Dogs are wonderful companions, but if they are sick, frightened, or see danger in simple human actions, they can quickly become aggressive and attack. If you or a loved one has suffered a severe dog bite injury, contact Ramsey Law Group. Our Houston dog bite lawyers will evaluate your case for free and discuss your legal options for obtaining compensation. Call (844) 223-2271 or send us a request online today.
Our Houston personal injury lawyers understand how devastating a dog injury can be on victims and their families. You may be facing costly medical bills and lost income in addition to your pain and suffering. We will help you tailor a legal strategy unique to your case to ensure you recover the compensation you deserve.
Victims of dog bite injuries often have a challenging decision on whether or not to pursue a lawsuit against the dog’s owner to recover compensation. If the dog bite is severe, you have probably suffered significant financial losses and possibly even permanent damage and scarring. In these cases, it is usually worth pursuing legal action. If the bite was minor, you still might be able to pursue a claim for mental and emotional distress, but it may not be worth the expense. An attorney can advise you on the best course of action.
To initiate a lawsuit, the first thing you need to do after a dog bite is notify the police and seek medical attention. Medical records linking your injury to the attack are critical to your claim. If you are not immediately transported to a hospital, ask the owner for their name and contact information. Next, you should take photos of your injuries to provide a visual record of their severity, which can also be used as evidence in court. Be sure to keep a record of any medical treatments and injury-related expenses.
By law, all animal bites have to be reported, so you must call (713) 229-7300 if you live within Houston or (281) 999-3191 if you live in Harris County. In addition to protecting public health by reporting your dog bite, you also protect your own rights by establishing a paper trail.
Lastly, contact a Houston Dog Bite Lawyer. They will help you move forward with your dog bite lawsuit and ensure you have the evidence you need for a solid claim. Most lawsuits settle before reaching the courtroom, but having an attorney on your side will ensure you recover the compensation you deserve.
A dog bite case can be complicated. In Texas, dog bite laws can be confusing, and recovering compensation often depends on proving the dog owner’s negligence or that they were aware their animal had previously bitten someone or had a propensity to bite people without justification. Rather than getting bogged down with the legal aspects of your claim, hiring an attorney will allow you the peace of mind to only focus on your recovery. They will handle investigating the accident and will work to gather evidence, including:
Your dog bite attorney will assess your damages and accurately calculate the value of your case. That way, you will not settle for less than the compensation you need to cover your losses entirely. Before speaking to the dog owner’s insurance company, your lawyer will prepare you on what to say and the questions to answer. Insurance adjusters will look for any way to reduce the value of your claim or deny it altogether. They may try to confuse you or ask you questions in a way that prompts you to admit fault. With an attorney on your side, your rights will be protected, and they can handle negotiating a settlement on your behalf.
Unlike most states, Texas does not have a civil statute that specifically addresses dog or animal bites. Texas follows the “one bite rule,” under which an owner is not liable for the first time their dog bites someone. In other words, each dog gets one free bite. After the first bite, it puts the owner on notice of the dog’s dangerous tendencies. Once they are on notice, it means the owner knows or should be aware of their dog’s propensity to bite people unjustly. To hold an owner or keeper liable for any subsequent bites, victims will have to prove that
This rule differs from many other states which hold owners strictly liable for dog bites. Strict liability means an owner can be held responsible for a bite, even if they took every necessary precaution. Victims of a dog’s attack may view the one bite rule as unfair. However, there may be other options for holding the owner liable.
As an alternative to the one-bite rule, victims are legally allowed to sue a dog owner or keeper for an attack under the state’s common-law negligence principle. Even if it is the first time, the dog has bitten someone. When a dog owner or keeper demonstrates negligence, it means they failed to act how an ordinary and reasonably prudent person would in a similar situation. Examples of unreasonable actions include letting a dog roam or run at large, letting go of a dog’s leash when another dog approaches, leaving a dog alone with an infant or young children, etc.
