Dog Bite Laws in Texas

Medical bills incurred after a Texas dog bite incident

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If you’re a dog person, you know how loving and loyal these pets can be. However, if you’re attacked by someone else’s dog, it can be as terrifying as it is dangerous.

Dog bites are serious injuries that are slow to heal and are closely associated with dangerous infections. If you or someone you care about has been attacked by someone else’s pet, an experienced Killeen dog bite attorney is standing by to help.

The One-Bite Law

Texas follows a version of the one-bite law employed by several states. While many people think this law allows dog owners a free pass the first time their pet takes a bite out of someone, this isn’t how it works. The one-bite law in Texas means that an owner who has reason to believe – or reasonably should believe – that their dog may be dangerous to others is held strictly liable if their pet attacks.

This knowledge means that the dog owner should be aware of his or her pet’s aggression and bear liability for any injuries inflicted, even when the pet owner took reasonable precautions around the dog.

When a dog bites someone, it is a clear sign that the animal is capable of a dangerous attack, and it puts the owner on clear notice. However, a first bite is not the only sign of aggression considered under the so-called one-bite law. These other behaviors can also be legally relevant in dog bite laws:

  • A dog that snaps, growls, or barks viciously

  • A dog that bares its teeth

  • A dog that lunges

  • A dog that strains on the leash

  • A dog that slams its body at the fence that contains it

Dogs that are champing at the bit to attack but fail to do so only because they’re restrained by a leash, fence, or crate let their owners know that they have a propensity to bite, and such menacing behaviors can carry as much weight as a prior bite in a dog bite claim.

Strict Liability

When a claim is based on the fact that the dog owner had prior knowledge of the animal’s aggression toward other people – or the fact that they reasonably should have had prior knowledge – it’s a matter of strict liability.

If the dog bit someone in the past – whether it caused serious injury or not – or engaged in signs of aggression that should have put the owner on notice, it supports a dog bite claim based on the dog owner’s strict liability. In this case, you won’t need to prove that the dog owner engaged in negligent care in order to recover your losses.

Negligence Per Se

Dog owners can also be held responsible for attacks that result from direct negligence, which involves the violation of animal control laws, such as leash laws. While Texas doesn’t have a state-wide leash law, most cities do, including Killeen.
Laws concerning dogs in Killeen state that “dogs must be on a leash any time they are outside of a fenced-in yard.” In other words, if you’re attacked by an off-leash pet while out in public or on your own property, the law presumes negligence on the part of the dog’s owner or the person responsible for the dog at the time.

Past Complaints

If the dog owner or the authorities have received complaints in the past about the pet in question, the dog owner can be held liable. However, the nature of the complaint will play a role.

For example, complaints about the pooch barking incessantly at squirrels and being a general nuisance are very different than complaints about the dog engaging in menacing or threatening behaviors. In the last scenario, the dog owner is duly warned and liable for any future incidents.

Attacking another Dog

A dog with a history of fighting with other dogs may not move the needle in terms of the owner’s liability in a dog bite claim. Texas courts recognize that dogs have their own social order, so their history around other canines doesn’t necessarily indicate their aggression toward humans.

However, a dog whose sole focus is fighting other dogs with no concern for who gets hurt in the process is a different story, and dogs that are trained to fight other dogs are known to pose considerable risk to people.

The Dog’s Breed

The specific breed of the dog has no bearing on the one-bite law in Texas. While some breeds are statistically far more likely to attack than others, each dog bite case is considered in relation to the specific circumstances involved – rather than the animal’s breed.

The Dog Owner’s Negligent Handling

If you are injured as a result of a dog bite, you can seek compensation for your physical, financial, and emotional losses in Texas based on the dog owner’s negligent handling in the matter, even if the animal did not demonstrate a propensity to attack.

Negligence in this context refers to the pet owner’s failure to take the necessary precautions with their pet, which means failing to take the precautions that other reasonable pet owners do under similar circumstances. For example, allowing a dog to wander into a yard where young children are playing is outside the boundaries of what reasonably prudent dog owners allow.

The Elements of Your Negligent Handling Claim

To bring a successful dog bite claim that’s based on the negligence of the pet owner – or on the negligence of the person responsible for the dog at the time – the following elements must be present:

  • The party whom you are accusing of negligent handling owned or was in possession of the dog at the time.

  • The person whom you are accusing of negligent handling owed you a duty of care that includes exercising the same reasonable precautions that other dog owners exercise in similar situations. Unless you were trespassing illegally at the time of the attack, you’re generally owed this duty of care.

  • The person whom you are accusing of negligent handling failed to live up to the duty of care you were owed.

