Millions of dog bites occur every year in the United States alone. A significant percentage of these dog bite victims end up in the hospital, and a few end up in the morgue. Texas law holds owners responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, subject to certain conditions.

Actions To Take Immediately After the Attack

If you or your loved one suffers a dog bite, take the following actions as soon as you can:

  • Seek immediate medical treatment. Call an ambulance if necessary.
  • Report the attack to the police. If the dog has a prior history of aggressiveness, the state might need to take measures to protect the public.
  • Identify the owner of the dog. The dog owner is more likely than anyone else to bear civil liability over the attack.
  • Schedule a free initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.

Once you hire a lawyer, they can advise you on any further actions you need to take.

The Texas “One Bite Rule”

Some states hold dog owners strictly liable for the actions of their dogs–the owner is liable for an attack even if the dog had never acted aggressively before. Texas follows the somewhat misleadingly named “one bite rule.” Under the one-bite rule, a dog owner with no reason to know of a dog’s prior aggressive behavior can escape liability for injuries inflicted by their dog. Subsequent attacks, however, will generate personal injury liability.

Remember that the dog does not have to actually bite someone to prevent the owner from escaping liability for an attack. Any aggressive behavior, even short of an actual attack, will serve as notice to the owner, and any subsequent attack will be the owner’s liability.

Elements of a Dog Bite Claim

To win a dog bite claim against a dog owner, you must prove that:

  • The dog owner knew the dog had behaved aggressively at least once in the past;
  • The dog’s owner failed to use reasonable care to restrain the dog;
  • You suffered an injury; and
  • Your injury was a consequence of the owner’s failure to exercise reasonable care.

Remember that the dog does not have to actually bite someone to prevent the owner from escaping liability for an attack. Any aggressive behavior, even short of an actual attack, will serve as notice to the owner, and any subsequent attack will be the owner’s liability.

Insurance Coverage

You might feel bad about filing a claim against your next-door neighbor or best friend. Will they have to sell their house to pay your claim? You probably don’t need to worry about this because homeowners’ insurance and renters’ insurance typically covers dog bites. Some policies exclude attacks by pit bulls or Rottweilers, among other possible exclusions.

Common Dog Bite Defenses

You might have to overcome one of the following defenses from the dog owner:

  • Expiration of the statute of limitations (generally two years after the date of the attack);
  • The dog had never acted aggressively before; or
  • You were trespassing on their property at the time of the attack.
  • You were partly to blame for the attack (by provoking the dog, for example).

It is the dog owner’s responsibility to prove some of these defenses.

Criminal Charges

Sometimes, you can ask your local prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against a dog owner. These circumstances include:

  • The owner failed to secure a vicious dog, and the dog attacked you without provocation at a location outside the owner’s property, or
  • The owner knew the dog was a “dangerous dog” under local law, and the dog attacked you without provocation anywhere except within a secure enclosure.

These criminal charges become even more serious if the dog causes severe injury or death. If someone dies, close relatives can file a wrongful death claim.

Contact a Fort Worth Dog Bite Lawyer

Contacting a lawyer after a serious dog attack is a practical necessity to ensure that you receive fair compensation. Even if the dog owner cooperates, their homeowners’ insurance company probably won’t be. Your lawyer can advise you of the most prudent course of action and craft a strategy to obtain maximum compensation.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth personal injury lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.

Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 406
Fort Worth, TX 76107
(817) 420-7000