Texas Dog Attack Law: An Overview


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more that 4.7 million people are injured in vicious dog attacks throughout the U.S. each year. If you or someone you love has suffered dog bite injuries, it's easy to rack up medical bills and potentially suffer lifelong scars - a constant reminder of the terrible experience. If you've been attacked by someone else's dog, it's highly likely you'll be entitled compensation under Texas law. 

If you've thought about pursuing a personal injury claim for your Texas dog attack, you probably have a lot of questions regarding your legal rights. As a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer, I have put together this resource page that covers key dog bite law information. 

Dog Attack Law in Texas - The "One Bite Rule"

As a Fort Worth dog bite lawyer, I know that Texas dog bite law can be complex. For this reason, many people think that they can't make a dog bite claim unless the aggressive dog has bitten someone else before. It's called the "one bite rule." 

While this accurately describes the concept of "strict liability," it doesn't accurately reflect the law in Texas. It IS possible to win a dog bite case if the aggressor hasn't ever attacked anyone before. Here, I cover both issues. 

Strict Liability

In Texas, we have something called "strict liability." Essentially, if the owner of the animal that attacked you knew about the vicious tendencies of their pet, then it's much easier to get their insurance company to compensate your injuries.

For example, let's say Bob has a dog named Russ who bit a little kid last year. That means that Bob knows his dog has vicious tendencies and now it's up to Bob to keep Russ under control. Now, if Russ goes off and bites you, it's 100 percent Bob's fault, even if you did something to antagonize Russ. That's the way strict liability works. 

In cases of strict liability, the dog's owner can't blame the attack on you. If their dog was known to be aggressive and it indeed attacked someone, it's their (Bob's) job to pay for the injuries. 

Debunking the One Bite Rule

Despite all this, you don't need strict liability to pursue a dog bite claim. (And if a lawyer tells you so, don't listen!) 

Although strict liability cases are generally easier for a lawyer to pursue, it's not the only way. As long as your lawyer can prove that the dog’s owner was negligent, you have a good claim.

Proving Dog Owner Negligence

In a dog attack injury claim, negligence means that the dog’s owner breached their duty to protect you from their dangerous animal. For example, maybe your neighbors failed to secure the gate to their backyard and their dog escaped and bit you. Or maybe someone let their dog run free in the park, and their dog attacked your leashed dog, causing you to get hurt in the process. 

Dog attack cases that rely on proving negligence differ from strict liability cases since the victim could have been attacked on the dog owner's property. In those cases, the standard rules from general liability cases apply. If you had permission to be on someone's property and their dog bit you, then you can make a claim against the owner. If, however, you were a trespasser, you're far less likely to be awarded any compensation. 

Then, there's something called negligence "per se." This means that not only was the dog's owner acting careless, but they broke a law in the process, such as a local leash law. 

Injured When Another Dog Attacked Your Pet

As a Fort Worth dog bite attorney, one of the most common dog bite scenarios I see goes like this. You're walking your dog on a leash through your neighborhood when suddenly a lone, unleashed dog appears out of nowhere. The lone dog, feeling threatened or perhaps territorial, attacks your dog. You struggle to pull your own dog away from the attacker and get bit in the process. Sometimes, the lone dog will even purposely go after you. 

Such attacks are extremely common and often result in significant injury, which means higher medical bills, long-term rehabilitation and everlasting scars. 

Why You Should File a Dog Bite Claim

Unfortunately, dog bites can lead to serious - even deadly - injuries, scarring and disfiguration, and psychological troubles, especially in children. The good news is that dog attack victims may be entitled to seek compensation to help cover the costs of doctor fees, medical bills, missed work days and lost earning capacity.

In addition, you may be able to seek compensation for your mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life. This compensation is added on to more tangible costs related to your injuries. 

However, you can't be compensated for any of these things unless you file a claim. The U.S. justice system isn't set up to punish negligent dog owners or to reward dog bite victims on its own. The only way for you to recover money for your injuries is to file a claim. 

Making a Claim When the Dog’s Owner Is Someone You Know

A lot of times, dog attack victims are reluctant to make a personal injury claim because the owner of the dog is either a family member, a friend, a neighbor or a co-worker. However, I want to assure you that it's okay to make a claim against someone you know, and you shouldn't feel bad about doing it. You aren't asking for them to pay you directly and the money won't come out of their pocket, but rather it will come from their home insurance policy. 

Most dog bite claims are paid using a dog owner's home owner's insurance policy. Because homeowner's insurance rates are set by location rather than on a case-to-case basis, their rates won't even go up. Making a claim will have no negative effects on them whatsoever, so you should not feel guilty about it. 

Child Injuries as a Result of a Dog Attack

Children are far more likely to be victims of a serious dog attack than adults. They are also far more likely to suffer severe injuries in such an attack. If your son or daughter is attacked by a dog – even if it’s a neighbor’s dog or the family pet – it is critical that you consult with a board certified Fort Worth personal injury lawyer to discuss your situation so you fully comprehend the lifelong effects the injuries will have on your child and to learn about your full range of legal rights and options.

(Want more information? Download my free book "How to Make a Successful Dog Bite Injury Claim In Texas" here.) 

To speak directly with an experienced attorney today, please call us at 817-294-1900.

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In:
Injuries Commonly Resulting From Dog Attacks
Compensation If You Were Attacked By a Dog While Working
The Landlord’s Responsibility In Dog Attacks
Finding the Best Texas Lawyer for Your Dog Bite Case
Making A Claim Against Your Neighbor