Texans love their dogs. There are nearly 7.8 million pet dogs in Texas, but this dog-loving attitude of the Lone Star State comes with a downside. Texas has some of the highest numbers of dog bite claims in the U.S., and Dallas ranks in the top ten cities for dog attacks on postal carriers.
Dogs—even gentle or older dogs—hurt people all the time, whether it’s by accident or not. If you’re thinking of filing a dog attack injury claim, a Dallas dog bite attorney can help you understand your legal rights.
In this article, we’ll go over the laws regarding dog bites in Texas, owner liability, and potential counterarguments you might face if you bring forth a claim.
Texas' "One Bite" Rule Explained
In the state of Texas, there isn’t a civil statute that specifically addresses an owner’s liability for damages caused by their animal’s aggressive behavior.
However, Texas does have a “One Bite” rule. Essentially, after the dog’s first attack or biting incident, the owner is said to be on notice of his or her dog’s aggressive behavior. This isn’t a free pass, but rather, 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. However, other circumstances may make a dog owner liable, even if the dog has never bitten anyone before.
Texas’s dog owner liability rule applies to injuries other than bites as well. For example, if a large dog knocks a child down causing them to break a bone, the parent may bring a claim against the dog’s owner.
How Does Texas Law Define a Dangerous Dog?
According to Texas Law, a “dangerous dog” is a dog that:
- Makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury, and
- Commits unprovoked attacks in a place other than their secure enclosure.
After learning a dog is dangerous, the owner has thirty days to register the dangerous dog with the animal control authority, must always keep it on a leash or in an enclosure, and obtain a $100,000 liability insurance policy.
Proving Liability In a Texas Dog Bite Case
As with any personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent and breached their duty of care. 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.
In order to prove a case, it is helpful to find evidence of prior attacks or aggressive behavior. That can mean contacting the local animal control department, gathering witness interviews, or obtaining statements from animal behavior experts.
For this reason, it’s critical to contact a Dallas dog bite attorney after you have been bitten by a dog, even if it is seemingly a minor incident. Our attorneys have the resources and knowledge to conduct a proper investigation, so you can get compensation for your dog attack injuries.
However, even if a dog has never injured anyone, negligence can still exist. If the dog is one of several dangerous breeds, a “one-bite rule” doesn’t apply. Also, having a dog in a setting that is likely to lead to trouble can avoid a one-bite rule, as well.
Possible Defenses Against Your Dog Attack Claim
Dog owners 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
- That you were provoking the dog, and thus are partially responsible for your injuries
Because many Texas dog bite claims require the victim to prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies, the owner might provide counterevidence that they simply didn’t know (and had no reason to suspect) that it was “that kind of dog.”
If the victim was trespassing and had no legal right to be on the property when the attack occurred, the dog owner could successfully argue that the victim bears some fault for the attack—or that they should be off the hook for all liability.
The defendant could also claim that the victim was provoking the dog in some manner. If they successfully argue that the victim contributed to the attack because they were acting irresponsibly, they could reduce the damages they owe or win the case entirely. However, this defense may not work well if a child was the victim, because small children may not understand or know better, and are thus not liable for their actions.
Texas dog bite laws are complicated and can vary widely from one set of circumstances to the next. If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s dog and are thinking of suing the owner, a Dallas dog bite attorney can help you fight against any counter arguments that a dog owner (and their insurance company or their attorneys) might prepare.
Have You Been Injured by a Dog? Talk to a Dallas Dog Bite Attorney For Help
If you’ve been hurt by a dog, you should consider speaking with a Dallas dog bite attorney as soon as possible. Meeting with an attorney will not only help you understand your rights but can give you some peace of mind after going through such a traumatic ordeal.
Schedule a free consultation with the attorneys at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare today. From gathering evidence to consulting with medical experts to negotiating with the at-fault party, our attorneys will fight for you every step of the way so that you can focus on your recovery.