Almost every person who owes a dog in Texas has at least some obligation to keep their dog under control so it cannot harm another person, albeit usually under city and county ordinances rather than a specific statewide statute. However, even if someone else’s dog bites you, the owner might not be civilly liable for your ensuing damages in every single situation.
The question of who holds dog bite liability in Houston can be deceptively difficult to answer depending on the circumstances of a bite and the history the owner had with the dog. However, assistance from a capable dog bite lawyer at Roberts Markland LLP can be key to unraveling the local laws and legal precedents that might govern a case like this and proactively demanding fair financial restitution.
Several states have what is typically called the “one bite” rule codified into state law that applies specifically to personal injury claims based on dog attacks. While Texas does not explicitly set out such a rule in any state statute, the 1974 state Supreme Court case Marshall v. Ranne established a version of other states’ “one bite” rule as legal precedent for personal injury claims.
The rule holds that once a dog has bitten or acted aggressively towards another person without being provoked, the dog’s owner should know the pet could injure someone else. Often, this kind of incident is followed by a local city or county authority deeming the dog “dangerous” and imposing additional legal restrictions on the owner. However, even if this does not happen, local dog owners must still have foreknowledge of their dog’s tendencies for civil litigation.
Any dog owner in Houston who knows their pet may be aggressive and fails to take reasonable precautions to keep the animal contained or leashed on their property may be legally “negligent,” especially if the canine injures another person. This rule applies equally to injuries caused by bites and other injuries—for instance, a dog jumping on someone else and knocking them down.
Because of the “one bite” rule, someone who can establish that they had no way of knowing their dog might be aggressive towards another person may be able to avoid civil liability for injuries caused by their pet. However, these individuals must also prove they were not negligent in some other way—for example, by leaving a seemingly non-dangerous dog unleashed in public.
Additionally, dog owners in Houston are generally not liable for injuries their dogs cause to people trespassing on the owner’s property or to people who were assaulting or tormenting the dog or interfering with the dog’s food or kennel. Depending on the circumstances, any fault an injured plaintiff bears for their injuries may reduce the total value of their damage award or bar them from recovery under Texas’ “modified comparative fault” system.
Establishing that someone else should bear civil fault for injuries their dog caused can be challenging, even when it is seemingly obvious that they were negligent. Things can get more complicated if the dog owner was not negligent or if there is any question about how much you, as the injured person, were to blame for the dog attacking you.
Proactively handling these issues and effectively proving dog bite liability in Houston could be much easier with support from a seasoned legal professional. Call today to learn more.