By: Sean Chalaki
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Personal Injury Lawyer Explains: Dog Bite Liability
Dogs are commonly known as man’s best friend. They provide us with comfort, happiness, and safety. Despite this, they can also cause unforeseeable harm. Dog bites are a serious issue and affect many people in Texas on a daily basis. Many people may not realize the severity or damage a dog bite can incur. Victims of dog bites may experience lasting mental and physical wounds. Liability may be imposed to dog owners for unprovoked attacks on individuals. However, dog owners and victims of dog bites can both protect themselves by staying up to date on current animal laws.
Texas does not generally impose liability on dog owners for the first time a dog bites. In Texas a dog owner is not held liable for the first bite under the “one bite rule”, unless the owner knew or had reason to know the dog had a dangerous propensity. The second bite does impose liability on dog owners since the owner knew the dog had a dangerous ability to hurt someone. Dog owners have a duty to warn people and try to avoid any possible injury. The Texas Supreme Court decided that it is the dog owner’s duty to attempt to stop their dog from attacking a person after the attack has begun. This is a civil duty, meaning that the victim can sue if the dog owner fails to attempt to stop the attack.
A victim can also base their claim on negligence when it is not possible to prove that the dog owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous tendency to bite people. A specific form of negligence, ‘negligence per se’, is when a dog owner or dog handler violates an animal control law in the municipal code or county code, such as a leash law.
The Leash law and Dangerous Dog Act helps prevent such accidents from occurring. Most cities or counties have leash laws generally stating that dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet at all times when off the owner’s property. Legal liability for a dog bite is based on:
(a) the owner knew that the dog had bitten someone previously or had the dangerous propensity to bite a person.
(b) the accident was caused by the negligence of the person handling the dog.
(c) the accident was caused by a violation of a leash law, prohibition against dogs trespassing or running at large, or a similar animal control law.
(d) the injury was caused intentionally by the person handling the dog.
A dangerous dog is any dog that makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept. This could be a park, field, street, or any other public property. Dog owners should not tie their dogs up to trees, since this causes the animals to become aggressive and act out many times.
Bodily injury means any injury that is characterized by bites or scratch wounds. This term includes any type of injury that would cause a reasonably sensible person to seek treatment from a medical professional or veterinarian without regard to whether the person actually sought the treatment. Within 30 days of the dog owner learning of an attack or being notified by court or animal control, the owner must register the dog as a dangerous dog, obtain $100,000.00 in liability insurance, and comply with local regulations and ordinances or deliver the dog to animal control.
If you were injured by an animal or have any questions concerning dog bites, contact our office. At the Law Offices of Sean Chalaki, our goal is to protect you and your loved ones before the incident and protect your rights after the incident. For more information, call our office at 972-793-8500 to schedule a free case evaluation.