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What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Laws in Texas

Posted on behalf of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings on Mar 10, 2017 in Dog Bite Injuries

backing dogDog bites can cause devastating injuries that affect victims for months, years or the rest of their lives. Dog attacks can also cause long-term psychological trauma that may require years of mental health counseling. 

If you have been a victim of a dog attack in Texas, you need to review state laws on dog attacks to learn your rights and determine if the owner of the dog can be held liable for your injuries.

If the owner bears responsibility for the attack, you may be able to recover compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Our Fort Worth dog attack lawyers can review your claim and inform you of the types of compensation you may be entitled. 

What Does Texas' Dog Bite Statute Say?

Many states have statutes explaining when a dog owner can be held liable for damages caused by a bite or attack. However, Texas has no specific laws on the books about liability for a dog attack.

The only legal guidance about dog attacks comes from the 1974 Texas Supreme Court case, Marshall v. Ranne. This case set a precedent that Texas applies a negligence standard in dog bite cases.

This means that a person injured by a dog attack or bite has to establish two things to recover compensation:

  • The owner was aware of his animal's past aggression, including a previous attack.
  • The owner was negligent because he or she failed to exercise reasonable control to secure the dog to prevent the bite that resulted in the victim's injuries. Reasonable control could include putting the dog on a leash or putting a fence around the yard.

Strict Liability for Dog Bite Claims

Texas courts use the above legal standard for most cases. However, courts will apply a strict liability rule if the case involves a dog known to be "vicious, dangerous or mischievous."

Under the strict liability rule, a victim of a dog attack does not have to prove negligence if he or she can show that the dog has bitten someone in the past and was known to be a dangerous animal.

Filing Criminal Charges for a Texas Dog Bite

Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822.005 allows you to file criminal charges for a dog attack if:

  • The owner did not secure the animal and it attacked while unprovoked away from the owner’s personal or real property.
  • The owner was aware that the dog was dangerous and it attacked while unprovoked outside a secured dog enclosure.
  • One of the above scenarios led to death or serious bodily harm.

Texas' Comparative Negligence Rule

Texas is a comparative negligence state, which means you cannot recover compensation in a personal injury claim if you are more than 50 percent responsible for your injuries.

Comparative negligence also mandates that your compensation award be reduced by your percentage of fault for your injury. For example, if you are awarded $5,000 but you are 10 percent at fault, you will only receive $4,500.

Common Defenses Against Dog Bite Claims

Dog owners may successfully defend against a dog bite liability claim if they can prove:

  • They were not aware their animal was aggressive.
  • The injured party was trespassing unlawfully on the dog owner’s property.
  • They were properly controlling the dog.

The Fort Worth dog attack lawyers at Stephens, Anderson & Cummings have detailed knowledge about how to establish liability for a dog attack. We are prepared to conduct a thorough investigation of your claim to uncover negligence and fight for fair compensation for the damages you have suffered.

Call (877) 920-9009 or complete our Free Case Evaluation form.