Dog attacks can cause serious or even life-threatening injuries, particularly when the victim is a child or an elderly individual. If the owner knew or should have known the dog was likely to bite someone, he or she could be liable for the victim’s damages.
Victims of dog bites can discuss possible legal options with a licensed attorney at Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak. Our South Bend dog bite lawyers offer a free legal consultation where we can learn about your situation and explain how we can assist you. For decades, our firm has been advocating for the injured and has secured more than $100 million on behalf of our clients.
Partner Richard Morgan is a South Bend native who has been practice law in Indiana for more than 40 years. He is a member of the Indiana State Bar Association and Michigan Bar Association.
Our firm takes cases on contingency, which means we do not charge upfront fees. There are no fees for taking your case and no fees while we work on your case. We only collect our fees if we recover compensation through a settlement or courtroom decision.
Injured in a dog attack? Call today for legal assistance. (844) 678-1800
When Can Dog Bite Victims Seek Compensation?
When it comes to dog bite claims, states like Indiana have a “one bite” rule. That means the owner of the dog can be held liable for the victim’s damages if and only if he or she knew or should have known the dog was likely to bite or be aggressive. This rule is stated in Indiana Code, Title 15, Section 20-1-1.
In a one-bite claim, the victim’s attorney must establish the owner knew the dog had bitten someone in the past or knew the dog had been aggressive toward people in the past.
Your attorney must also establish the dog owner failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the dog attack from happening. It is reasonable to expect the owner of an aggressive dog to take reasonable actions to keep his or her dog from attacking people.
Exception to the One-Bite Rule
If the victim was someone who was carrying out his or her duties under state or federal law or U.S. postal service regulations, the owner can automatically be held liable for damages. It does not matter if the dog had been aggressive or bitten someone in the past.
The victim and his or her attorney would need to prove the victim did not provoke the dog and the victim was in a place he or she needed to be to carry out a legal duty. That means the victim has no case if he or she was trespassing at the time of the attack/bite.
Even though the burden of proof may be lower in these cases, you can bet the owner and his or her insurance company will try to argue the dog was provoked. Common examples of actions that may provoke a dog include:
- Stepping on the dog’s tail
- Pulling the dog’s tail
- Startling the dog, such as by sneaking up behind it
- Pulling on the dog’s ears, legs or fur
- Disturbing the dog while it is eating or sleeping
- Making a threatening gesture toward the dog or its owner
Even if some of these actions were unintentional, they could still be viewed as provocation.
Advantages of Hiring an Attorney
Unless you know a dog owner well, live nearby, or previously heard about the owner’s dog from neighbors, it is unlikely you would know whether his or her dog had bitten someone or been aggressive in the past.
That is just one of many reasons why you should strongly consider hiring a South Bend dog bite attorney to represent your claim. We can find out if the dog has a history of being aggressive by looking for past complaints or charges against the owner.
The South Bend dog bite lawyers at Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak are prepared to manage the legal process on your behalf. That means we can deal with the insurance company, gather evidence, evaluate your damages, prepare a settlement demand and take the case to court if necessary.
We keep our clients informed throughout the process and are available to answer questions you may have along the way. If we represent you, we are committed to securing maximum compensation for your damages. If the insurance company does not make a fair offer, we are always willing to go to court to fight for you.
Criminal Convictions Do Not Provide Compensation to Victims
Dog owners may face criminal liability for their dog’s actions. Under state law (Indiana Code Section 15-20-1-4), a dog owner could be convicted of a misdemeanor if these three conditions are met:
- The owner intentionally or recklessly failed to use reasonable care to restrain the dog
- The dog ventured onto another party’s property
- Because the dog’s owner was negligent in restraining the dog, the dog bit or attacked another person without being provoked and this caused injuries
If injuries from a dog attack cause death, the dog’s owner could be charged with a felony. While the owner could be imprisoned and face penalties like community service and probation, a criminal case will not provide compensation to the victim. It is also important to note a criminal charge is brought by a local or state prosecutor.
