As doctors better understand the nature and extent of dog bite injuries, the amount of damages has gone up. In fact, average compensation in dog bite claims has nearly doubled since 2003.
Animal attacks cause both visible and invisible injuries. The visible injuries include deep puncture wounds and severe tearing lacerations. These wounds often become infected. Furthermore, many dog bite victims experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-types symptoms for many months following the attack. These symptoms are especially common among child victims.
Victims have several legal options in these cases, and a Weatherford personal injury attorney must carefully weigh every one.
Dog Bites and Ordinary Negligence
These claims could involve the common-law one bite rule or the failure-to-stop-attack loophole. A few of these matters rely on a lack of care, but these claims are difficult to establish.
Under the one-bite rule, owners are not responsible for damages unless they knew the animal was dangerous. Evidence of such knowledge includes:
Prior attacks against people, and
Pre-bite behavior, like aggressive barking or baring of teeth.
If owners knew the animal was dangerous, they are generally responsible for both 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.
The failure-to-stop-attack loophole is fairly unique to Texas law. Under Bushnell v. Mott, owners who fail to stop attacks which are in progress are also liable for damages, whether or not they knew the animal was potentially dangerous.
Sometimes, attacks happen so fast that owners do not have a reasonable chance to stop them. Nevertheless, most well-trained animals should respond to verbal commands.
Finally, victim/plaintiffs may pursue ordinary negligence claims. Legally, owners have a duty of care to prevent injuries. However, in this context, the duty of care is quite low. Owners must be almost reckless. For example, allowing a pit bull to play near a baby may not be negligent, unless there were additional factors.
Animal Attacks and Negligence Per Se
These claims require less evidence. Owners who violate safety laws are liable for damages as a matter of law if the violation substantially caused the bite. But on a practical level, these incidents are often few and far between.
In general, Texas has rather lax animal restraint laws. Yes, fence laws, leash laws, and animal restraint laws are on the books. But there are a number of exceptions, such as designated dog walk parks. Furthermore, on the whole, these laws are rather lax. For example, Texas is one of the few states which prohibits dog chaining in most circumstances.
Animal attacks often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. You have a limited amount of time to act.