Dog and Animal Bite Attorney Serving Houston, Texas

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.

Leash Laws

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.  

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What You Should Consider in a Dog Bite Case

To prove liability on the part of the animal owner, you must prove:

  • The animal was predisposed or likely to be dangerous or to cause harm;
  • The owner should have known the animal was likely dangerous; and,
  • The animal’s predisposition to cause harm caused your injuries.

The victim also has the burden of proving the owner’s failure to exercise reasonable care with the animal. For example, restraining it with a leash, fence, or muzzle. Even if the owner took precautions and the animal still injured you, the owner can still be held liable for your damages under Texas law.

Owners can fight back against any negligence claims if you were trespassing or did something that might have provoked the animal. For example, you reached your hand through a fence to pet a dog and it bit you. In this scenario, if the owner didn’t know the dog was dangerous, they can still be held liable for their percentage of fault. However, if you are found to be at least 50% at fault for reaching your hand through the fence, you will not be eligible to recover damages.

What Are the Possible
Penalties in a Dog Bite Case?

Within two years of the date of the incident that caused the injury, a civil suit must be filed against the animal owner in the appropriate court. If no civil suit is filed, the claim must be settled with the owner’s insurer within this two-year time period. In the event of death, a suit must be filed within two years of the date of death caused by any injuries sustained in the incident.

There are also criminal statutes for dog bites in Texas. If an owner’s dog has been previously determined to be dangerous, the owner could be charged with a third-degree felony and face imprisonment for two to 10 years and receive a fine of up to $10,000. If a dog was not previously identified as dangerous, the owner could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.

In civil and criminal cases, the animal may be ordered to be euthanized.

How The Fostel Law Firm Can Help

Pursuing a personal injury claim after an attack is not easy, especially if the dog has no history of aggression. Where you were at the time of the attack and what you were doing will be critical elements to proving your case. If you’re considering pursuing a dog or animal bite injury claim, you need a personal injury attorney who has extensive experience with Texas dog bite law to investigate the circumstances that led to the attack and prove liability.

There’s also the challenge of whether or not the owner is insured. If the animal has been determined to be dangerous, the owner is required to carry liability insurance. If not, you would need to seek compensation from the owner’s premises liability insurance policy. If the owner doesn’t own their home, they often don’t carry this coverage. If that’s the case, you will need an attorney to find any available coverage.

Dog and Animal Bite Attorney in Houston, TX

At The Fostel Law Firm, I’ve been helping injured clients seek compensation for their damages for more than 18 years, both in Houston and throughout Texas and southeast New Mexico. I will work diligently in my attempts to prove the owner’s negligence and liability to give your claim the legal basis it needs to succeed. If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog or animal attack, don’t wait. Call my office today to schedule a free case consultation.