Is a Dog Owner Responsible for Dog Bite Injuries and Death Claims in Indiana?

Written by Injury Attorney Charlie Ward

Indianapolis IN Personal Injury Attorney Dog Bite This morning we learned from WRTV.com that on Sunday, July 20, 2014, an Indianapolis infant was killed by his Ohio’s step-grandmother’s American Staffordshire Terrier.Call Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Mail Online reported the step-grandmother was caring for the boy when the dog jumped a gate in her Dayton, Ohio home and attacked the infant boy. The grandmother failed in a desperate attempt to stop the attack. The child suffered multiple injuries. An autopsy performed on Monday revealed his death was caused by blunt force trauma.

A complaint had been previously filed against the dog’s owner for an unprovoked attack upon a beagle in June. The pretrial hearing for the June complaint was continued days before the child’s death.

What makes this tragedy so heartbreaking is that it could have been averted had the owner taken immediate action to remove the dog from her home once she became aware of the dog’s aggressive act toward the beagle.

How is liability determined in Indiana dog bite cases?

In Indiana, a dog owner may be held liable for an unprovoked attack if the dog bites an individual while the owner knowingly allows the dog to run free of restraint. A dog owner may also be liable if the dog has a propensity for aggressive behavior that has manifested in the past. More often than not, the owner of the dog will have prior knowledge if the dog has shown a previous inclination of aggressive behaviors such as growling, barring of the teeth or biting. Medical records or eye witness testimony may bear this out during discovery. If the case goes to trial, the judge or jury will ultimately determine liability based upon the evidence.

Strict liability imposes liability on a party without taking fault into account. The owner of the dog is responsible for all damages suffered by a person charged to carry out a duty imposed by state law, federal law or the US Postal Service on the grounds of strict liability. See Indiana Code 15-20-1-3

A conscious reduction of co-contributing factors may alter the number of dog bite related deaths

In December, 2013, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) published the first comprehensive study on dog bite related fatalities (DBRF) performed since 1970. The sample taken from 256 fatalities over a 9-year period showed a combination of four (4) or more of the following factors were present in 80.5 % of the deaths:

  • No able-bodied person being present to intervene (87.1%)
  • The victim having no familiar relationship with the dog(s) (85.2%)
  • The dog(s) owner failing to neuter/spay the dog(s)(84.4%)
  • A victim’s compromised ability, whether based on age or physical condition, to manage their interactions with the dog(s) (77.4%)
  • The owner keeping dog(s) as resident dog(s), rather than as family pet(s) (76.2%)
  • The owner’s prior mismanagement of the dog(s) (37.5%)
  • The owner’s abuse or neglect of dog(s) (21.1%)

The National Canine Research Council has published an in depth white paper on the above-referenced study entitled Potentially Preventable Husbandry Factors Co-occur in Most Dog Bite Related Fatalities.

Call Ward & Ward Law Firm for a free consultation today

Our attorneys are experienced in handling dog bite injury claims caused by negligent dog owners. If you or a loved one has a potential dog bite claim, we would be happy to discuss your case with you.

Call Charlie Ward for a free consultation at 317-639-9501.