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A Guide to Texas Dog Bite Laws

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While many states have liability statutes on dog bite injuries, Texas has no such laws. Rather, common-law negligence and the one-bite rule govern an owner's liability for injuries caused by a dog bite.

If you’re claiming injuries under Texas’ one bite rule, you must show that the dog’s keeper or owner knew that the animal exhibited similar behavior in the past. If this is impossible, you’ll need to document that the owner was negligent and careless in controlling the dog and preventing the attack. Here, you’ll learn more from on the state’s dog bite laws.

Steps to Take After a Dog Bite

  • Notify the authorities. Call police and animal control and ask for an incident report. This, along with other proof, may help in determining liability for your injuries.
  • Get medical care. If an injury is substantial, call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room. Follow the doctor’s instructions for post-treatment care.
  • Document everything. Get as much information as possible, including the dog owner’s name and contact information, the animal’s behavioral history, and its vaccination status. Obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses.

Negligence: When Is the Doctrine Applied in a Dog Bite Case?

In the state of Texas, negligence is defined as the failure to act as a reasonably prudent, an ordinary person would. In cases involving dog bites, victims must show that negligence is the proximate cause of their injuries. To do so, you’ll need to prove that:

  • The defendant cared for or owned the dog
  • The owner had a duty of care in preventing the animal from hurting others
  • The duty of care was breached
  • The breach caused the injury

If just one of these elements can’t be proven, your case will be dismissed. In the sections below, we’ll explain some of the most common negligence examples as they pertain to dog bite cases in Texas.

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Negligence Per Se

If a person violates an ordinance or statute, it is defined as negligence per se. For instance, if a dog bites you after the owner allows it to run free, the court will probably consider the injury a consequence of the dog owner’s negligence. To prove negligence per se, the court must recognize these factors:

  • That an ordinance or statute was violated
  • That the violation caused the injury
  • The statutory violation caused the kind of harm that it was designed to prevent
  • You belonged to the class that the ordinance or statute was meant to protect

A Landlord’s Liability

If tenants keep a dog that they know is dangerous, the landlord may be held responsible for any injuries the animal causes. To win, a victim must prove that the landlord knew or should have been aware of the dog’s tendencies and that the attack happened in an area under the landlord’s control.

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Comparative Negligence

Under the state’s comparative negligence statute, victims can be held partially responsible for their injuries in certain circumstances. Any portion of fault attributed to you will be taken from your award. For instance, if the case is worth $100,000, but the jury determines you to be 30% responsible, you’ll only get $75,000. Texas follows a modified version of the comparative negligence doctrine, which means you won’t get compensated if you’re found to be more than 50% responsible.

When Does a Victim Share the Blame?

In some cases, victims take actions that warrant assuming some of the responsibility for an injury. Lawyers know that many Texas dog bites occur when an animal is threatened. Dogs often bite when people reach over a fence to pet them, trespass on private property, or enter a place where "Beware of Dog" signs or posted. If any of these scenarios apply, a dog attack attorney can help you determine liability.

Comparative Negligence Cases Involving Children

Because of their size, children typically suffer serious ear, eye, head, neck, and facial injuries during dog attacks. Generally, children under six years old are not considered comparatively negligent. Some people believe that children can never be found negligent, but anyone over the age of six is held to some liability standards. Additionally, the courts may determine that a child under the age of six is partially negligent if they were aware of the potential consequences of an action.

Defenses Used by Owners in Texas Dog Bite Cases

In consideration of the state’s one bite rule, dog owners can avoid liability for an attack by denying that the dog previously bit (or tried to bite) someone. Owners often argue that their dogs were simply defending them or that the event would not have happened if the animal hadn’t been provoked. In some instances, victims even face trespassing accusations.

Should You Settle?

Many times, victims are told by attorneys that most cases are settled before going to court. This is typically the simplest way to handle a dog bite case and resolve it quickly. When both sides agree, it’s important to keep in mind that Texas law will be considered.

For instance, an animal owner’s insurer will follow the state’s laws on payouts because they approach each case with the expectation that it will go to trial. Because of this, it’s crucial to discuss the state’s laws with an attorney to find out what a reasonable agreement will look like.

Contact a Local Law Firm for Skilled Representation and the Support You Deserve

If you suffered injuries from a dog bite in the state of Texas, you only have two years from the date of the event to file a personal injury claim. Failure to act within the statute of limitations will lead to the case’s dismissal. If a person is a minor when an attack occurs, they have two years from their 18th birthday to file a claim.

Due to the complex relationship between the state’s negligence laws, comparative negligence allegations, and the one-bite rule, Texas dog bite cases are extraordinarily complicated. A dog owner’s insurance company will likely want a statement about the event, but state law does not require you to make one. If an insurer asks for such a statement, politely decline and give us a call. Our attorneys will provide comprehensive and compassionate legal counsel so you can get the compensation needed to recover from a devastating injury.