What to Do If a Dog Attacks You in Dallas
Close to 4.7 million dog bites happen in the US each year with about 800 000 of them needing medical attention.
Dog attacks are more complicated than an assault committed by a human. First, a dog can’t pay your medical bills because it doesn’t have a job, bank account, or legal personhood. Second, there’s no official dog bite law in Texas to provide you guidance.
Unlike many states, Texas doesn’t offer a law that lays out what to do if a dog attacks you. Who is liable for the dog? To what extent are they responsible?
Despite the lack of legislation, dog attack victims in Texas still have options.
Keep reading to learn your next steps after a dog bite.
How Does Texas Deal with Dog Bites?
Unlike states that rely on civil or criminal codes, dog bite cases in Texas follow the precedent set by Marshall v. Ranne, a 1974 Texas Supreme Court Case.
In the case, Paul Marshall filed suit against John Ranne to request damages for injuries caused by a vicious hog bite. The jury found that Marshall himself was negligent and that he took on the risk of a bite himself.
According to Marshall, the injury was the final straw after weeks of terror. Ranne’s pig – a boar – had escaped the farm and made his way on to Marshall’s land. The boar charged Marshall (and his wife) multiple times before. Only Marshall witnessed the injury.
Why was Marshall at fault? The boar was loose for weeks, and he did not shoot it nor alert Ranne to the issue until the day of the fatal injury. Marshall also did not use a fence to prevent outside animals from entering his property.
What Did Texas Take from Marshall v. Ranne?
When the Texas Supreme Court ruled on the Marshall v. Ranne case, it relied on the Restatement of Torts section 509.
The section outlines what is known as “common law strict liability.” In dog bite cases, it is best known as the “one bite rule.”
In this case, Texas civil courts require you to prove that:
- The dog’s owner was aware of previous aggression or bites
- The dog’s owner was negligent in preventing the bite
Without proving both of these, no court will hear your case.
Although the lack of specific dog bite law sounds like it works against victims of an attack, it opens up other types of injury. Whereas a specific dog bite law would only cover dog bites or grabs, you can use precedent in cases where a dog jumps on you or acted as though it wanted to bite you.
Negligence Is Another Option
Dog bite victims in Texas can also seek compensation on the grounds of negligence, a precedent that also finds grounds in Marshall v. Ranne.
The case found that even owners of non-vicious animals are “subject to liability for his negligent handling of such an animal.”
For example, if you live in an apartment complex and you begin to keep a stray dog in the courtyard, you are liable for the dog if it attacks someone.
Proving negligence requires meeting four requirements:
- Proving the defendant owned or possessed the animal
- Showing that the defendant had a duty to do their best to protect others from injury
- Proving a breach of that duty
- Showing causation between the breach and the plaintiff’s injury
If you can prove all four of the above, then you do not need to prove that the dog previously bit a person.
Vicious Dogs and Strict Liability
The previous section often applies to pets and farm animals that may have used up their one free bite – per the “one bite rule” – but Texas takes dangerous dogs more seriously than almost any other state.
Chapter 822 Subchapter D of the Texas Statues and Codes outlines what are known as “dangerous dogs” and how the state deals with them.
A “dangerous dog” is one that:
- Attacks unprovoked and causes bodily injury outside the enclosure in which the dog is kept
- Commits unprovoked aggression outsides its compound that leads a person to believe the dog could cause physical injury
You can own a dangerous dog in Texas, but if you do, you have thirty days after learning the dog is dangerous to:
- Register the dog with animal control
- Restrain the dog at all times when another person is around
- Buy liability insurance to cover damages
- Comply with local municipal or county restrictions or regulations
If the owner doesn’t do the first two within 30 days, animal control can seize the dog.
What does it mean for those attacked?
If the dog that attacked you is legally registered as a dangerous dog, then it is a criminal offense – a Class C misdemeanor.
What to Do If a Dog Attacks You in Texas
If you received a dog bite, your first step is to seek medical treatment to prevent the injury from growing worse.
In some cases, the dog owner or their insurance company will contact you to offer an out-of-court settlement.
Out of court settlements save time and money on legal fees. They also remove some of the more difficult legal precedents from the table.
If you feel that the settlement was unfair or wish to go to trial, you have two years to file a personal injury claim in the civil court. Texas recognizes a dog bite as a personal injury issue unless the dog meets the definition of a registered dangerous dog.
Either way, consult a dog bite lawyer to help you determine which option is the best for you.
Do You Need a Dog Bite Lawyer?
Do you know what to do if a dog attacks you? Calling a lawyer should be one of the first items on your list. A lawyer will help you determine whether you have a case that a Texas court will hear or help you negotiate with the dog owner’s insurance company to get you the settlement you deserve.
If you have a potential personal injury suit, don’t put it off. To learn more about your rights to compensation in Texas, ask for a free evaluation today.