Roughly 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the United States, with more than 1,000 people receiving treatment for them in emergency rooms every day. Many of these cases are severe enough to require surgery and hospitalization, however, for other victims, the wounds are often fatal.
If you or your child has been bitten by someone else’s dog or animal, you’re probably incurring extensive medical expenses, losing time from work or school, and suffering emotional trauma from the experience. If you are, you have the right to pursue compensation for your pain and suffering.
At The Fostel Law Firm, I help personal injury clients in Texas and New Mexico pursue civil claims against dog and animal owners who failed to take reasonable action to protect others from being harmed by their animals.
Understanding Texas Dog Bite Laws
Although Texas does not have a specific civil statute addressing dog or other animal bites, it does allow you to hold someone accountable under tort law.
Texas follows the common law principle that a victim of a dog bite may recover compensation from the owner or keeper of a dog if: (1) the dog previously bit a person or showed aggression towards a person; and (2) the owner or keeper of the dog was aware of the dog’s conduct prior to biting the victim. This doctrine is grounds for recovery if both elements are met.
A victim may also pursue a claim against an owner or handler of a dog if the person was negligent and failed to use ordinary care. Even if the dog has never bitten before, an owner may be found responsible for the attack if the dog owner was negligent. An example of negligent behavior would be allowing a newly adopted dog to play with a young child unsupervised. Under a negligence theory, it is not necessary to prove that the dog bit someone else in the past or exhibited aggressive behavior.
"Dangerous Dog" Provisions
Texas Health and Safety Code have government procedures for declaring a dog a “dangerous dog.” A “dangerous dog” is a dog that makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept. If a dog is declared a “dangerous dog,” the owner must carry $100,000 of liability insurance, and it is easy for a victim to prove liability if the dog was already declared dangerous before the attack.
Counties and cities across Texas have their own laws regarding restraining and leashing pets. If a dog is unrestrained and bites someone in a jurisdiction that requires a dog to be leashed, the victim may sue the dog owner or person in charge of the dog under the theory of negligence per se. The dog owner violated a Texas statute that was designed to prevent harm to citizens from dogs roaming unrestrained.
Most Dangerous Breeds
All breeds of dogs bite. However, some breeds are more prone to aggression than others. A Chihuahua is just as likely to attack you and your dog as a Pit Bull. However, Pit Bulls are considered more dangerous than Chihuahuas because they often inflict more damage when they attack due to their large size. The breeds that are most prone to bite and inflict serious injury are Rottweilers, Wolf-hybrids, and Pit Bulls. There are other factors that increase the risk of attack besides breed.
To assert a successful claim, you must prove that the animal owner was negligent by failing to restrain the animal appropriately.
You also need to prove what’s called the “one bite rule.” This means that an animal can bite one person — perhaps without consequence — but after one incident, the owner must take precautions to prevent the animal from biting anyone else.