When a dog attacks someone, it’s a terrifying experience for the victim. Often, it’s also a frightening experience for the animal’s owner. In this blog post, we will discuss the outlines of dog bite law in Texas and how it can affect both sides in this terrible scenario.
Civil and criminal law
The first thing to note is that Texas law has statutes that can impose severe criminal penalties on the owner of a dog who attacks someone. These charges can be treated as felonies, but they apply only in limited circumstances, such as when the dog is already considered dangerous.
Much more common are cases involving a civil lawsuit.
The chief goal of a personal injury suit is to compensate the victim for the damages they suffered as a result of the injury. These damages may include medical expenses, lost wages and less tangible losses, such as pain and suffering or permanent disfigurement.
Some states hold animal owners strictly liable for any injury their animals cause to another person. Texas does not. Instead, dog bite victims can pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence.
Negligence is the legal theory that underpins most motor vehicle accident cases and other personal injury claims. To simplify, the theory holds that the defendant had a duty of care to prevent a predictable accident that might harm another person, that they breached this duty through carelessness, and that they must therefore be held liable for the victim’s damages.
In a dog bite case, the negligence theory means it’s up to the plaintiff to prove that the owner did something wrong that led to the attack. This isn’t always easy to prove. If the animal had never been aggressive with humans before, the law does not presume that the owner should have known the dog was potentially dangerous. However, if the dog had attacked people before, a court might determine the owner had reason to know the animal was potentially dangerous, which would mean the owner had a duty to prevent a predictable attack from the dog. This would make it easier for the plaintiff to hold the owner liable.
What to do after a dog attack
In the immediate aftermath of a dog attack, the two priorities are to secure the dog and to provide care for the injured. The owner of the dog and the victim should exchange contact information, just as they should after a car accident. While emotions can run high after such an attack, it’s a good idea for both sides to remain as calm as they can.
After securing the dog, ensuring the injured got the help they needed and exchanging information, the owner may want to contact their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to report the incident. They may also want to contact a dog trainer and a lawyer.
The injured can also contact a lawyer to learn about their options for pursuing compensation.