Understanding Dog Bite Law in Texas
Many states have strict liability statutes on injuries caused by dog bites. Texas, however, has no such statute. Instead, the “one bite rule” and common-law negligence govern liability for dog bites.
If you are claiming injuries under the “one bite rule,” you must prove the dog’s owner or keeper knew that the dog bit or tried to bite somebody in the past. If this is not possible, you will need to prove the owner or keeper was careless and negligent in controlling their dog and preventing an attack.
NEGLIGENCE AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE “ONE BITE RULE”
In Texas, negligence is the failure to do what an ordinary and reasonably prudent person would do. In a dog bite case, negligence must be the proximate cause of your injuries.
To prove negligence was the proximate cause, you will need to prove all the following elements:
- The defendant owned or cared for the dog;
- The defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care in preventing the dog from injuring others;
- The defendant breached this duty; and
- The breach of duty proximately caused your injuries.
If you fail to prove even one of these elements, the court will dismiss your case completely.
Here are a few common examples of negligence in Texas dog-bite cases.
NEGLIGENCE PER SE
Negligence per se is when a person violates a statute or ordinance, and that violation causes an injury that the statute or ordinance was intended to prevent. For example, if a dog bit you when its owner allowed it to run at large, a court would likely deem your injury the consequence of the owner’s negligence per se.
To establish negligence per se, the court will need to recognize all of the following factors:
- The defendant violated a statute or ordinance;
- The violation caused your injuries;
- The violation caused the type of harm that the statute or ordinance was intended to prevent; and
- You were a member of the population segment that the statute or ordinance was intended to protect.
If a tenant knows that the dog they own or keep on a leased premises is dangerous, the tenant’s landlord can be held liable for any injuries caused by the dog. The landlord must have either known or should have known about the dog’s vicious propensities, and the attack must have occurred in a common area that was under control of the landlord.
Under Texas comparative negligence law, you may be held partially at fault for your own injuries in certain cases. Any percentage of fault the court attributes to you will be deducted from your gross award. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 for a dog attack, but the jury determines you were 25% at fault for accidentally stepping on the dog’s tail, you would only receive $75,000.
Because Texas is a modified comparative negligence state, you will not receive any compensation if you were more than 50% at fault.
CHILDREN AND COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE
Given their size, children often suffer serious head, eye, ear, facial, and neck injuries when attacked by a dog. Generally, children under 6 years old cannot be considered comparatively negligent. Some believe children cannot be found negligent in any capacity, but any person 6 years or older is held to certain liability standards. Furthermore, a court may determine a child younger than 6 is comparatively negligent if the child was conscious of the possible consequences of their actions.
DEFENSES IN AUSTIN DOG BITE CASES
Given the Texas “one bite rule,” a dog owner might be able to avoid liability after an attack by simply denying that the dog ever bit or attempted to bite someone in the past. The dog owner might even argue that the dog was defending them, or it never would have attacked you if you hadn’t provoked the dog. In some cases, you may even be accused of trespassing.
Contact Our Firm for Skilled Legal Support and Representation
If you sustained injuries from a dog bite in Texas, you have 2 years from the date of injury to file your personal injury lawsuit. Failure to file the lawsuit within this statute of limitations will likely cause the case to be dismissed forever. If you were a minor at the time of the attack, you will have until 2 years from your 18th birthday to file.
Due to interactions between the “one bite rule,” the law of negligence, and allegations of comparative negligence, any Austin dog bite case may become extraordinarily complex. The opposing insurance company will want you to give a recorded statement about what happened, but Texas law doesn’t require you to give provide any type of statement. Politely refuse and contact Glen Larson Law. We are ready to listen closely to your situation and answer any questions you have. We will then provide comprehensive legal counsel so you can select the most appropriate method of attaining the compensation you need.