Houston Dog Bite Lawyer
Each year, more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten in dog attacks. Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs need medical attention. Around 400,000 children receive emergency medical care following a dog bite. That is about half of all of those bitten by dogs. Senior citizens are the second most likely to be bitten by dogs, after children. If you or your child has been attacked by a dog, you may need the help of a dog bite lawyer.
Texas Law on Dog Bites
The law in Texas on dog owner liability is constantly changing. The traditional “One free bite rule” or “one bite rule” still applies. However, most cities have enacted more strict ordinances such as “dangerous dog” codes or “leash laws” which place a higher burden of care on the dog owner. There is also a Texas law, “Lillian’s Law” that creates criminal responsibility when a dog owner allows a known dangerous dog to run at large.
If you have been injured due to an unprovoked attack by someone else’s dog, you need a dog bite lawyer. You need a personal injury attorney who knows how to research the correct laws for your area and apply them to your advantage.
The One Free Bite Rule
If a landowner was aware of a dangerous condition on his property—including an animal—he had a duty to protect and/or warn of the danger. If a dog isn’t aggressive and attacks someone unprovoked, the owner may not be liable. However, after that first attack, the owner knows about the behavior and has a duty to warn/protect.
To prove your case under this rule, you have to show that the owner had knowledge that the dog was dangerous. This is tough. You have to find evidence of prior attacks.
To find this evidence, you may have to interview neighbors. You may also check with the local animal control office. This investigation can be critical to proving your case.
Dangerous Dog Law
The Texas Health and Safety Code, Title 10 Chapter 822, regulates “dangerous dogs.” A dangerous dog is one who has attacked before without provocation. The attack caused bodily harm or made a person believe that bodily harm was imminent. The location of the attack is important under the statute. Once the owner learns the dog is dangerous, he is required to register the dog with animal control and restrain the dog. Failure to do so can result in both civil and criminal penalties.
The law only applies if the owner knows about the previous attack. The owner can claim that they didn’t know the animal was aggressive. They can say that they didn’t know about prior attacks.
The Texas Health and Safety Code allows municipalities and counties to enact dog laws. Municipalities and counties cannot pass laws that are breed-specific. For example, banning pit bulls or saying that all Rottweiler owners know that their dogs are dangerous.
Leash laws are similar to dangerous dog laws. They are laws created by municipalities to prevent dogs from roaming free. Cities may impose harsher penalties for violating leash laws. They may also prohibit dogs from being off-leash anywhere outside of a confined area. These laws may, in some cases, give an injured person another way to hold an irresponsible pet owner responsible.
What You Need to Prove your Houston Dog Bite Case
If you’ve been attacked by a dog, there are two key points that you need to prove:
- The owner knew or should have known that the dog has behaved aggressively in the past or has bitten before.
- The dog owner negligently failed to control the dog or prevent the attack and that negligence caused your harm. Learn more about dog bite damages.
Here are some elements of proof that you may look to in proving your case:
- Establish proof of ownership
- Gather statements from witnesses who saw the attack
- Talk to the neighbors, has the dog been aggressive in the past
- Check for records of past attacks or aggressive behavior
The above evidence can help establish that negligence led to the attack and your injuries.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
If a dog has injured you, there are several essential steps to take after the attack. First, get the name and contact information of the dog owner. If there were witnesses to the attack, obtain their name and contact information. If possible, take photos of the dog. Dog owners often claim that another dog caused the injuries. Second, take pictures of your wounds and injuries. You want evidence of what your wounds looked like before receiving medical treatment. Third, seek medical attention. Even if the your injuries don’t seem that severe, you may need rabies and tetanus shots.
When you receive medical care, tell the truth about what happened. This is not the time to try to help out the dog owner or to worry about what will happen to the dog. What you say to your medical providers can either be used to help or hurt your future claim. Lastly, contact an attorney experienced in handling dog bite claims. The dog owner’s insurance company will likely try not to pay your claim or will try to pay far less than your claim is worth.
Medical Care for Dog Bite Injuries
Roughly 800,000 people seek medical care for dog bites annually. Medical treatment for dog bites varies depending on the severity of the injury. The most common dog bite injury is a puncture wound with some scarring. Typically, the medical care for a puncture wound includes cleaning the wound and administration of a rabies shot and possibly a tetanus shot depending upon when the victim last received tetanus shot and the vaccination history of the dog. Most puncture wounds are not stitched due to an increased risk of infection. However, if the wound is deep or wide, the doctor may have to stitch the wound to stop bleeding.
Although puncture wounds are the most common dog bite injuries, more severe dog attacks can result in ripped muscles, broken bones, lost appendages, scarring, nerve damage, and even death. When more severe attacks occur, the victim may undergo surgery, rehabilitation, and physical therapy.
Who is Responsible for a Dog Bite?
The first place we look for responsibility for a dog attack is the dog owner. If the owner was negligent in containing the dog or violated leash law, the owner is responsible for the attack. If the owner knew the dog was aggressive or had knowledge of prior attacks, the owner is liable for the injuries caused by the dog. However, depending upon the circumstances, the owner may not be the only person responsible for the dog bite. Landlords, property owners, homeowner associations, and other entities may be liable for an attack if they were negligent or had prior knowledge about aggressiveness of the dog.
What the Owner may Claim to Defend Against a Dog Bite Claim
The most common defense to a dog bite claim is that the owner didn’t know the dog was aggressive before the attack. If the owner wasn’t aware of the dog’s aggressive nature before the attack, an element of the strict liability claim is not met. However, the victim still may assert a negligence claim against the dog owner.
The owner may also claim that the victim was trespassing. Owners are permitted to have a guard dog protect their property from criminals and trespassers. The guard dog would still need to be limited to the property. This defense isn’t valid if the victim was allowed or invited on the property.
Another common defense is that the victim provoked the dog. If someone is antagonizing the dog or trying to hurt it, a jury may find the antagonizer responsible for their own injury. This defense doesn’t work if a child was attacked because a child may not understand or know better. It is best if the owner doesn’t allow children to interact with the dog unsupervised.
All Dogs Can Attack – Contact a Houston Dog Bite Lawyer Today
Although some breeds are known to attack more than others, all dogs can attack. It is important to teach your children how to interact with animals. It is also important to teach them to steer clear of any dog that they don’t know.
Finding the help that you need after a vicious animal attack can be difficult. Consult with a personal injury attorney who understands the law. Chelsie King Garza can help. Contact her today.