What Are the Texas Dog-Bite Laws? What Can You Do After a Dog Bite?
A dog is man’s best friend, right? While that may be generally true, canines are domesticated wild animals that can pose a serious risk of injury when neglected, poorly treated, or encouraged by their owners to be aggressive. An attack by even a small dog can lead to serious injuries, including permanent scarring or disfigurement and loss of fingers or toes.
How does the state of Texas deal with domestic dogs that bite other people? What are your options if you’re bitten in an unprovoked attack by someone else’s canine?
Texas Dog-Bite Law
Though most states have statutes establishing liability when a dog attacks someone other than its owner, Texas does not. Instead, liability for dog bites in Texas is found in the common, or judge-made, law.
Nearly 50 years ago, in the case of Marshall v. Ranne, the Texas Supreme Court established the “one bite” rule. In contrast with many states, which follow a principle of “strict liability” with respect to dog bites, Texas imposes liability only if it’s proven that the owner of the dog:
- Knew the dog had bitten, or been aggressive toward, another person in the past, and
- Failed to use reasonable care to control the dog or prevent an attack, thereby causing someone to be bitten.
In essence, then, the Texas dog-bite law follows the legal principle of negligence. The requirement that the owner have knowledge of aggression or an actual attack in the past means that the first time the dog engages in that behavior, there won’t be any liability—hence, the reason it’s known as the “one bite” rule.
You can allege negligence in the absence of a prior bite or act of aggression, but it can be difficult. You must show that the dog owner’s actions were contrary to what a reasonable person would do. There’s no statutory standard in Texas personal injury cases for what’s considered “reasonable.” Whether a person acted reasonably is established by the jury on a case-by-case basis.
What to Do After You’re Bitten by Someone Else’s Dog
Here are the steps to take immediately after a dog bites you:
- Determine the extent of your injuries – If your injuries are serious, your priority should be getting the medical attention you need. Be willing to go to the hospital, if necessary, but visit an urgent care facility or make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible.
- Identify the dog’s owner – As soon as possible, determine who owns the dog. Get contact information, including the owner’s name and address.
- Preserve evidence – Take pictures of the scene of the attack, including shots of the dog, your injuries, where the attack occurred, and anything else that may be relevant.
- Talk to witnesses – Determine what witnesses saw. Get contact information, so your attorney can question them and prepare witness statements.
- Contact animal control authorities – Animal control authorities can help you take the necessary steps to determine whether the animal had rabies. You will also be creating a public record, should the dog attack someone else.
Contact the Experienced Dog Bite Lawyers at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we know the impact that a personal injury can have on every area of your life. If you or someone you love is hurt in an attack by a dog, send us an email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.