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Obtaining Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for download (1).jpgIn 2018, homeowners' insurance companies paid some $675 million to resolve dog bite claims. That amount has increased steadily over the past several years, as have the number of claims and the per-claim average dollar amount.

Typically, dog bites cause very serious injuries. Animal teeth usually cause deep puncture wounds and severe tearing lacerations. These wounds often become infected, often with dangerous Pasteurella bacteria. Moreover, many dog bite victims struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms for months or years after the incident.

So, a Weatherford personal injury attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. These victims may have several legal options. Each one has some pros and cons.

Scienter

This Latin word means "knowledge." Scienter dog bite claims are also known as one-bite rule claims. Owners are liable for animal attack damages if they knew the animal was potentially vicious. Evidence on this point includes:

  • Baring of teeth,

  • Aggressive barking, and

  • Sudden lunging.

Prior attacks against people also serve as evidence of knowledge. Prior attacks against other animals may be relevant as well.

Generally, if the owner had any specific notice of possible danger, that's sufficient. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). The animal's breed, without additional evidence, may not be sufficient to establish scienter.

Ordinary Negligence

If the owner's behavior fell below the standard of care, the owner may be responsible for damages, whether or not the owner knew the animal was potentially dangerous.

A schoolteacher who allows small children to play near a strange dog is probably negligent. Likewise, a daycare teacher who allows a strange dog to wander near children is probably also negligent.

In these two situations, the school district and daycare owner may be responsible for damages. The respondeat superior rule states that employers are liable for the negligent acts their employees commit during the scope of employment. Texas law broadly defines all these key phrases.

Negligence Per Se

Texas, and most municipalities in Texas, has rather strict animal restraint laws, like leash laws and fence laws. If owners violates these laws, and these violations substantially cause injury, the owner may be liable for damages as a matter of law.

It does not matter how careful or careless the owner was. It also does not matter if the owner knew about the dog's vicious tendencies. Obviously, however, the negligence per se doctrine has limited applicability.

Failure to Stop an Attack

Carelessness and knowledge are also irrelevant in failure-to-stop-attack claims. Texas is one of the only states in the country that recognizes these claims.

If owners have a reasonable chance to stop an attack, they are liable for damages if they fail to take appropriate action. Granted, some attacks happen so quickly that the owner has no reasonable chance to prevent it. Nevertheless, most well-trained dogs respond to verbal commands, like sit and heel.

Dog bite victims have several legal options. 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.

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