Unlike many other states, Texas does not have an official civil statute that dictates a dog owner’s liability if their dog bites or attacks someone. Because there is no official statute, Texas dog bite laws can be complex. For example, Texas follows the “one-bite rule,” which suggests that a dog owner is typically not responsible for a dog bite or attack if the dog has no known history of aggressive behaviors.
If you were bit by a dog in Texas, you may need help seeking compensation. A lawyer from Underwood Law Office can help you navigate the process of filing insurance claims and lawsuits to recover compensation after your Texas dog bite incident.
The One-Bite Rule in Texas
The one-bite rule is not an official civil statute in Texas. However, the 1974 Texas Supreme Court case Marshall v Ranne set the legal precedent that Texas dog owners may not be liable for a dog bite or attack if the owner was not aware of any previous violent behavior or biting incidents.
Though this rule is in place, it doesn’t mean dog bite victims in Texas can’t hold the dog owner or other responsible parties accountable. In fact, you may be able to file a claim against the dog owner for negligence, despite a dog’s lack of past aggressive behavior.
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Negligence for Dog Bite Cases
Negligence is considered any action or failure to act that goes against reasonable judgement. So, if a dog owner acts or fails to act in a way that they reasonably should as a dog owner, they could be found negligent. When it comes to dog bites and attacks, your lawyers must prove negligence by examining that:
- The party owned or cared for the dog in some capacity
- The party owed you a duty of care to act reasonably to prevent the dog from attacking or injuring you or others
- The party breached their duty of care
- This breach of duty caused the incident that injured you
You may also be able to file a lawsuit for negligence per se, which refers to acting or failing to act in accordance with a law or ordinance that was meant to protect others. For example, if you’re bitten by a dog not on a leash in a leash-only area or allowed to run around unsupervised, your case may qualify for negligence per se.
Some parties that can be found negligent for dog bites or dog attacks include:
- A dog’s owner
- A dog’s walker or temporary caretaker
- The parents of a dog owner if the owner is a minor
- A landlord
Strict Liability in Dog Bite Cases
As explained, the dog bite laws in Texas are not set statutes. Your lawyer may be able to prove strict liability to support your dog bite case. In Texas, a dog owner may be held strictly liable for a dog bite or attack if:
- They knew the dog had a history of aggressive behavior or violence AND
- They failed to prevent the attack that caused bodily injury or death.
For example, a case for strict liability case could include if a dog owner lets a dog with a history of biting run around without a leash in an off-leash park. If their dog bites another person, the owner would be held strictly liable for this attack.
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Criminal Liability for Dog Bites
Some dog bites and attacks in Texas may constitute criminal liability. For criminal liability to be established, the dog must be a known “dangerous dog.” As defined in Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.041, this term refers to a dog that has:
- Attacked or bitten someone, unprovoked, and caused bodily harm outside of the pet’s enclosure
- Showed aggression or the intent to attack or bite a person, unprovoked, while outside of the pet’s enclosure
When someone owns a dangerous dog, they must follow clear steps as outlined in Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.042. The steps an owner of a dangerous dog must take to protect others, includes:
- Registering the dog with animal control
- Keeping the dog on a leash and in the owner or another person’s control or keeping the dog in a safe enclosure
- Purchasing liability insurance or having $100,000 in financial responsibility to cover damages
- Following all local ordinances and regulations regarding dangerous dogs
Any owner who fails to meet these requirements or reasonably prevents their dangerous dog from attacking may face felony or misdemeanor charges in addition to civil liability charges.
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Comparative Negligence and Dog Bites
Texas follows the modified comparative negligence model. In this model, an injured person may be found partially at fault for the incident that caused their injuries and still be able to recover compensation. If you’re found any more than 50% at fault, you may not be able to recover damages. However, if you’re found less than 50% at fault, you may recover an amount deducted by the same percentage of your fault.
The details of who is at fault is determined by the facts of each case. Your dog bite attorney can help you navigate comparative negligence claims against you’re your lawyer can advise you on your options for seeking compensation no matter your role in the dog bite injury.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites
If you must file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner or other negligent party, you have two years from the date of the incident to do so, per Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003.
In addition to filing a personal injury lawsuit, you can also file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company as applicable. These additional parties may be liable to provide compensation depending on your case. In a dog bite case in Texas, you may seek compensation from:
- The owner’s homeowners’ insurance policy
- The owner’s renter’s insurance policy
- The owner’s dangerous dog liability insurance policy
- The landlord’s property liability insurance policy or homeowners’ insurance policy
- The homeowners’ association’s or condo association’s insurance policy
Your Texas dog bite attorney can explore all potential sources of compensation based on which parties are found negligent in your dog bite incident. Your case may involve more than one negligent party as well.
Let Underwood Law Office Handles Your Dog Bite Case
The dog bite lawyers at Underwood Law Office can guide you through the complex process of seeking compensation and holding at-fault parties accountable for you or your loved one’s dog bite incident. We can focus on gathering evidence that proves negligence or strict liability, negotiating with insurance companies, and filing a personal injury lawsuit, if necessary. We can focus on your case so that you can focus on recovering and healing.
If you were bit by a dog in Texas, you don’t have to face the legal system alone. We are ready to handle your dog bite case in Texas today. Contact the Underwood Law Office for a free case evaluation.