A very worrying statistic for Texas dog owners is that the state leads the nation when it comes to the number of fatal dog attacks each year.
The majority of these dog attacks involve pit bulls, which account for more than three-quarters of all fatalities.
This is why pit bulls are widely considered to be one of the most dangerous dogs in the U.S. However, a huge part of the blame is placed on Texas dog owners, which is why the law allows victims to seek compensation for their dog bite injuries.
To recover compensation after a dog attack, a personal injury lawsuit can be filed against the dog's owner.
The injured person will have to prove negligence so that the dog owner can accept civil liability and pay for the victim's medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
However, winning a dog bite claim is not always easy, even with the aid of strict liability laws and Texas's one-bite rule. Victims who suffer bodily injury because of dog bites often need the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to win the case.
Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has a panel of top-rated dog bite lawyers in Houston TX ready to make sure that negligent dog owners are held strictly liable for the injuries caused by their pets. Victims can call the law firm at +1 713-999-4150 and ask for a free consultation.
What Is a Dangerous Dog Under Texas Law?
A dangerous dog is one that makes an unprovoked attack on a person while outside of its enclosed area.
The dog attack has to be aggressive enough for the victim to reasonably believe that the dog is going to harm them, or serious enough to cause bodily injury. This is according to the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822.041.
The top five dangerous dogs in Texas include the pit bull, American bulldog, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, and Wolfdog.
However, it is important to note that in most cases, it is poor breeding and training that makes such dogs vicious or dangerous. On the other hand, with good training and a loving home, these so-called "dangerous dogs" are caring and affectionate to their family members.
Is the Dog Owner Liable for Injuries Caused by Their Pets?
A dog bite injury can be very serious, especially if inflicted by one of the dog breeds known to have strong bite forces, such as the American bulldog or Rottweiler.
As such, dog bite victims are at risk of suffering severe injuries that may require extensive (and expensive) medical treatment.
While Texas dog bite laws do not specifically hold the dog owner liable for the injuries caused by their pets, dog bite victims can sue for damages.
The following are two examples of cases where a Texas dog owner can be found liable for the dog bite injuries the victim has suffered:
Negligence of the Texas Dog Owner
Many Texas dog owners claim that they did not know that their dog was dangerous or likely to bite, but victims can still sue them for negligence nonetheless.
Texas dog bite laws define negligence as a dog attack that injures the victim and happens due to the dog owner's irresponsibility.
Common examples of negligence are dog owners who let their dogs off the leash in public or allow the dog to leave its enclosed area resulting in a dog bite injury. Many may ask the question Can you sue for a dog bite in Texas?
Texas One-bite Rule
If a dog owner knew (or should have known) that their pet was a dangerous dog that was likely to bite, they can be held strictly liable for a dog bite injury under Texas's one-bite rule.
Texas dog bite laws go on to say that as long as the dog owner knows about their pet's violent or aggressive behavior, they will be held liable for any dog bites it inflicts. This includes dog bites that occur even after the owner does all they can to prevent the attack and protect the victim.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims in Texas?
Victims who have suffered dog bite injuries can seek compensation by filing personal injury lawsuits.
However, they are only entitled to damages from the dog owner if they file within the two-year statute of limitations set by the state of Texas.
This means that victims have two years from the date on which the dog bite injury occurred to file the required papers with the relevant Texas court.
Exceptions to the Two-year Statute of Limitations
There are some exceptions to the Texas dog bite statute of limitations, for example, when the dog bite victim is a minor or a person of unsound mind. In such cases, the statute of limitations can be extended.
If the victim is a minor, they will be given two years from the day they turn 18 to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner or insurance company.
When the victim is a person with a legal mental deficiency, they will be given two years from the date they achieve legal competency. However, if the victim becomes of unsound mind after the dog attack, the original two-year statute of limitations will still apply.
What Needs to Be Done in Those Two Years
A couple of years may seem like a very long time to deal with personal injury lawsuits resulting from dog bites. However, victims must remember that a lot of the work done by dog bite attorneys is behind the scenes.
The victim's lawyer will need all the time they can get to prepare the lawsuit, gather evidence, collect medical records, talk to witnesses, investigate the dog bite incident, and file the required paperwork. As such, it is best to visit an attorney for a free consultation as soon as possible.
Can Texas Dog Owners Face Criminal Penalties?
Most dog bite incidents in Texas result in civil litigation rather than criminal prosecution. This is usually the case when the dog owner had no reason to believe that the dog would bite someone, but acted in a negligent way that led to the attack.
However, in some cases, Texas dog owners can face criminal penalties for dog bites and other injuries inflicted by their pets.
The dog owner can be charged with a felony in a dog bite case if they are found to have been criminally negligent or to have been harboring a dog that they knew to be dangerous.
Texas dog bite laws require that criminal prosecution for the dog bite incident be handled separately from the civil liability case.
Considering how long a Texas Supreme Court can take to conclude a criminal liability case, victims should not wait for it to finish before filing their civil liability dog bite lawsuit. The statute of limitations will already have started ticking from the moment the dog bites occurred.
Elements of a Dog Bite Injury Claim
A dog bite lawsuit to recover damages caused by the owner's dog requires four important elements for it to be successful, and these are:
Duty of care as defined under Texas law
A breach of that duty by the dog owner, for example, by allowing the dog to run off-leash
Causation (dog attack has to be directly responsible for the injuries sustained by the victim)
Damages suffered by the victim were caused by the dog attack
Possible Defenses in a Texas Dog Bite Lawsuit
In an attempt not to be found negligent for the injuries caused by the dog bites, Texas dog owners can resort to a wide range of defenses. The most common are the following:
Argument Against the One-bite Rule
Texas dog owners can try to dispute the evidence brought by the victim which states that the owner knew about their dog's dangerous behavior.
If successful, the dog owner will not be held liable under the one-bite rule. The owner can also try to prove that they had no reason to think that the dog might be dangerous.
Dog owners may also try to convince the court that the victims are to blame for their own injuries because they acted negligently or provoked the dog to attack.
Texas dog bite laws are based on the comparative negligence system, meaning that the part the victim played in the dog bite incident will also be considered by the court.
Finally, dog owners can argue that they are not liable for any dog bites inflicted on individuals who were trespassing on their property.
According to Texas dog bite laws, the only way for trespassers to recover compensation is by showing that the actions of the dog owner were extreme, such as urging the dog to attack them. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can guide you through what to do if you get bit by a dog at work in Texas.
Dog Bite Victims Can File Personal Injury Lawsuits in Texas
Dog bite victims can recover damages and ensure that the dog owner is found negligent for the injuries caused by their pets.
The best way to do this is by filing a personal injury lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations.
An experienced law firm, such as Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can help make the legal process a lot easier. Victims can visit the firm's Houston law offices for a free case evaluation.