  • This failure was the direct cause of the incident that led to your injuries.

  • You suffered losses that are recognized by the law.

A trusted Killeen personal injury lawyer can help you build a case for negligent handling and help you recover legal damages that will allow you recover from the dog bite incident you faced.

Other Kinds of Injuries

Negligent handling cases go beyond dog bites. For example, when a large dog jumps up on an elderly person or a small child and knocks them down, it can result in serious injuries and immense losses – even when the dog is just being friendly. If the incident is caused by the owner’s negligence, you can seek compensation for your legal damages.

Hanging a “Beware of Dog” Sign

When a dog owner hangs a “Beware of Dog” sign, it is not necessarily an admission regarding the dog’s propensity to bite, and it doesn’t alleviate the pet owner's responsibility regarding the animal’s aggression.

Homeowners often hang signs warning people off their property as a means of discouraging illegal activities, such as trespassing or breaking in. Additionally, if the animal is dangerous, there is very likely evidence that backs up the owner’s prior knowledge, which has greater legal reach than the sign itself.

Ultimately, pet owners owe a more considerable duty of care to others than simply slapping up a warning sign. When a dog isn’t leashed or securely enclosed, it must be kept in a fenced-in area that meets all of the following requirements:

  • It’s locked.

  • It is designed to prevent the dog’s escape.

  • It deters others from entering.

Your Legal Damages

If you or your child has been injured in an attack by someone else’s dog, you can seek compensation for your losses in a range of categories.

Medical Expenses

The medical bills you incur as a result of a dog bite can be extensive and ongoing. Upper extremities are a common attack site, and injuries to both hands and wrists are highly prone to medical complications that directly interfere with recovery.

If the attack is on your face or neck, it’s not only exceptionally dangerous but can also require multiple plastic surgeries to restore your appearance to the degree possible. These injuries are also highly susceptible to dangerous infections and are slow to heal, which tends to amplify the related medical costs.

It can take time for your medical expenses to be reimbursed through your personal injury case. Learn how to manage your medical expenses before your personal injury case is finalized.

Lost Income

A serious dog bite can keep you off the job for a considerable amount of time, and if your ability to do your job is affected, the related losses can be overwhelming. Once your earning potential takes a hit, it can be difficult to overstate the negative consequences. Job losses of this nature can also have an emotional impact because our careers play an important role in our lives.

Physical and Emotional Pain and Suffering

The physical and emotional pain and suffering you experience as a result of being viciously attacked by someone else’s dog can be overwhelming and should not be sidelined or downplayed in your claim. Many victims experience PTSD-like symptoms that instill a newly acquired fear of dogs and that make their lives more difficult generally.

Symptoms of physical and emotional pain and suffering include the following examples:

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Increased anxiety

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Depression

  • Terrifying flashbacks of the attack

  • Self-isolation

  • A heightened startle response

  • Fear of venturing outside

Ensuring that your complete losses are well represented in your dog bite claim is key to your ability to recover as fully as possible, and a trusted Killeen dog bite attorney has the skill, resources, and legal insight to help you with that.

Dog Bites: The Statistics

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, dog bites in this country are “a significant health issue,” and when it comes to causes of nonfatal injuries, dog bites rank among the top 15. In a recent year, 48 percent of the population in this country owned a dog, highlighting exactly how prevalent the problem can be.

Dogs are most likely to bite their victims in the upper extremities and in the head and neck area, leaving them vulnerable to serious injuries. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports all the following sobering dog bite statistics in this country:

  • More than 4.5 million people are attacked by dogs each year.

  • More than 800,000 of these victims require medical care.

  • When the dog bite victim is a child, they are far more likely to suffer severe, life-threatening injuries.

Dog Bite Injuries

When a dog attacks, they gnash and tear at their victim’s flesh, crushing the area and leaving jagged, ripped wounds rather than clean slices or cuts. These injuries come with all the following complications:

  • They are slow to heal.

  • They are prone to dangerous infections.

  • When on or near the face, they can lead to permanent disfigurement.

  • The immense strength of canine jaws can break or crush bones.

The Mayo Clinic reports that if you’re not sure about how serious the dog bite is, erring on the side of caution and seeking medical attention is advised.

Reach Out for the Help You Need from an Experienced Killeen Dog Bite Attorney

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a seasoned dog bite lawyer who understands exactly how serious dog bite injuries can be and is committed to fiercely advocating for your claim’s best possible resolution, which includes the compensation to which you’re entitled.

Texas dog bite laws are complex, but our savvy legal team is standing by to help. We encourage you to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 to schedule your FREE consultation and learn more today.

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