Dog Attacks in Texas: Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury Victims

Humans have cherished the companionship of dogs for centuries, finding joy and fulfillment in their presence. In the US, approximately 53 million dogs share a human-canine lifestyle. This figure is the most dogs per capita than any other nation.

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association data revealed that at least 4.7 million people sustain dog bite injuries annually. Out of these incidents, 800,000 require medical attention, with children making up the majority of dog attack victims.

Suppose you or a family member were involved in a dog attack incident. You can pursue legal remedies to recover damages for your injuries and other losses. Legal actions such as filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit are available to dog attack victims if they wish to seek compensation.

Typically, law offices provide free consultations to claimants who want to seek legal advice during this process. The presence of a personal injury lawyer during the claims procedure increases the likelihood of maximum compensation and expedites the handling of a claim.

Key Takeaways
  • Texas implements strict and negligence-based liability laws to address dog bite cases.
  • Dog owners, walkers, and landlords may be liable for dog bite injuries.
  • Factors such as trespassing, provocation, assumption of risk, and comparative negligence influence liability in a dog attack case.
  • Dog bite victims can seek legal representation when filing a personal injury case to seek damages for their injuries.

Dog Bite Laws in Texas

Suppose a dog causes injury or a deadly attack on a person while in public or lawfully on private property. The owner is liable for damages incurred as a result of the attack. This rule applies as long as the injured person did not provoke the dog and was not trespassing at the time of the incident.

Negligence-based liability

Negligence refers to the failure of a dog owner to practice care in preventing harm caused by their dog. The injured party must exhibit that the dog owner did not take appropriate precautions to prevent the dog from causing harm.

For instance, an owner neglects properly securing their dog on a leash and decides to let it roam freely. If their dog aggressively approaches a passerby, mauling them and causing injuries, they can be at fault for the incident.

The “one-bite” rule

In Texas, dog bite cases primarily operate under a “one-bite” rule. Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, dog owners can be liable for a dog attack incident under the following conditions:

  • They knew the dog was violent.
  • They own the dangerous dog.
  • The aggressive dog made an unprovoked attack on another person, causing bodily injury.

For example, it was the first time the dog displayed violent behavior or caused harm to someone. The “one-bite” rule typically shields the owner from liability for a dog bite or attack case. The rule suggests that the owner is not legally responsible for the incident because they were unaware of the dog’s aggressive behavior.

Liability for Dog Attacks

Liability for dog attacks refers to the legal responsibility of various parties involved in a dog-bite incident. Suppose a dog bites or attacks someone. Potential parties who may be liable include the dog owner, property owners, and other individuals, such as dog walkers or pet sitters.

These parties can be held liable based on various legal theories, including strict liability, negligence, and premises liability.

Responsibility of dog owners

In Texas, injured victims must establish that the dog’s owner was aware or should have been aware of the dog’s dangerous propensities. They can present evidence such as witness testimonies, prior complaints or reports, or other documented incidents involving the dog.

In addition, the injured party must show that the owner failed to demonstrate care in restraining or controlling the dog. It includes factors such as not using a leash, allowing the dog to roam freely, or not taking adequate precautions to prevent the incident.

Liability of property owners and landlords

Landlords or property owners can be liable for a dog attack under certain circumstances. For instance, a landlord knew or had reason to know that a tenant’s dog was dangerous or had a history of aggression. They may have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect others on the premises.

This duty may include enforcing pet policies, ensuring proper fencing or containment measures, or addressing known safety concerns. Suppose the landlord fails to fulfill their duty of care, and a dog bite incident occurs. They may be legally responsible for negligence.

Similarly, suppose a landlord voluntarily assumes responsibility for the dog’s care. In that case, they can be at fault for a dog attack case. For example, a landlord agrees to regularly walk and care for a neighbor’s dog while they are away. Suppose the dog bites someone during one of the landlord’s walks. The landlord may be responsible due to their assumption of responsibility for the dog’s care.

Liability of individuals responsible for dog care

Suppose a dog walker or pet sitter fails to exercise reasonable care in handling and controlling the dog under their supervision. They could be at fault for a dog bite incident. 

For example, pet sitters must supervise and control the dog entrusted to them. Suppose they fail to properly restrain a pit bull and allow it to engage in aggressive or dangerous behavior. They may be liable for negligence if a deadly attack occurs.

Another example is when a dog owner provides specific instructions or warnings regarding the behavior or care of their dog. It is the responsibility of the dog walker to follow those instructions.

For instance, a pet owner says their American Staffordshire terrier is afraid of strangers and should be kept from unfamiliar people. Despite the warning, the dog sitter allows the dog to interact with a random elderly man, resulting in a fatal attack. The dog sitter may be responsible for disregarding the owner’s instructions and failing to prevent the incident.

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Factors Influencing Liability

Various factors can influence liability in dog bite cases. The primary factor is whether the jurisdiction follows a strict liability or negligence-based approach.

In addition, defenses are available to dog owners facing personal injury claims. These defenses may include provocation, trespassing, or the victim’s own negligence contributing to the incident.