The law can often be confusing, which is yet another reason you need a South Bend dog bite lawyer to help you after a dog bite.
Give us a call today. We are ready to assist you. (844) 678-1800
What Damages May Be Available in a Dog Bite Case?
The goal of a personal injury claim is to obtain compensation to try to put victims back into the position they were in before the injury. That means victims can seek compensation for physical, financial and emotional damages.
Dog bite victims may be able to seek compensation for past and future medical bills, including bills for:
- Treatment of an infection, like rabies
- Medical testing to identify an infection and other injuries (blood tests, CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, etc.)
- Prescription medication
- Hospital stays
- Follow-up visits with doctors
- Transportation in an ambulance
- Physical therapy
If your injuries caused you to miss work, you can seek lost wages. You can also seek compensation for damage to personal property during the attack.
Other damages in a dog bite case may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost companionship
- And more
What if You Were Bitten by a Friend’s Dog?
Our experienced attorneys know injury victims often do not want to file claims against family members or friends. However, if you were bit by a friend’s dog, you would probably be seeking compensation through your friend’s insurance, often a homeowners insurance policy. You would not be suing your friend.
It is important to note the insurance company may claim you provoked the dog because you knew the dog. They may say there is no way the dog would have bitten you because it would have been comfortable with you.
Disproving the insurance company’s claim about provoking the dog can be a challenge, which is why you should strongly consider working with an attorney.
Deadline for Filing a Dog Bite Claim
Many personal injury claims are resolved through insurance claims. Insurance policies have deadlines for filing these claims. Your attorney can determine what deadlines apply in your situation after reviewing the policy you are filing a claim against.
There is also a deadline for filing a lawsuit. This deadline may become an issue if the insurance company denies your claim or does not make a fair offer. In Indiana, personal injury lawsuits have a two-year statute of limitations. That means a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the accident. If you file after those two years pass, the other party can simply file a motion to have your case dismissed from court.
There are exceptions to this two-year deadline, but most claims are subject to this two-year limitation. That is why you should contact an attorney right away so he or she has as much time as possible to build a strong case. You also need an attorney who is willing to go to court, and at Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak, we have been taking cases to court for decades.
What Should Victims Do After a Dog Bite?
Dog bite victims should get to the hospital as soon as possible. You never know when a dog may have rabies or another disease that could cause a serious or life-threatening illness. Acting quickly can help prevent injuries from worsening, which could lengthen your recovery.
Make sure to keep track of all your medical bills throughout your treatment so you can include them in your claim for compensation. You should also stick to your doctor’s treatment plan, because if you do not, it could hurt the value of your claim.
Reporting the attack to the authorities is another important step. This report helps to document the incident and connect your injuries to the attack.
Animal bites must be reported to the local health department where the victim lives. Victims of dog attacks in South Bend can contact the St. Joseph County Department of Health. There is an official form for reporting animal bites.
Victims should also jot down notes about the attack. You can easily forget things in the days and weeks after the incident. Taking pictures of visible injuries and damage to your clothing could also be helpful.
If there were any witnesses, ask them for contact information so your attorney can interview them later.
Call Today To Discuss Your Potential Dog Bite Claim
If you suffered an injury after getting bit or attacked by a dog, you need legal help from an experienced attorney that knows the law. At our firm, we have detailed knowledge of state laws on dog bite liability and how the law applies to individual cases.
We have the resources and legal team to manage every step of the legal process, and we are also prepared to go to court to pursue justice and maximum compensation.
Give us a call today to learn more about how we may be able to assist you during this difficult time. There are no upfront costs to hire our services and no fees while we are working on your case.
Our office is on N Ironwood Drive, a short drive from St. Joseph Circuit Court.
Licensed. Local. Lawyers. Contact Us To Learn More. (844) 678-1800