Typically, in a dog bite claim, the owner will be held liable. However, there can be occasions where a son or a daughter may own a dog and they are living with their parents. While the parents may not be the actual owner of the dog, the fact that they allow the dog to be at their home may create liability on behalf of the home owner when they don’t actually own the dog.

What Might Be Scenarios Where The Owner Of The Dog Isn’t Held Liable?

An owner of a dog might not be liable for a dog attacking someone else if the owner did not know nor should they have known that the dog had vicious tendencies. There are cases where for whatever reason, a dog who has been well-behaved, well-mannered and never really shown any aggressive tendencies acts out for some reason or other. In those situations, the owner of the dog may not be liable because Texas does recognize what we commonly refer to as the “first bite is free” rule. This means if the owner didn’t know the dog’s dangerous propensities, then he won’t be liable for the first bite.

Is There Any Sort Of Comparative Fault In Dog Bite Cases?

In some cases there can be comparative fault in a dog bite case. For example, if a person provokes the animal or is teasing it or even trespasses onto the pet owner’s land, all of those facts can be seen as provocation, comparative responsibility or fault on part of the victim and that would minimize or even eliminate liability on the part of the dog owner.

What Types Of Damages Can Be Sought In A Dog Bite Claim?

The type of damages that are available in a dog bite claim, first and foremost, are for the medical care incurred in having the bite treated. That could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars or even tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the bite. Additional damages available are for lost wages, for permanent scarring or impairment and also for any muscle or tissue damage and that won’t heal properly. Future medical bills that will be incurred in the way of reconstructive surgery or plastic surgery to help with scarring as well as for mental anguish from the incident may also be available.

Can Bystanders Or Witnesses File Claims For Mental Anguish?

Bystander recoveries in dog bite claims in Texas are difficult. The law is rather tough but in essentially, if there is a very close familial proximity and relationship, then there could be a claim for a bystander recovery. Usually this is seen in a type of a claim where a mother sees her young child mauled by a dog. The maul would require the mother to actually have experienced and viewed the incident as opposed to walking up on it or being called later. In Texas, there has to be the closeness of a relationship such as a mother and child, but also the bystander has to have been in the proximity of the dog bite incident itself; meaning they experienced witnessing, seeing, hearing the dog bite actually occur.

Can Someone File An Injury Claim If Dogs Attack Other Pets?

A claim can be filed if a dog attacks someone’s pet. However, Attorney Brad Parker finds that it would probably be hard to find an attorney to take that claim in Texas. Whether it’s wrong or right, the law is that a pet owner can only recover the value of their animal and most pets are obtained for free or for a few hundred dollars. If that animal is injured, there may be a claim to recover the cost of treating injuries but if the pet is killed, the amount of recovery is going to be limited to what the value of that animal is. Unfortunately, Texas law says an individual can’t recover for emotional loss; only for the value of a pet.

Is The Amount Of Damages Dependent Upon The Severity Of Injuries?

The amount of recovery is always guided by the severity of the injury but it can also be guided by the level of disregard of the oppressiveness of the dog by the owner. In other words, there are people who know that they are raising pit-bull terriers and they don’t treat them well. They train dogs to attack and don’t take appropriate action to ensure that the animal is restrained from being able to get to other people. That level of conduct subconsciously can and does play a role in the culpability of the person who owns the dog.

Damages are to be limited by the actual damage suffered by the person who was bit: current and future medical bills, mental anguish, impairment, pain and the suffering and other types of factors. Future medical expenses for cosmetic surgery are also taken into account if the bite resulted in scarring. The Parker Law Firm has had cases where young girls have been bitten by dogs in the face or on the arms or on the legs and they ensure that the cost for future plastic surgery or scar revision is factored into a settlement. The same is done where there may be muscle or tissue damage that needs addressing at some point in the future as well.

Have You Been Injured In A Texas Accident?

If you've been injured you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Bedford, Texas office directly at 817.440.3888 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation. We help personal injury clients throughout Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington as well as all areas of Texas.

W. Bradley Parker
Protecting the rights of North Texas personal injury victims since 1985.