Houston Dog Bite Lawyers
Dog Bite Liability Laws in Texas
Although most dogs are beloved household pets, they can still be unpredictable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year. Approximately 800,000 of those bites require medical attention and, sadly, the majority of dog bite victims are children. Children are also more likely to suffer severe injuries and complications due to dog bites and attacks, making them doubly at risk.
If you were bitten or attacked by a dog in Texas, you may be able to hold the dog’s owner liable for your resulting damages. At The Shellist Law Firm, PLLC, our Houston dog bite attorneys are well-versed in the state’s dog bite rules and liability statutes and can assist you in bringing a claim against the responsible party. We have extensive trial experience and, if necessary, are prepared to aggressively pursue the compensation you are owed, even if that means going to court.
Continue reading to learn more about dog bite liability laws in Texas, as well as your options for recovery, or call (713) 999-6855 for a free consultation with our team today.
The “One-Bite” Rule
Texas is one of just a few states to not have a specific civil statute regarding dog bites. However, legal precedent has established that the state follows a “one-bite” rule when it comes to dog owner liability and awarding damages in personal injury and wrongful death claims resulting from dog bites.
The one-bite rule is an often-misunderstood rule. Many people mistakenly believe that, under this rule, dogs get one “free” bite in terms of the owner’s liability for injuries and other damages resulting from a dog’s first bite, and, only after this first bite can an owner be held legally responsible. However, the one-bite rule is actually more similar to general rules regarding negligence.
To establish liability in a dog bite case in Texas, the victim (or “plaintiff”) must typically prove the following:
- The dog owner knew or reasonably should have known that the dog had acted aggressively, including biting, in the past, and/or;
- The dog owner failed to take reasonable measures to restrain or otherwise control the dog or prevent the bite/injury, and;
- As a result of the dog owner’s failure to act reasonably to control the dog, the victim was bitten and suffered injuries and/or damages.
So, while a past bite can serve as evidence of the dog’s aggressive tendencies—something the dog owner should reasonably be aware of—it is not necessarily required that you prove that the dog that bit you had bitten anyone in the past. If you can simply show that the dog had a history of aggressive behavior, and the dog owner knew about or reasonably should have known about the dog’s history, you could have grounds for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Note that you do not necessarily need to prove that the dog owner knew about the dog’s tendency to act aggressively or history of biting and that the dog owner failed to take reasonable measures to control or restrain the dog, leading to your injury. Proving just one of these elements—either the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s past behavior or the owner’s failure to reasonably prevent injury—could serve as the basis of a valid dog bite or injury claim.
Non-Bite Dog Attack Injuries
The state’s negligence rule also applies to cases in which a dog attacks or otherwise injures a person without actually biting. For example, if you were walking in a public park where leash laws were in effect, and you were knocked down by a large, loose dog that jumped on you, causing you to break your arm, you could have a claim against the dog owner or handler.
In this case, you could prove that the dog owner negligently failed to control or restrain the dog by allowing it to roam off-leash in an area where this was not allowed. Even if the dog had no history of aggressive behavior, you could still have a case if you can prove the owner’s negligence and that the dog was the cause of your injuries and resulting damages.
Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
The state of Texas allows several defenses to dog bite claims, including:
- Lack of knowledge of the dog’s history of aggressive behavior/biting
- The dog bite or attack victim was trespassing when the incident occurred
- The dog was an active-duty police or military dog and was working when the incident occurred
If the dog owner or handler raises any of these defenses, you could have a hard time recovering compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. It is important that you work with an experienced attorney who can fight back against attempts to dispute, devalue, or deny your claim.
At The Shellist Law Firm, PLLC, our Houston dog bite attorneys are seasoned trial lawyers with a long record of success in the courtroom. Our founder, Steven Shellist, is a highly respected attorney in the Houston area and is widely regarded as an authority on an array of legal matters. In addition to his in-depth knowledge of civil liability in dog bite claims, he is well-versed in issues involving criminal liability in these types of cases. He and our entire team can help you understand your rights and explore your options for moving forward. We take great pride in developing innovative and personalized legal strategies for our clients, always with the goal of maximizing their recoveries.
How Dog Breeds Come Into Play
There are no restrictions in Texas based on dog breeds. Legally, that means a Doberman bite or a pitbull bite is just as significant as a bite from a golden retriever or labrador.
It is currently illegal to pass any breed-specific regulations at all in Texas, so the way the dog looks will have nothing to do with the legal proceedings. This helps those who have suffered from any kind of dog bite be taken seriously.
Talk to a Member of Our Team Today
Dog bites and dog attack injuries are often catastrophic and can lead to an array of serious, life-changing complications. Victims may experience devastating brain injuries, permanent scarring, and disfigurement. Tragically, many dog attacks are fatal.
Regardless of how severe your situation may be, the team at The Shellist Law Firm, PLLC can help. Our dog bite lawyers take all types of cases and always fight to protect the rights of our clients. There are no upfront costs when you hire our firm; we only collect legal fees if/when we recover a settlement or verdict on your behalf. Get in touch with us today to learn more—our phones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we offer complimentary consultations in person, over the phone, and via video conferencing for your convenience.
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Practicing Law for Two DecadesHaving practiced law for 20 years, you can be confident attorney Steve Shellist can successfully handle your case.
Extensive Trial ExperienceAs a former chief prosecutor, Mr. Shellist knows how to present a compelling case in front of a jury.
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