Millions of people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States. While most of the bites aren’t severe, sometimes these attacks can be vicious leaving victims with serious injuries, scarring, time lost from work, medical bills, and emotional and mental suffering. The worst part is that children are more often attacked than adults and are far more likely than adults to sustain serious injuries.
Fortunately, you can take legal action against negligent dog owners if you’ve been attacked, but first, you’ll need to understand what you’ll need to file a successful claim.
In this article, our Dallas dog bite lawyers will go over the laws that apply to dog bites in Texas, the obstacles you’ll likely face when you bring a claim against a dog owner, and what you’ll need to prove to win your case.
Understanding The Laws Surrounding Dog Bites in Texas
Texas does not have a civil statute that specifically lays out a dog owner’s liability when their dog attacks someone. However, we do follow something called the “One Bite” rule that guides personal injury cases.
Under the one bite rule, a dog owner can be held liable if the animal has previously bitten someone in the past or they have previous knowledge of their animal’s aggressive behavior. The name of this theory comes from the idea that an animal gets one free bite, and after that, the owner is aware of and responsible for the animal’s vicious propensities.
With that said, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the dog gets a “one free bite” pass. For instance, if an owner knows the particular breed is dangerous, or if the particular dog has a propensity towards aggression because of some other factor, the owner could face liability for the dog’s first bite.
The one bite rule is essentially one way to measure negligence—something that all personal injury claims rest upon. It’s not used as a hard and fast rule, but rather, it’s used as an indicator that an owner whose dog has bitten someone in the past is more likely to be deemed negligent for failing to prevent a later bite.
Negligence In Dog Bite Cases
All personal injury claims, including dog bite cases, revolve around the theory of negligence. To put it simply, negligence means that a person did not take reasonable care to avoid injury to someone else. Even with the one bite rule in play, you can still bring a case against an owner on the grounds of negligence. For instance, if someone let their dog loose on a playground and that dog hurts a child, that could be considered negligence.
What You Need to Prove Liability
Now that you understand a little bit more about the one bite rule and about negligence, let’s discuss proving liability. In a successful dog attack case, the victim must show that:
- The dog’s owner knew that the dog had acted aggressively or had bitten someone in the past, or special circumstances existed;
- The owner had a duty to take reasonable care to control the dog’s behavior; and
- because the owner negligently failed to meet that duty, the person was injured.
While bites are the most common form of dog attacks, you can hold owners liable for other injuries as well. For example, if a large dog knocks a child down causing them to break a bone, the parent may bring a suit against the dog’s owner. Again, the injured person will have to show either that the dog’s owner knew the dog was aggressive or that the owner failed to use reasonable care to prevent the dog from harming others.
Possible Defenses Against Your Dog Attack Claim
People love their dogs. And even more than that, they would love to not be on the hook for victims’ medical bills and other damages. When you bring a case against a dog owner, they may fight back against your claim by arguing:
- They had no prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities;
- That you were trespassing at the time of the dog attack or bite; or
- That you were provoking the dog, and thus are partially responsible for your injuries.
Because most Texas dog bite claims require the victim to prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies, the dog owner might provide controverting evidence that they simply didn’t know of (and had no reason to suspect) that it was “that kind of dog.” Alternatively, they might try to pin the blame on you and say you were antagonizing the dog in some way or trespassing on their property, and therefore, you’re partially to blame. Either one of these arguments could greatly reduce the odds of you receiving compensation for your injuries. For these reasons, it’s critical to have a team of Dallas dog bite lawyers in your corner.
A team of experienced Dallas dog bite lawyers can help you fight against any counter arguments that a dog owner (and their insurance company or their attorneys) might prepare. Your team of experienced Dallas dog bite lawyers can contact the local animal control department, gather witness interviews, or obtain statements from animal behavior experts that prove the dog owner is liable for your injuries.
Contact Our Dallas Dog Bite Lawyers to Get the Justice You Deserve
If you’ve suffered from a dog bite, you understandably want justice—especially if it was due to an owner’s negligence. You need to find an experienced dog bite attorney who understands Texas’ complex dog attack laws and has the resources to conduct an in-depth investigation into your case.
The attorneys at the Law Office of Tim O’Hare have 20 years of experience handling dog bite cases. We can help you maximize your financial compensation, and most importantly, hold any negligent dog owner responsible that has caused harm to you or your loved ones. Contact us today for a free consultation.