Dog attacks can happen when you least expect it, such as while visiting a relative or walking down a neighborhood street. They can cause significant injuries, including lacerations, puncture wounds, degloving, face and neck injuries, permanent scarring or disfigurement, and wrongful death. A dog attack can also cause emotional injuries. If a dog bites you or a loved one, learn Texas’ dog bite laws to understand your rights against the pet owner.
Texas has fatalities from dog attacks every year. Most deaths involve infants, toddlers and the elderly – the most vulnerable populations in dog attacks. Texas is often at the top of the list in the number of dog bite deaths in the country. One report spanning eight years found 34 deaths related to dog attacks in Texas. This was more than in any other state for the same years.
The breed most often involved in fatal dog bite incidents is the pit bull. Pit bulls were responsible for 26 of the deaths in the study (76%), followed by Rottweilers with 5 deaths (15%). Most of the deceased (68%) were children under the age of 12. More than half (52%) were 2 years old or younger. Family dogs accounted for 53% of fatal attacks. The counties with the most fatal attacks in Texas were Harris, Bexar and Montgomery.
Texas has many municipal laws in place controlling the ownership of dogs, but the state itself has a law in place that prohibits the passing of breed-specific regulations. Cities such as Fort Worth, San Antonio and Garland have worked around the restriction to implement laws targeted at preventing new fatal attacks and holding liable dog owners accountable. Texas also has laws restricting the ownership of dangerous dogs. An owner will need to take additional measures to secure a dangerous dog in Texas.
Texas has an overarching one-bite law. This law can make it difficult to hold pet owners responsible for attacks. It requires the victim to prove the dog has bitten another person in the past or the owner had reason to know of the dog’s vicious propensities. Otherwise, the victim may not have a case against the owner for damages. In random attacks or as the pet’s first victim, you might not have a case.
It may also be possible, however, to file a claim against the dog owner on the grounds of negligence. If a pet owner failed to keep a dangerous dog inside the house, for example, and it attacked you in the street, you may have grounds against the owner for negligence. Other parties, such as household members, landowners or trainers, could also be liable. A negligence-based dog bite claim requires proof of the defendant’s lack of ordinary care in preventing the attack.
Holding a pet owner or someone else liable for your dog bite injury will take a preponderance of the evidence: enough evidence to establish the defendant is more likely than not responsible for your injuries. Start gathering evidence for your case right away. Take pictures of the dog, your injuries and the scene where the attack occurred. If you notice anything important, such as no leash or a broken fence, take photos of it as well. Go to the hospital for dog bite injury treatment and keep copies of your medical records.
Contact the homeowners insurance company of the pet owner to file a damage claim. If you have serious injuries or the insurance company is making it difficult to settle your claim for a reasonable amount, work with an attorney for assistance bringing your case. A dog bite injury lawyer in Texas can help you explore your options and protect your legal rights. A lawyer can make it easier to hold a pet owner accountable for a dog attack in Texas.