The laws surrounding dog bites and liability in Texas aren't always straightforward, but here's what you need to know if someone else's dog bites you on your own property.
Who's Liable for the Dog Bite?
Generally, the dog owner is responsible for keeping their dog from harming others, no matter where they are (on their own property, in a public park or school, etc.). This means that if someone was at your house with their dog - even if they had your permission to be there - and their dog bit you, that person will be held liable.
"Liability" simply means they're at fault for the incident. Understanding who's responsible for an accident matters because whoever is at fault will also be in charge of paying for the injuries their dog caused. They'll do this using their homeowner's insurance.
Is This Still True If The Dog Bites Someone ELSE at Your House?
Let's say you're hosting a party at your house and your friend Paul brings his dog, Buster. If Buster bites another one of your guests, Paul (the dog owner) is still responsible. Paul's responsibility to protect others from his dog follows him around - it doesn't transfer to you just because the incident happened at your house.
If You're Bit By a Dog, File a Claim Through The Owner's Homeowner's Insurance
Dog bite claims in Texas are filed through the dog owner's homeowner's insurance. As a dog bite attorney, I'm often asked about what happens when the dog attack didn't actually happen on the dog owner's property.
The answer is this: homeowner's insurance follows the homeowner.
So if Joe and his dog Max are over at Frank's house, and Max bites Frank, JOE'S insurance will cover Frank's medical bills. Even though Joe wasn't at his home when the accident happened, it makes no difference: his insurance will follow him and protect him regardless.
Many Texans have homeowner's insurance since it's often required by mortgage lenders. If you were hurt by a dog, it's important that you get the insurance information from the dog's owner so you can start a claim.
Making a Claim Against Someone You Know
As a Texas injury lawyer, I know lots of dog bites happen between friends or neighbors. Filing a claim against someone you know can feel uncomfortable, but if you've been seriously injured by a dog and you require medical care, you should absolutely do it.
I've written an in-depth article on the topic, which you can find here.
Frequently Asked Dog Bite Questions
Question #1: I was bit by a small dog. Will this affect my claim?
The size of the dog can matter in trial. The bigger the dog, the bigger the injury. A small dog breed such as a Chihuahua might not create as big of an injury as a larger breed, such as a Pitbull. Also, something important to consider is perception vs reality: a bigger dog might be deemed more dangerous to an insurance adjuster or a jury than a smaller dog.
However, the breed matters, but not always. We have seen cases where breeds such as Chow-Chows or Golden Retrievers (who are perceived as friendly breeds) injure people in dog-on-dog attacks. These types of dog attack injuries are more common than attacks where a dog is attacking a person. For example, if someone is walking their dog and another dog comes out to attack their dog, the dog owner might come between both dogs and get hurt. If someone’s dog becomes lose and attempts to attack a dog that someone is walking, than the dog owner of the lose dog might be held responsible if the dog owner who is walking their dog becomes injured while trying to save their dog, because people have a legal duty to control their dogs. Furthermore, there are two main theories concerning dog bite liabilities: strict liability (someone is automatically liable) and negligence for failure of controlling one’s dog. Many cases deal with the second theory, where dog owners leave their backyard gates open, their dog escapes, and attacks someone.
Question #2: The dog that bit me did not have valid vaccination. Can this increase my compensation?
When treating a dog bite victim’s wounds and injuries, if there are any additional procedures made because of a dog lacking vaccines, such as rabies, those additional expenses can be compensated for.
What Happens Next?
There's lots to learn about dog bite law in Texas. If you want to learn more, I suggest starting with my article on the laws here.
Also be sure to download my free book "How to Make a Successful Dog Bite Injury Claim In Texas" here.
If you're in need of immediate assistance with your dog bite case or if you have specific questions, contact the Anderson Law Firm in Fort Worth today at 817-294-1900.