Man’s best friend can do more than provide us comfort. Many people buy dogs to act as proximity alarms, so they can protect their property. While that in and of itself isn’t much of a problem, there are some things you have to know as a dog owner in Texas, so you aren’t on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
One Bite Rule
Texas is considered a one bite rule state for personal injury cases as a result of dog bites. As a result, Texas does not have a statute specifically made for covering dog owner’s civil liability for damages caused by their animal’s biting someone.
For a Texas dog bite claim to be made the victim must be able to show the following:
- Intent: The dog owner knew the dog had acted aggressively or had bitten someone in the past.
- Negligence: The dog’s owner failed to use reasonable care to control the dog or prevent the bite, and as a result, the injured person was bitten.
Texas’s negligence rule applies to other types of injuries caused by dogs too. For example, let say you have a large breed dog like a German Shepard. Let’s say this dog jumps on someone and they fall and hurt themselves. The injured person can bring a claim for damage against the dog’s owner. Even if your big, friendly buddy isn’t aggressive, you have to consider your liability in this situation.
Texas courts will apply a “strict liability” rule in cases where the dog is known to be “vicious, dangerous or mischievous,” and the bites resulted from the dog’s known nature. Basically, if a dog has bitten someone before, they will be classified as “dangerous,” regardless of the extent of the dog’s injuries.
Strict liability refers to if the injury was caused by a “dangerous dog,”. The victim doesn’t even have to demonstrate the owner also failed to use reasonable care to restrain or control the dog. They’ll be able to recover damages simply by demonstrating that the dog was known to be dangerous.
If your dog caused severe injury, you might face criminal charges in addition to civil liability. According to the Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.005, a dog’s owner may be charged a felony if:
- The owner “with criminal negligence” fails to secure the dog, and the dog attacks someone, unprovoked, at a location away from the owner’s real or personal property.
- The owner knows the dog is a “dangerous dog” and the dog attacks someone, unprovoked, at a location away from the owner’s real or personal property.
- If either of the above situations causes serious bodily injury or death.
This is combined with the possibility you might also have to face a civil lawsuit by the victim or a wrongful death claim if it’s a member of the deceased victim’s family.
Defending Against a Texas Dog Bite Claim
If you’re defending against a Texas dog bite claim you have some options. The above might make it seem like you don’t have much of a chance, but don’t give up if you don’t think you are at fault or your dog isn’t vicious.
A Texas dog owner has two defenses to a dog bite lawsuit. They could either claim to lack knowledge of the event in question or make a claim about trespassing. If you have a case, there will be a different set of defenses that might apply in the criminal dog bite case.
For example, Texas dog bite claims require the victim to show proof the owner of the dog knew the dog was aggressive. If you can prove you had no prior knowledge your dog was aggressive then it not only proves you had no idea your dog was aggressive, but that you were not acting negligently in controlling the dog. This might seem like a far-fetched case, however, there might be a legitimate reason for a dog being aggressive that even the owners are unaware of.
As for trespassing, a dog owner must be able to prove that the victim of the dog attacked was indeed trespassing on their property. You could argue the victim played a role in their own injuries. This would be all the better if you could provide evidence, which can disprove negligence, such as having proper fencing which displays your dog being unable to attack unless someone trespassed or having a camera to catch the action.
Dog Bite Case? Let Rad Law Firm Help
Dogs are amazing companions and guard dogs, but negligence can turn a man’s best friend into a man’s greatest threat. As a Rad Law Firm client, you will experience quality professional and personal service. We understand being bitten by a dog can be not only painful but take a toll on your life financially.
We understand you’re going through a difficult time. We pride ourselves on creating an environment where you feel comfortable to address any concern. We take the utmost measures to ensure the confidentiality of your legal matter. Contact us today so we can get started on your dog bite claim.