Dogs are a big deal in Texas. We all love these furry companions and go to great lengths to welcome them into our community. That is, until you get bit by one! Dog bites can not only be incredibly painful injuries but can also lead to a good amount of personal and financial hardship as a result of the injury. If this has happened to you, then it’s probably time to start thinking about hiring a lawyer
Can I Take Legal Action if a Dog Bites Me?
The short answer, in most cases, is yes! If you were a victim of a dog attack and suffered compensable damages from the dog bites, under Texas laws, the dog owner is legally responsible in most cases. Under Texas’s “one bite” rule, you can usually hold a Texas dog owner liable for a bite. Though there are some conditions.
When Does Texas Dog Bite Law Hold the Dog Owner Liable?
The most common instance where liability falls on the dog’s owner is when the dog’s owner negligently failed to control or exercise reasonable care to keep the dog restrained. For example, if the dog was off its leash or had escaped from its yard, this would most likely be deemed negligent of the dog owner under Texas law.
Another slightly harder-to-prove example of owner liability under Texas law is if the dog’s owner knew about his or her dog’s aggressive behavior, whether by actual or imputed knowledge. This can sometimes be implied for dog owners if the dog’s breed is known to be aggressive or if the dog previously bit others.
When doesn’t Texas Law Allow Legal Action?
While Texas dog bite laws are undoubtedly favorable for the injured person, there are certain situations where you are not likely to win dog bite lawsuits, regardless of the bite’s severity. Usually, this would apply to circumstances where the dog bite was clearly an accident and out of the dog owner’s liability.
For example, if you were playing fetch with your neighbor’s dog and the dog accidentally bit your hand as it went to retrieve the stick you were holding, a judge would most likely rule this as an accident that was not the dog owner’s liability. Nevertheless, each case can be complex, and there may be unexpected circumstances, so we recommend following the recommended steps and consulting with a Texas dog bite lawyer, no matter how the bite occurred.
What Should I Do After Getting Bitten by a Dog?
Regardless of the severity and whether you think you have a legal claim, there are a few steps you should take immediately after a dog-biting incident.
Get Medical attention
It goes without saying that the first thing you should do after a dog attack occurs is to seek ordinary care for your injury. Even if the injury does not appear to be severe, dogs can carry diseases, and bites can lead to infections, so it is important to consult a doctor.
If you later plan to consult a lawyer, make sure to hold onto all your medical documentation, including statements from your doctor about the severity of the injury. It is important to seek medical attention quickly, as the dog owner’s liability insurance company could use any delays in seeking medical attention to argue that your injury wasn’t actually as severe as you claim.
Identify the Dog and Dog Owner
If you are not already aware of who the dog’s owner is, this is the first thing you need to find out. Exchange contact information and request as much information as possible about the dog, such as its vaccination record, age, and breed. This information can be crucial for both your medical treatment and a potential dog bite lawsuit.
Report the Incident to Animal Control
Reporting the incident immediately to your county’s animal control authorities is crucial for documenting the incident to keep others safe and gathering information that can be important for your medical care and legal case. Animal control can usually verify the dog’s vaccination record and could inform you if the dog belongs to a breed classified as a known dangerous dog or if the dog’s previous conduct has been dangerous.
If you are unable to find the contact details of the appropriate authority in your area, call the police and they will put you in touch with the right people.
Keep records of everything
Before contacting a lawyer to see if you have a legal case, it is important to keep as detailed records as possible to strengthen your potential case in a dog-bite lawsuit. First, take pictures of your dog bite injuries. These will heal fast, and it might strengthen your case to have photographic evidence of how severe the injury was.
After seeking medical treatment, save as many records as you can from your doctor. As you recover, keep tabs and evidence of other hardships and expenses that you face, such as rehabilitation, loss of work, transportation to/from checkups, prescribed medications, unforeseen lifestyle complications, and important activities that you’re forced to miss.
Should I Get a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Case?
If you have a claim to legal action following a dog bite (and you very likely do under Texas dog bite laws), getting a lawyer is definitely a good idea. Pursuing such a case alone may end up costing more money than its worth and receiving a less-than-desirable result.
Much like how a doctor is usually the best to determine whether or not the injury needs treatment from a medical point of view, a lawyer is likely to be the one you want to say if the injury needs action from the legal side. A good dog bite lawyer will examine all potential claims and give you an estimate of how much compensation you may be eligible to sue for.
When should I not get a lawyer for a dog bite case?
When the dog’s owner is a family member, friend, or neighbor of the dog bite victim, many victims don’t feel as if it is in their best interest to get a lawyer. And the concern is understandable; we don’t want to cause financial hardship to people we care about, especially if it could ruin a relationship.
But in reality, this fear is usually misguided. Compensation for dog attacks is generally covered and paid for by the dog owner’s civil liability insurance policy and not straight out of their wallet. You shouldn’t think of it as suing your friend or neighbor; you are seeking to recover compensation from their insurance company for something that is most likely included in the coverage already.
How Much Can I Get From a Dog Bite Case?
The average awarded for dog bite claims in the USA is around $40,000. This might seem like quite a bit of money, however, the amount you’re awarded might be very different. Several factors can go into determining the settlement or judgment in a Texas dog bite case.
Beyond just medical expenses related to the injury that was caused, settlements can usually cover additional losses such as lost income from missed work or business, financial hardships related to necessary lifestyle changes while recovering, and expenses related to the recovery and ongoing treatment of your injuries.
Remember that the dog owner’s civil liability insurance company will try to argue against paying every penny they owe you, so you’ll want to get yourself a top dog bite lawyer for your case. Give a call to Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC, Texas’s most reputable personal injury lawyer for dog bite cases, at 936-251-5246 to schedule a consultation today!