrease the likelihood that the insurance company will place a percentage of fault on the victim.
Why Call Us?
When you talk to an Indianapolis dog bite lawyer at Keller & Keller, you're receiving advice from one of Indiana’s most experienced personal injury law firms, and no matter the size or complexity of your dog bite case, our legal consultations are always free. In fact, we offer every dog bite client and there family a Zero Fee Guarantee that promises you’ll never pay us a dime unless a recovery is made on your behalf.
No matter where you live, and depending on your preference, our lawyers can visit with you at your home, in the hospital, or at one of our firm’s several Indiana locations.
If you prefer to write to us, please send us the details of your incident through our free, confidential contact form, or receive a live consultation by calling us at 1-800-253-5537.