Getting bitten by a dog is a terrifying and painful experience. Wounds from dog bites can cause severe bruising, loss of mobility and function, permanent disfigurement, amputation, infection, and even death. Dogs also sometimes cause injuries when they knock people over.
A dog’s owner or handler could be liable for money damages if their dog hurts someone. If a person in your household has suffered injuries because of a run-in with a dog, you would be wise to contact a personal injury lawyer. They could assess the circumstances and advise whether seeking damages is appropriate in your particular case.
Texas law gives an injured person only two years from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit seeking money damages. Once two years have passed, courts will refuse to hear a case regardless of its merit.
A person who has been injured by a dog might not wish to bring a lawsuit and could prefer to enter into a settlement with the dog owner’s insurance company. Experienced attorneys often can negotiate satisfactory agreements on behalf of their clients without bringing the case to trial.
However, the threat of a lawsuit is what motivates insurers to pay reasonable settlements. If that threat no longer exists because an injured person waited too long to take action, insurers have no incentive to make a fair offer, and an injured person might have to accept much less than they deserve.
Some states have laws making dog owners strictly liable for injuries their animals inflict on others. Texas does not have such a law. Injured people seeking damages from a dog’s owner or handler must prove negligence. This requires the injured person to demonstrate that someone breached a duty to them and that they suffered harm because of the breach.
The owners of dogs and other animals have a duty to ensure that their animals do not harm other people or property. If the attorney for the injured person could show that the dog’s owner or handler knew that the canine was aggressive and failed to protect the plaintiff from the animal, they could establish negligence.
However, it is not always necessary to prove that the owner knew that the dog was dangerous. Violations of local ordinances could constitute negligence. If the dog was unconfined in a community with a leash law, for example, a failure to obey the law could constitute negligence.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.003 makes all parties to an incident of negligence responsible for the consequences of their own behavior. A plaintiff who holds more than 50 percent of the fault for an incident that caused them an injury may not collect damages. A plaintiff who is not primarily responsible could collect damages, but the amount will be reduced to reflect their degree of responsibility.
In the case of a dog attack, a trespassing plaintiff might have little chance of getting damages unless the dog owner commanded the dog to attack. The law does not impose a duty on property owners to make their premises safe for trespassers, but it does forbid them from intentionally causing trespassers an injury.
Even if the plaintiff was not trespassing, the dog’s owner might assert that the plaintiff was at fault for the incident. In response, the plaintiff’s attorney could present evidence showing that their behavior did not justify the attack. After hearing all the evidence, the judge or jury decides how much the plaintiff’s conduct might have provoked the dog and allocates fault between the parties.
Being attacked by a dog can make a person feel vulnerable and powerless. Working with committed legal counsel could help an injured person restore their confidence as well as their bank account.
Allow a Harker Heights dog bite lawyer to walk you through the process of getting fair, appropriate compensation. Call today to schedule a consultation.