The statistics for dog bite fatalities in Texas make for grim reading. Since 2005, more than 78 people have been killed by dogs in this state alone. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that there are more than 4.5 million victims of dog bites every year in the U.S.
Furthermore, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, at least 800,000 cases of dog bite-related injuries require medical attention.
Texas dog bite laws entitle the dog bite victim to compensation for the injuries caused by the animal.
In most cases, it is the Texas dog owner who is held responsible for the dog bite injuries caused by their pet, and a good dog bite attorney can help victims fight for their rights.
Texas Dog Bite Laws
Before filing a claim against Texas dog owners or insurance companies, it is important to understand how Texas dog bite laws are structured and Can you sue for a dog bite in Texas?
It is easy to assume that any dog that bites a victim is dangerous and that the dog owner should pay, but that is not always the case.
Before filing the lawsuit, dog bite attorneys will usually ask for specifics of the dog attack and determine the following:
Whether the dog owner has any grounds for defense against liability for dog bite injuries
If there is potential for criminal penalties to be imposed
How much time the victims have to file a lawsuit (statute of limitations)
In what way the dog owner is liable for the dog bite injury caused by their pet
When filing the Texas dog bite lawsuit, the attorney will usually take legal action based on any of the following situations:
Strict liability for dog bite cases is used when the dog's owner is held strictly liable for the injuries caused by the dog regardless of their mental state or their intent.
In Texas, a dog bite case does not have specific statutes for liability for dog bites. Texas law does, however, rely on liability based on negligence and the one-bite rule.
Liability Based on Negligence
After a dog bite incident, Texas dog owners usually defend themselves by saying they had no reason to think their dog is dangerous.
However, under Texas law, they can still be sued for negligence if it is discovered that they failed to take reasonable care and precautions to avoid the dog bite injury.
In such a dog bite case, the victim needs to prove negligence/ liability by showing the following:
The attack happened because of the owner's irresponsibility or lack of reasonable care.
The dog bite injury was caused by the defendant's dog.
One Bite Rule
Texas dog bite claims are usually based on the strict one-bite rule that is followed by many states in the U.S.
Under this rule, even if a dog has never bitten anyone before, a Texas dog owner is expected to know that their dog may be dangerous. As such, they will be held strictly liable for any dog bites caused by their pets.
If the owner knew that they had a dangerous dog, they would be held liable for any dog bite injuries it caused.
The one-bite rule applies even in dog bite cases where the owner can prove that they took precautions or acted responsibly to prevent the dog bite injury from happening.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites in Texas
One thing that further complicates a personal injury lawsuit involving dog bites is the statute of limitations. Every state in the U.S. has a specific period that is given to dog bite victims to launch their personal injury lawsuits.
There are different deadlines given for each type of civil liability claim, so victims need to know how much time they have to file a Texas dog bite case.
However, it is not common to find a statute of limitations that applies specifically to dog bites. Cases involving dog attacks usually fall under personal injury lawsuits or tort cases.
This is why when asking the question "What is the statute of limitations for a dog bite in Texas?" victims will need to approach a dog bite lawyer.
In Texas, dog bite laws give the victim no more than two years from the date of the dog attack to file a lawsuit against the Texas dog owner or the insurance company.
If the two-year statute of limitations deadline passes before the victim files their lawsuit, they will, in most cases, lose their right to sue the dog owner.
Having a two-year statute of limitations may seem like a long time in which to settle a single claim. However, victims need to act quickly because of the huge amount of groundwork that is needed when preparing for the case.
Also, it is easier to recover compensation in a dog bite claim when the details are still fresh in the minds of the witnesses and the jury can still see the physical evidence of the victim's injuries.
Can a Dog Owner Face Criminal Penalties?
In certain cases in which an aggressive dog inflicts serious bodily injury to the injured person, the dog owner can face criminal charges on top of the civil liability claim.
One of the most common scenarios is when dangerous dogs attack the victim without any provocation and either kill or cause serious injuries to the victim.
However, because of the serious consequences of facing criminal charges, this only happens in the following cases:
The owner knew that their dog was dangerous.
The attack happened outside the dog's yard.
The dog owner's failure to secure their pet can be seen as an act of criminal negligence.
Common Defense Strategies Used by Dog Owners
Launching a dog bite lawsuit is not smooth sailing by any means. Even in cases where the injuries to the victim are quite severe, it may be difficult to recover compensation through a negligence claim.
This is because the defendant and their legal team will usually fight tooth and nail to avoid being found negligent.
The following are some of the common defenses that the dog owners can employ:
Victim Was Trespassing
If the victim wandered onto the dog owner's property with permission and without any legal reason to do so (such as in the case of law enforcement officers executing a warrant from a Texas Supreme Court), this will be considered trespassing.
Under Texas law, if the victim is bitten by a dog while trespassing, the dog's owner will not be held liable for the injuries caused.
The only exception is in cases where the action of the dog owner was negligent and particularly bad. Common examples involve intentionally letting the dog bite the trespassers.
Victim Was Negligent
If the dog owners can prove that the victims were more than 50% responsible for their own injuries, the lawsuit will be thrown out of court without any compensation being awarded to the victims. This is because of the use of comparative negligence laws in Texas.
Also, this can happen if the dog owner can prove that the victim provoked the dog to bite, or acted in some other equally negligent manner.
Argument Against the One Bite Rule
The dog owner can also choose to fight Texas's one-bite rule in either of the following ways:
Showing the court that they had no reason to think that their dog bites
Dismissing any evidence from the victim concerning previous dangerous or threatening behavior from the owner's dog
Damages in Dog Bite Cases
In Texas, the victim that the dog bit can walk away with a huge settlement if they can successfully launch and win their dog bite lawsuit.
Common damages caused by dog bite injuries include:
Pain and suffering
Loss of consortium
Loss of the enjoyment of life
Why Victims Need a Dog Bite Attorney
Proving strict liability after being bitten by someone else's dog is not an easy thing to do without a good lawyer to fight for the rights of the victim.
Besides the need to show that the owner was negligent and failed to exercise reasonable care, the victim will also need to fight the many defenses that the dog owner's legal team may employ.
Also, the Texas legal system is quite complicated, especially when trying to navigate the complex comparative negligence laws used by many states in the U.S.
As such, after doing the most important thing, which is to seek medical attention, the victim needs to approach a good dog bite lawyer if they want to recover damages in a negligence case involving attacks from dogs or other animals. They can answer questions like Do hospitals report dog bites in Texas?
Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Is Ready for War
Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has many years of experience helping Texas victims of dog bites and an in-depth understanding of the so-called one-bite rule.
This is why victims facing the prospect of a difficult personal injury lawsuit need to call the law firm's offices in Dallas, TX and schedule a free consultation.
Here, they can explore their legal options and come up with an effective strategy to recover damages.