Provocation or trespassing

Dog owners can sometimes use provocation or trespassing to defend against a dog bite claim. For instance, a person provokes a dog by taunting, hitting, or otherwise mistreating the animal. The dog owner may argue that the individual’s actions triggered the dog’s aggressive behavior.

In this case, the dog owner may claim that the injured person’s provocative actions were the primary cause of the incident. However, the level of provocation required to establish this defense successfully can vary, and it is typically subject to the court’s interpretation.

Similarly, dog owners can use a trespassing defense if the injured party is illegally on the dog owner’s property. The dog owner may argue that their right to defend their property applies. 

They can claim the victim was unlawfully present on their property without permission. Thus, they cannot be fully responsible for the incident.

Assumption of risk

Suppose the victim of a dog bite incident is a veterinarian, dog walker, or pet sitter. The dog owner may raise the defense of the assumption of risk. It is a legal doctrine that suggests the victim willingly accepted the inherent risks associated with their profession or activity. Thus, it releases the dog owner from liability.

However, the assumption of risk defense has its limits, particularly in states that apply strict liability rules to dog bite cases. Strict liability means that dog owners are at fault for injuries caused by their dogs regardless of the dog’s past behavior. Under this rule, the victim’s assumption or risk is generally not a complete defense that exempts the dog owner from liability.

Comparative negligence

Texas follows comparative negligence for dog bite cases. It determines the degree of fault and assigns proportionate responsibility to each party involved in an incident. 

The court uses this rule when they find multiple parties contribute to an accident’s cause or injury. Under the comparative negligence rule, the injured party’s compensation is reduced by the percentage of their negligence or fault.

Texas state follows a modified comparative negligence rule known as proportionate responsibility or modified comparative fault. Under this system, the state allows the plaintiff to recover damages from the dog owner, even if they are partially at fault for their own injuries.

However, the injured party can only recover compensation if their percentage of fault does not exceed 50 percent. If the court determines their responsibility to be 51 percent or greater, it may prevent them from pursuing damages.

A victim’s compensation is reduced proportionately if their fault is 50 percent or less. For example, the court finds the plaintiff to be 20 percent liable for their injuries. They can still recover 80 percent of the damages.

Legal Process for Pursuing Compensation

When a dog bite incident injures a person, they can engage in a legal process that allows them to seek remedies for their losses. They may pursue legal remedies, including filing a personal injury case against the negligent party, seeking compensation through insurance claims, or negotiating a settlement.

These legal options allow dog bite victims to pursue financial compensation for medical expenses, mental anguish, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the incident.

Seek medical attention and document injuries

Immediately seeking medical attention and documenting injuries are crucial steps for dog bite victims. 

Prompt medical care ensures that healthcare professionals can properly assess, treat, and document your injuries. It also establishes a clear link between the dog bite incident and the resulting injuries.

In addition, keeping track of all medical expenses related to the dog bite incident is essential. They include costs for hospital visits, surgeries, medications, therapy, rehabilitation, and other medical services. 

Saving all medical bills and records serves as solid evidence to support your compensation claim. These records can demonstrate the extent and severity of your injuries, medical expenses, and the associated financial losses.

Gather evidence and identify witnesses

Obtain the name and contact information of the dog owner. It includes their full name, address, phone number, and email address. If the dog owner differs from the person present during the incident, ask for their details as well.

In addition, take photos of the accident scene, including any visible injuries, the location of the incident, and other relevant factors. These factors may include a lack of signage or a broken fence. Photos can help establish the circumstances surrounding the incident and provide visual evidence of the scene.

If there were witnesses to the incident, request their names and contact details. Witnesses can provide valuable testimonies to support your claim. Ensure to collect their information for future communication.

Report the incident to animal control and the police department

Filing a dog bite report with your local government is essential in documenting the incident and creating an official record.

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency: Reach out to your local police department or animal control agency to report the dog bite incident. Present a detailed account of what happened, including the time, date, location, and other information about the dog and its owner.
  • Cooperate with law enforcement: If the authorities request additional information or ask you to provide a statement, cooperate fully and provide accurate details about the incident.

Obtain a copy of the dog bite report: Request a copy of the dog bite report for your records. This report is an official document and can be valuable evidence in pursuing a compensation claim.

Did you know?

Approximately 50 percent of all dog attacks involved provocation as a factor for child and adult victims.

Avail of a Free Case Review With a Personal Injury Lawyer

Seeking legal guidance is crucial when pursuing compensation for dog bite injuries. A personal injury attorney focusing on dog bite cases can provide invaluable assistance. They can protect your rights and maximize your chances of obtaining fair compensation.

The Personal Injury Center can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. You can explore our website to discover more about our services and the compensation you may be entitled to recover. We offer a free case review to discuss your situation’s details.

Get maximum compensation for your dog attack case. Contact The Personal Injury Center to find a reliable lawyer for you. 

FAQs on a Dog Attacks in Texas

People involved in a dog bite incident typically have around two years to file their case. However, there are some exceptions to this time frame. Hence, seeking advice from a personal injury lawyer is the best approach.

Texas does not implement statewide “leash laws.” But some cities, such as Houston, require dog owners to leash, muzzle, or restrain their dogs when on public property.

Yes. A person with a disability who employs a service animal is legally responsible for any damages their dog causes.