DOG BITES – A MOST TRAUMATIC TYPE OF PERSONAL INJURY
It goes without saying: any kind of personal injury is traumatic – traumatic for the injured person, traumatic for family members, traumatic for the party accused of being responsible for the damage. But there’s one type of personal injury that’s often traumatic even for those who merely read about it in the newspaper or hear about it through TV, radio, or phone messaging service. What is that type of injury? A dog bite.
Working with dog bite injuries can be traumatic even for personal injury attorneys like us, we’ve learned at Ramey & Hailey Law. Even with more than four decades helping personal injury victims, I have never become hardened to dog bite injury victims’ pain and suffering. Years ago, I can recall reading an article in the Seattle Times, about a woman traumatized by a dog bite injury. Recent news stories about K-9 dog bite injuries here in Indiana reminded me of that reporter’s remarks….
When dog attacks make headlines, they can spark heated calls for new animal-control policies, breed bans and higher criminal penalties for the owners of vicious dogs, but the furor often dies down within days or weeks. Victims, however, suffer for years, if not the rest of their lives, with physical pain and nerve damage, emotional shock from disfigurement, and the financial toll of repeated surgeries and therapy.
“Every state has its own set of rules for situations where one person’s dog bites someone else,” explains the NOLO.com legal encyclopedia, adding that the Indiana Code contains a one-bite rule, relieving dog owners of liability if they can prove they had no knowledge of their dog ever being violent or aggressive before. On the other hand, even if the bite is a first-time occurrence, the dog owner can be held criminally liable if:
- the dog was off-leash in a leash-only area
- the dog bit you on your own property because the owner failed to keep it confined
- the dog was on the owner’s property (you were an invited guest, or needed to carry out a legal duty or deliver a package or mail) and the owner did not restrain the animal
- you were not provoking the dog in any way
Also important to know is that Indiana is a modified comparative fault state. What that means is that if the injured person was more than 50% responsible for his or her own injures, that person will not be able to recover damages from the dog owner.
Reporting a dangerous dog
Many people are unaware that one does not have to wait for a “bite” to report a threatening (menacing), loose or stray dog, Dogsbite.org explains. Problem dogs should be reported to your city or county animal control or sheriff’s department. Cell phone photographs and video of the dog’s behavior can be sent as supporting evidence to show that an attack situation is likely.
Child victims of dog bites
Of all possible dog bite occurrences, those involving children are the absolute worst. When three things are combined, dogsbite.org points out, tragedy can result. Those three things are: a) a dangerous breed of dog b) a child and c) a new or unfamiliar situation. A child might be visiting at the home of a pit bull or Rottweiler owner. Or, a child might be brought into the home of a family friend or relative who owns a high-risk breed dog. “Under no circumstances should a person agree to “watch” a friend or neighbor’s dangerous dog breed if there are children in the home or if children will be visiting.” The authors caution. Texas Children’s Organization explain that immediate medical care should be sought for bites that:
- have broken through the skin
- do not stop bleeding after direct pressure has been applied for 15 minutes
- appear infected
- are located on the head, face, neck, hands, or feet
To recover damages from the owner of a dog who bit you or someone in your family, it’s important to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney in Indiana. Dog bites are definitely a most disturbing type of personal injury!