Are All Texas Dog Owners Liable for the Costs of a Bite Injury?
Posted on October 4, 2021
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Being attacked by a dog in Texas can cause serious physical injuries, expensive hospital bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other life-changing losses. Determining when the owner of the dog is liable, or financially responsible, for these losses requires taking a look at Texas’ dog bite law.
What Is the One-Bite Rule?
Texas uses what is known as a one-bite rule. This dog bite injury statute states that a pet owner is only liable for the costs of a dog attack if the owner knew or reasonably should have known that the dog was dangerous or aggressive based on a previous incident. In other words, the dog must have bitten someone before. The owner must have also been negligent or careless in preventing the dog bite injury, such as by allowing the dog to run at large. In this way, Texas’ one-bite rule could also be viewed as a negligence rule.
To hold a dog owner liable for the costs of a dog bite injury in Texas, you must have evidence of the following:
You were on public property or lawfully on private property at the time of the attack.
You did not provoke the dog.
The dog was not performing its duties as a law enforcement animal.
The owner had reason to know of the dog’s vicious propensities, such as a prior dog bite incident.
The owner did not take reasonable steps to prevent a subsequent bite, such as keeping the dog on a leash or muzzled.
In a strict liability dog bite state, on the other hand, all dog owners are liable for the costs of a dog attack, regardless of whether the owner was negligent or the dog had bitten someone previously. Note that Texas’ negligence-based liability law applies to all injuries and losses caused by a dog, not just bites. This can include scratches, diseases, injuries from a dog knocking a victim down and property damage.
How Can You Prove a Dog Bite Injury Case?
If you were injured in a dog attack in Texas and wish to obtain financial compensation, the burden of proof rests with you as the filing party (plaintiff). The burden of proof in a dog bite injury case is a preponderance of the evidence, or enough evidence to prove that the elements of your claim are more likely to be true than not true. The evidence available to support a dog bite injury claim may include:
Previous bites or attacks connected to the dog reported to animal control.
Existing lawsuits involving the dog filed against the pet owner.
Other insurance company payouts connected to the dog.
Witness statements from friends, family members and neighbors.
Statements from eyewitnesses who saw the attack take place.
Photographs or surveillance footage of the dog bite injury.
You or your lawyer will need to provide clear and convincing evidence to an insurance company, judge or jury that proves that the pet owner is liable for your losses. Your evidence must show that the dog had already bitten someone in the past and that the pet owner, knowing this, reasonably should have done more to prevent the bite injury. With enough evidence, you could receive financial compensation for your present and future related costs.
When Do You Need an Attorney?
There are several defenses that a dog owner in Texas could use to argue against liability for a dog bite injury. For example, a pet owner could claim that you were trespassing at the time of the attack. Hiring a premises liability attorney in Dallas to represent you during a dog bite injury case can improve your chances of obtaining full and fair financial compensation from the pet owner. An attorney can investigate the dog bite injury, collect evidence against the pet owner and help you negotiate for maximum financial compensation for your losses.