I was bitten by a dog. What can I do?
Dogs are loved and considered a part of the family in the majority of homes. Depending on the dog and the circumstances, they will sometimes bite. The way to avoid getting bit is to know how to prevent dog bites. You should realize that many dogs are protective of their family and their homes. If they feel their family, home, or themselves are in danger, a bite can be the result.
Unfortunately, even those who know how to prevent bites are sometimes bitten. When that occurs, it can cause injuries in varying degrees.
Texas does not have a law related to dog bite liability. The Texas Supreme Court, in Marshall v. Ranne, decided dog bites fall under negligence, or the “one bite rule”. This means that an injured person may be able to recover damages. First, the person must prove that the owner:
- Knew the dog was aggressive.
- Knew the dog had bitten someone in the past.
- Was negligent because he or she did not control the dog or try to prevent the bite.
- His negligence resulted in injuries.
For example, your neighbor’s dog bit a person. The bite was not bad and only required stitch or two. That bite puts the owner on notice that his or her dog will bite. If the owner goes on as usual and ignores any future threat, it is possible you could prove he was negligent.
In Texas, the negligence law also covers other incidents. For example, if a dog runs out into his yard jumps on you and knocks you down. In that case, the owner could be negligent for not keeping the dog under control. Note that if you were trespassing on the property, the fault would be yours.
In cases of dog bites, owners do have legal defenses. If the owner was not aware of any aggression or bites in the past, he would have no reason to take precautions. Trespassing is another defense. If you trespassed, it is unlikely that you will recover your damages from your injury.
Negligence can include compensation for pain and suffering, or even emotional damage. If your injury was minimal, you will not recover any more than a minimal amount.
Dangerous Dog Breeds and Texas Law – Are there laws against owning certain breeds of dogs?
Texas has chosen to classify dangerous and vicious dogs based on a dog’s behavior, not its breed. The state has what is called a preemption law against breed-specific bans. This means that cities can’t enact any ordinances that prohibit any particular dog breed. For example, pit bulls, Rottweilers and other so called “dangerous” breeds can’t be banned.
Cities do have the right to enact ordinances that require reporting or registering vicious dogs. Generally, animal control must be notified if a dog bites someone. For example, Austin’s ordinance states that a dangerous dog is one that was not provoked. This means that the no one kicked, taunted, teased or otherwise provoked the dog. In that case, the dog is not required to be registered as a dangerous dog.
Some cities opt for “tough” generic dangerous dog laws instead of breed-specific laws. Such laws hold dog owners criminally negligent after a serious or fatal dog attack.
In 2007, Texas passed what is known as Lillian's Law. That law gives serious penalties to the owner if a dog is running loose. If the injury is serious, the owner can face up to ten years in prison. If the attack results in death, the owner can face up to 20 years in prison. Before the owner can be convicted, it must be proven that he or she knew that the dog was aggressive or vicious. This may be proven if, for example, the dog has a history of biting people. If the dog was not running loose, the owner can’t be convicted under Lillian’s Law.
Even if an owner can be convicted under Lillian’s Law, he or she may still be sued. The injured party may recover costs related to the injury. This includes medical expenses and pain and suffering.