Unlike most states, Texas does not have a “dog bite statute.” Instead, Texas courts adhere to the common law “one bite rule.” Therefore personal injuries stemming from dog bites can mean significant liability for the owner.
The one bite rule establishes that a victim can recover compensation from the owner, harborer or keeper of a dog if (a) the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to, and (b) the defendant was aware of the dog’s previous conduct. The tendency for a dog to injure humans is often referred to as “vicious propensities.” If either of these two conditions are not met, the victim cannot recover under this doctrine. In other words, Texas dogs get one free bite before its owner is liable for damages.
Texas’ lack of dog bite statute is at odds with the majority of states because the one bite rule shields a dog owner from liability each time one of his dogs bites a person for the first time unless it can be proven that the owner knew that the dog had the propensity to bite people without justification. This makes is significantly harder for victims of dog bites to recover damages.
A dog bite victim may also initiate a negligent handling action, which applies when the owner or possessor of the dog failed to handle the animal as a reasonably prudent individual would.
Negligence Per Se
Individuals are presumed to have acted negligently whenever they violate a law and cause an injury that the law was designed to prevent. This “negligence per se” doctrine comes into play in dog bite cases when someone violates animal control laws, such as those requiring that dogs be on leash, or those prohibiting them from being at large or from trespassing. To prevail on a claim, the plaintiff must show that there was a violation of a statute, and that the violation caused his or her injuries.
Plaintiffs have two years to initiate their lawsuit under the Texas statute of limitations, or else forever lose their right to recovery.
Municipalities may have different ordinances and codes regarding dangerous dog and leash laws. Some requirements may be more stringent for pet owners to prevent animals running at large or being left unattended.
At Sheller Law we have experience working with individuals to help them recover compensation after a dog bite attack. We only collect fees if you are awarded compensation in your case.