As a dog bite injury attorney, I know that dog attacks are no laughing matter. If you’ve been bitten by someone else’s dog, you have a right to compensation under Texas law. But here’s the next question – who’s going to pay you?
It’s estimated that the majority (61 percent) of dog bites happen at home or in a familiar place. Aside from those dogs who bite their own owners, I’ve handled plenty of cases where my client was leaving their apartment and a neighbor’s dog attacked. Unfortunately, apartments are “condensed” by nature, and when you stick dangerous dogs in close quarters, trouble can occur.
Dog Owners Are Responsible When Someone Gets Hurt
It’s a dog owner’s responsibility to keep their dog from harming others, especially if they know their dog is easily frightened , territorial or aggressive (which can all lead to bitting). By law, dog owners aren’t allowed to let their dogs roam free.
Usually, if a dog bites you while you’re walking through an apartment complex, you’ll file a claim against the dog’s owner (and their homeowner’s insurance). However, there are certain situations where your landlord can also be held responsible.
Landlords Can Also Be Held Accountable for Dog Bites
Landlords have a responsibility, too. If you’re renting an apartment (or other property) from a landlord and you were attacked a dog while on the landlord’s property, it’s possible that you can make a claim against the landlord. To do this, your situation must meet the following criteria:
- The dog attack had to occur in a common area, like a hallway or courtyard.
- The landlord had to have knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies but did nothing to remove the threat. For instance, if the landlord had received complaints from other tenants about the dog’s aggression, but did nothing.
- Alternatively, the landlord had to have prohibited dangerous breeds like pit bulls, but then failed to enforce that designation.
- The landlord had to have failed their duty to keep their residents safe from the dog. For example, if there was a hole in the fence that kept the dog away from others, and the landlord knew about the hole but didn’t repair it, the landlord can be held liable.
If a landlord notices an aggressive dog, they have the right to impose conditions of confinement. If the dog owner doesn’t follow the landlord’s orders, the landlord can evict them. Because of this, landlords DO have the power to keep their property safe. If they choose to do nothing about a dangerous dog, they’re liable for any dog bites that occur.
To Sue a Landlord for a Dog Bite, You’ll Need to Prove Negligence
Texas law requires us to prove either that the landlord was guilty of either Strict Liability (that is, they had existing knowledge of their animal’s vicious propensities) or Negligence which contributed to the attack taking place.
Typically, this is where things get tricky. How can you prove that the landlord knew about the dog’s viciousness? How can you prove that they failed to keep other people safe from the dog?
At this point, it’s a good idea to consult with a personal injury attorney. The first consultation should be free, and you can talk to them to get advice on gathering evidence, proving negligence and if you have a strong enough case to go against your landlord.