Boning Up on Dog Bite Law (No Pun Intended)

It is spring once again in North Texas. So, both dogs and people will once again be out and about in force. Every year, dogs bite about five million people. A significant number of these victims go to hospital emergency rooms, where they later require extensive surgery and physical rehabilitation.

Additionally, many dog bite victims, especially young victims, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type issues. Symptoms include unnatural fear of all dogs, flashbacks, and nightmares. All these problems make it difficult or impossible to function at school, home, or anywhere else.

Because of these serious injuries, a Weatherford personal injury attorney can often obtain substantial compensation in these cases. Since so much is at stake, now is a good time to review some of the dog bite basics in Texas.

Texas Dog Bite Law

The one-bite rule applies in most dog bite claims. Owners are financially responsible for dog bite injuries if they knew the animal was potentially vicious. Proof on this point includes things like:

  • Aggressive barking,

  • Snapping,

  • Baring of teeth, and

  • Growling.

Victim/plaintiffs must estbalish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way.

The one-bite rule does not always apply. Other theories include negligence, which is a lack of ordinary care. Allowing a small child to play bear a large dog is arguably negligent. There is also negligence per se, which is a violation of a statute. Generally, this statute is a leash law, fence law, or other animal restraint ordnance.

Texas is also one of the only states with an attack-in-progress law. If owners fail to stop attacks in progress, they are liable for damages, even if they did not know the animal was potentially vicious.

Third party liability might apply as well. Generally, landlords are responsible for dog bite damages if they knowingly allow a tenant to keep a dangerous dog and the animal injuries someone. A dangerous dog could be an animal on the lease’s prohibited breed list or any animal with vicious tendencies.

Insurance Company Defenses

Building a case is not enough. The best Weatherford personal injury attorneys are also ready for several insurance company defenses. That’s especially true if the premises had a warning sign like “Beware of Dog” or if the victim was injured in a dog walk park or other place where animals congregate.

In many cases, the assumption of the risk defense could apply. This defense has two prongs, which are:

  • Voluntary assumption of

  • A known risk.

A sign is a good illustration, especially with regard to a known risk. Insurance company lawyers must prove that the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and understand what it meant. Typically, assumption of the risk is an all-or-nothing defense.

Alternatively, facts like ignoring a warning sign could be considered contributory negligence. If so instructed, the jury must divide fault on a percentage basis. Texas is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent bar. So, even if the victim was 50 percent at fault, the owner or other tortfeasor (negligent actor) is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages.

Dog bites often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.