For victims to be successful in their claims, they must be able to prove the dog owner or keeper’s negligence was the proximate cause of their injury. That will involve establishing the following four elements:
The defendant (at-fault party) owned or cared for the dog. This is relatively straightforward and can typically be proven with copies of registration and license, veterinary records, microchip records, adoption records, pedigree registries, recent photos or video of the owner with the dog, etc.
Duty of Care
The defendant owed a duty to the victim to exercise reasonable care and prevent them from foreseeable harm. This duty does not extend to everyone, for example, those who trespass on private property, such as a burglar.
Breach of Care
The owner knew or should have known of the danger of the dog and failed to take reasonable precautions such as keeping the dog on the leash, in a fenced yard, muzzling it, etc. If the owner violated Houston’s leash laws or ignored signs prohibiting dogs’ entry, that would be strong evidence of their failure to take due care.
The dog owner’s breach of care was the proximate cause of the victim’s dog bite injury. In other words, the dog bite injury would not have occurred if not for the owner’s breach of care (negligence). For example, the victim would not have been bitten if the owner had their dog on a leash.
The victim suffered financial and/or personal losses as a result of the injury (e.g., medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.).
When a dog is known to be dangerous or vicious, Texas courts may hold owners strictly liable. In these cases, victims do not have to prove negligence on behalf of the animal’s owner or keeper. They must only show that the dog was known to be dangerous before they were bitten to recover damages.
Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se will apply in cases involving a dog owner or keeper who violated a statute or city ordinance, which in turn was the cause of a dog bite injury. For example, in Houston, dogs cannot run at large. If a dog owner were to allow their pet to roam and the dog attacked another individual, the court might consider the injury a consequence of the owner’s negligence per se.
Texas courts operate under a modified comparative negligence system, which means victims’ percentage of fault can reduce their compensation. For example, if a victim is awarded $100,000 but found 40% responsible for their dog bite injury because they did something to provoke the animal, they will only receive 60% of the award or $60,000. However, if a victim is more than 50% to blame, they cannot recover any compensation. An exception is if a dog bite case involves a child under the age of six. In most of these cases, the court will not consider the child’s degree of negligence.
Landlords can also be held accountable for dog bites that occur on their property if:
Landlords also have the right to demand a tenant’s dog be confined if they notice it is aggressive. If the tenant fails to follow the landlord’s orders, they can be evicted.
In addition to civil liability, dog owners can be charged with a felony in certain dog bite cases, if:
Either of these situations must have also resulted in serious bodily harm or death.
Houston has established dog bite ordinances similar to Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822 and also has a database for dogs determined to be dangerous.
Houston Leash Law (Sec. 6.2)
Dog owners are required to leash, muzzle, or otherwise restrain their dogs at all times while in public areas.
Running at Large is Prohibited (Sec. 6.3)
Allowing a dog to run at large, or in other words, letting it to go in public or on private property without the owner present, is against the law. An owner or its keeper must have physical control over their pet. It is considered a violation of this code even if the dog escapes by accident. The code does make an exception for dog owners who unleash their dogs at designated off-leash recreation areas or parks.
Dangerous Dog (Sec. 6.151-153)
Once someone submits a written complaint about a dangerous dog, the Justice of the Peace Court will give notice of the complaint to the owner. The owner then has five days to deliver their pet to HCPH Veterinary Public Health, where they will hold the dog until the legal process is over. A hearing will be scheduled within the 10 days following, where a Judge will determine if the dog is dangerous according to the law.
Dangerous Dog Requirements (Sec. 6.154)
If the Judge declares the dog to be dangerous, the owner has 30 days to comply with the requirements for keeping a dangerous dog. Those include
Rabies Control (Sec. 6.17)
After a dog bite occurs, the pet must be quarantined for 10 days and examined by a veterinarian for rabies. If the owner refuses, they face a fine between $100 to $2,000.
Dog Bite Statistics
If you or someone you love has been bitten by a dog, we can help you hold the at-fault party accountable and recover the compensation you deserve. Call (844) 223-2271 or request a free consultation online today.