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What Evidence Can Be Used to Prove a Dog Owner’s Negligence Under Indiana’s “One Bite” Standard?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2023 | Personal Injury

Indiana law allows a person who has been bitten by a dog to sue that dog’s owner for monetary damages related to the bite. But in most cases, the right to sue is limited by our state’s “one bite” rule. That means that a dog’s owner can be held liable only if he or she knew or should have known that the dog was likely to bite or act aggressively. Once the one-bite rule is satisfied, the owner must take reasonable steps to prevent the dog from biting or acting aggressively toward people. Failure to do so can be considered negligence.

A bite victim can prove a dog owner’s negligence using various forms of evidence, including the following:

  • Eyewitness testimony — An eyewitness might testify that the dog was in a public area and unleashed at the time. If you have identified an eyewitness, make sure to provide their contact information to your lawyer.
  • Video or photos — A video record of the attack is very powerful evidence as it shows the entire incident and the circumstances surrounding it. Photos of the area might show how the dog’s owner failed to leash the dog, didn’t have a proper fence to contain the dog or otherwise failed to take proper actions to restrain the dog and protect the public.
  • Evidence of prior attacks — Showing that the dog previously bit or attacked a person is necessary to show owner negligence under the one-bite rule. Your lawyer will usually have to do some investigating to find this evidence. The local animal control agency may have been notified about the dog in the past and could have a record of a previous attack. The owner’s neighbors may have information about the dog and its history.
  • Health department records — In Indiana, all animal bites must be reported to the local health department in the area where the victim lives. Doctors who treat animal bite victims are likewise required to make a report. As such, health department records may show that the dog previously attacked someone, helping you meet the one-bite rule.

The one-bite rule does not apply in all cases. An Indiana statute imposes strict liability on a dog owner — even though the dog has never been aggressive before — if the victim was a government employee or other person who was lawfully on the owner’s property to carry out their job duties. Basically, this means mail carriers, police officers and other government employees can sue the owner without having to prove negligence.

At the Cooke Law Firm in Lafayette, Indiana, we have obtained financial compensation for dog-bite victims and we know how to approach these sometimes challenging cases. Call us at 765-423-5628 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.