Generally, a Texas dog owner is not liable for any damages caused by the dog unless the dog’s owner knew the animal was dangerous and had a propensity to be vicious. However, in certain cases, a dog owner may be held liable for injuries even if the dog has not previously attacked another person or if the dog owner or handler was negligent in taking care of the animal.
Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003, the statute of limitations (SOL) to file a claim for damages for most injuries from dog bites in Houston is two years. A statute of limitations prevents the injured party from a filing a lawsuit for any damages they sustained due to a dog attack or bite after a specific time period has passed. Since this period is only two years in Texas, it is very important to immediately contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Houston after your dog attack to ensure your claim is not barred.
Houston Dog Bite Injury Lawyer
Contact Ben Bronston & Associates, Attorneys at Law for a consultation about the injuries you sustained from a dog bite throughout the areas of Houston, including the Heights, the Galleria, Memorial, Bellaire, Sharpstown, Highland Village, City Centre, Downtown, EaDo, Midtown and Rice Village. Depending on the facts surrounding your particular case, the attorneys of Ben Bronston & Associates will travel to all areas of Texas and Louisiana for your dog bite claim. Attorney Ben Bronston is knowledgeable in all areas of Texas and Louisiana’s wrongful animal and dog bite laws and will make every to help you receive the damages you are entitled to for your injuries. Call Ben Bronston & Associates, Attorneys at Law today about your dog bite claim in Texas at 713-CALL-BEN or (713) 225-5236. To reach the Louisiana office for a consultation about your dog bite claims throughout Louisiana, call (504) 799-0771.
Houston Dog Bite Information Center
Back to top
Dog Bite Laws in Houston
According to section 822.041 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, a dangerous dog is defined as any domesticated canine that:
- Attacks a person when unprovoked and causes that person serious bodily injury, or
- When unprovoked, causes another person to reasonably believe they will be attacked and receive serious bodily injury.
Dogs that are commonly perceived as dangerous dogs can include, but are not limited to, any of the following:
- Pit Bulls,
- German Shepherds,
- Doberman Pinschers,
- Chow Chows, and
- Siberian Huskies.
A serious bodily injury is defined under Texas law as any bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death, causes death, causes an extended loss or impairment of any body part, or causes serious permanent disfigurement.
According to section 822.005 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, Texas law states an owner may be liable for their dangerous dog if:
- The owner knew the dog had the propensity to bite a person or the dog had previously bitten another person;
- The attack was caused due to the owner’s negligence;
- The attack was cause because the owner failed to keep their dog in an enclosed area or on a leash, or for some other animal control violation; or
- The attack was intentionally cause by the dog owner.
If a dog owner is aware of the dog’s propensity to be dangerous, the owner must keep their dog in a secure enclosure, such as a fenced area, a cage, or anywhere else that prevents the public from accessing the dog or that prevents the dog from escaping. If the dog is not in an enclosed area, the dog must be restrained by its owner, such as on a leash, or within the immediate control of the owner.
An owner of a dangerous dog must also keep liability insurance for any attacks the dog must make and must register their dog with the local animal control authority.
Back to top
Houston One Bite Theory of Liability
A dog owner that does not abide by Texas’s dangerous dog laws or who knows the dog has the propensity to attack can be held criminally and civilly liable for any injuries sustained as a result of the dog attack.
According to Texas law, a dog owner must know of the dog’s dangerous propensities in order to be held liable for injuries, outside of some other claim for personal injury, such as negligence. This is known as the “one bite rule” or the “one free bite rule.” This means the dog can bite or attack one person before the dog owner will be held civilly or criminally liable for the attack.
Under the “first bite” or “one bite” theory, if an individual has knowledge their dog is generally aggressive and has attacked another person, they can be held liable for any subsequent attacks the dog makes. This means if the dog owner has any knowledge the dog has previously bitten or attacked another person, the owner will be held liable for any attacks the dog makes in the future, no matter what.
Many other states follow statutory strict liability laws, which mean the dog’s owner does not have to be aware the dog was dangerous, nor does he have to commit some kind of negligent act when handling the dog in order to be held liable for damages. Unfortunately, Texas does not follow this theory of liability.
If the dog has not previously attacked another person prior to your attack, a dog owner in Texas can instead be held liable for injuries under theories of:
- Premises liability,
- Violation of a municipal law or ordinance, such as a leash law,
- Intentional acts involving the dog, or
- Failure of the owner to stop the attack after it began.
Back to top
Proving a Houston Dog Bite Claim for Negligence
If you were injured from the attack or bite of a dangerous dog, the owner will be held liable, or obligated to pay for any of your damages as a result of the attack if they knew the of the dog’s dangerous propensities. However, if they did not know the dog was dangerous, they may still be liable or your injuries and medical bills under the general theory of negligence.
Your attorney will have to prove the elements of a negligence claim by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is a burden of proof at trial that means the evidence has to slightly weigh more in your favor in order for you to win your lawsuit. This is generally a low burden of proof, and much easier to prove than the criminal burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Your attorney must also prove the following four elements in order to win a negligence claim for your dog bite injuries:
- Duty – Your attorney must be able to prove the dog’s owner owed you some duty. This duty can include if the owner had a duty to keep their dog on a leash or in a fenced area, or to keep their dog from roaming the streets.
- Breach – Your attorney must also prove the dog’s owner breached this duty by failing to do something or refraining from doing something. For example, failing to keep a dog on a leash when the owner had the duty to do so is a breach.
- Causation – Your attorney must also prove the dog owner’s conduct was the actual and proximate cause of your injuries.
- Damages – Your attorney must prove you suffered some form of compensable injury due to the dog owner’s negligence.
Back to top
Houston Dog Bite Damages
Chapter 41 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code states the forms of damages an individual that has sustained a dog bite injury may be entitled to recover:
- Compensatory Damages – Compensatory damages compensate the injured party for both economic and non-economic damages, but not exemplary damages.
- Economic Damages – Economic damages compensate the injured party for any actual loss or financial loss they may have suffered.
- Non-Economic Damages – Non-economic damages compensate the injured party for any non-financial loss they may have suffered, including, but not limited to:
- Physical pain and suffering,
- Physical impairment,
- Mental or emotional pain and suffering,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Loss of consortium,
- Loss of companionship and society,
- Disfigurement and/or
- Exemplary Damages – Exemplary damages punish the negligent party because they acted in such a grossly negligent manner when causing the injured party’s injuries. These damages are commonly known as punitive or punishment damages. In order to receive these damages, the injured party’s attorney must show the negligent party acted maliciously by intentionally causing the injury or because they knew their conduct could create an extreme risk of serious injury but consciously disregarded that risk.
It is important to know that if you provoked the dog, assumed the risk of being near a dangerous dog or played with a dangerous dog, or trespassed on another person’s property that had a dangerous dog, you could be barred from recovering damages for your injuries.
Back to top
Ben Bronston & Associates, Attorneys at Law | Dog Bite Attorney in Houston
Contact Ben Bronston & Associates, Attorneys at Law today for a consultation about your dog bite claim in Harris County, including the cities of Houston, Baytown, Humble, Katy, Pasadena, Seabrook, Spring, Sugar Land, Tomball and Webster. Ben Bronston is an aggressive Houston personal injury lawyer who will make every effort to fight for the damages you deserve for the injuries you sustained from a dog bite. Contact Ben Bronston & Associates, Attorneys at Law at 713-CALL-BEN or (713) 225-5236 for a consultation about your dog bite injuries in Houston. To reach the Louisiana office for a consultation about your dog bite claim in Louisiana, contact (504) 799-0771.