The average injury settlement in dog bite cases has increased 94 percent since 2003. These attacks are much more violent than many people believe. When animals attack, the knockdown alone usually causes broken bones and other injuries. Then, when dogs bite, their teeth cause deep puncture wounds as well as severe tearing wounds.
Additionally, many dog bite victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. These effects include nightmares, heightened awareness, flashbacks, and other things which make it difficult or impossible to function at work, school, or home.
So, a Weatherford personal injury attorney can often obtain substantial compensation in these matters. But building a case is not enough. An attorney must also overcome insurance company defenses. Both these things are outlined below.
Your Claim for Damages
In Texas, dog bite victims have several legal options, usually based on the facts of the case. These options include:
- Scienter (Knowledge): This claim is based on the common-law one bite rule. If an owner knows an animal is potentially dangerous, the owner may be liable for damages. Such knowledge could be something that happened several months previously, like an earlier attack. Or, the evidence could be aggressive barking, lunging, and other pre-bite behavior.
- Negligence Per Se: Weatherford and most other municipalities have strong fence laws, leash laws, and other animal restraint laws. If owners violate these laws, and the violation substantially causes injury, the owner may be liable for damages as a matter of law.
- Failure to Mitigate: Texas is one of the only states where victims may bring separate claims based on the failure to stop an attack in progress. In these instances, victim/plaintiffs need not prove scienter or introduce other evidence of knowledge.
Negligence, or a lack of ordinary case, might be available as well. For example, a schoolteacher may be negligent if he allows children to play near a strange dog.
Damages in dog bite cases usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Insurance Company Defenses
Assumption of the risk and provocation are the two leading dog bite defenses in Texas.
“Beware of Dog” signs do not immunize owners. They must still prove that the victim voluntarily assumed a known risk. If the victim had limited reading or English skills, the victim may not have been able to read the sign or understand what it meant. Basically the same thing applies if the sign was concealed behind a branch.
Similarly, things like loud noises, sudden movements, and verbal teasing do not constitute provocation. In the dog bite context, the provocation must be intentional. Furthermore, the provocation must be physical and extremely painful (e.g. repeatedly jabbing the dog with a stick).
Dog bite victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.