Herreth Law
Serving Weatherford, Fort Worth And Beyond
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Elements of a Successful Dog Bite Claim

download (1).jpgThe better doctors understand the physical and emotional aspects of dog bite injuries, the more these claim amounts increase. The average settlement in a dog bite case has increased over 75 percent since 2003.

When dogs bite, they usually cause both deep puncture and serious slashing wounds. Improved, and expensive, surgical techniques allow doctors to treat these wounds much more effectively than before. Additionally, many dog bite victims experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Generally, only extensive psychological counseling addresses PTSD dog bite issues.

Your Claim for Damages

Texas still uses the old one-bite rule in animal attack cases. Owners are not liable for damages unless they knew that the animal was potentially dangerous. Evidence of knowledge includes:

  • Prior attacks against animals or people,

  • Sudden lunging,

  • Vicious growling, and

  • Aggressive barking.

Note that the prior incident might have occurred two years before the current attack or two seconds before the attack. Elapsed time is pretty much irrelevant in this context.

Negligence, or a lack of ordinary care, may be an option as well. For example, a teacher may be negligent if she allows students to play near a strange animal. Knowledge, or lack of knowledge, does not matter in a negligence claim. All that matters is that the defendant owed a legal duty to the victim, the defendant breached that duty, and the breach substantially caused the victim's damages.

Third party liability is a possibility in negligence cases as well. For example, the school district may be liable for damages in the above example, because of the respondeat superior doctrine.

Sometimes, a statute establishes the standard of care. This cause of action is called negligence per se. Most municipalities have animal restraint ordinances, like fence guidelines and leash laws. If the owner or custodian violates such as law, and that violation substantially causes injury, the defendant may be liable for damages as a matter of law.

In dog bite cases, these damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Possible Insurance Company Defenses

Preparing a case is often enough. A good Fort Worth personal injury lawyer must also be ready for some insurance company defenses.

In many states, signs like "Beware of Dog" may immunize owners if their animals attack and injure other people. But a number of years ago, Texas courts abolished the assumption of the risk defense in dog bite cases and replaced it with comparative negligence.

Sometimes, both parties are at least partially at fault for the incident. For example, a victim may unintentionally provoke a dangerous animal. In that instance, the jury must divide fault on a percentage basis.

Texas is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent bar. Even if the victim was 50 percent responsible for the incident, the victim still receives a proportional share of damages.

Dog bites often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance. 

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