Texas follows a somewhat odd “one free bite” rule regarding dog bite liability. However, that doesn’t give dog owners a free pass in every case.
A dog bites you.
Is the owner financially responsible?
Look, I’d love to give you “yes” and “no” answers. But the fact is that the law doesn’t make it that simple. And when you think about it, that’s fair. Because, you want to deliver a just and fair result based on the particular situation.
So take a look at some of the ins and outs of Texas dog bite law:
Texas Is a “One Free Bite” State
Typically, an owner gets legal protection on their dog’s first bite (unless liability can be based on other grounds). In other words, if it is the dog’s first bite, and the dog had shown no signs of aggressive behavior before, there’s a possibility the owner won’t be financially liable for your injuries.
However, exceptions to this rule exist:
- Negligence (not taking reasonable care to control the dog)
- Violation of leash laws or other municipal laws
- Outrageous or reckless behavior
- Establishing a standard of care relating to the dog and deviating from that standard
- Inherently dangerous breeds of dog
Defenses Against Liability
The two most common defenses to liability are that the owner had no knowledge their dog had previously bitten someone and/or demonstrated aggressive tendencies in the past or, possibly, that you were a trespasser on the premises.
You, the plaintiff, have the burden of proof. You have to show it is “more likely than not” that your version of events holds true.
In general though, if you were legally allowed to be where you physically were bitten by a dog, the owner will be held liable.
A Closer Look at Negligence
If an owner lets their dog off the leash in their neighborhood, and fails to supervise that dog, they’re more than likely going to be found negligent.
That’s kind of an extreme example. Most dog owners don’t do that.
However, say they have a larger dog, and that it jumps and knocks your 80-year-old grandmother down, causing her to break her hip. Well, that’s negligence too. The owner had a responsibility to keep the dog on a leash, or to keep it at a safe distance.
Compare all this to “strict liability” states, who say that if your dog causes damage or harm at any time, then you are responsible.
That’s not the case in Texas. (Unless the dog is an inherently dangerous breed) But, it gives you perspective.
If you’re not sure about who’s responsible for a dog bite you’ve experienced, you can always get a free consultation with an injury lawyer who can help you understand your situation.