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Dog Bite / Animal Attack in Houston

The personal injury attorneys at Wilhite & Associates, P.C., represent men, women and children who have been injured by a dog bite or canine attack throughout Harris County including Houston, Northwest Houston, Champions, Spring, Tomball, Klein, the FM 1960 area, as well as the Woodlands and Conroe in Montgomery County. Call our office to speak directly with a personal injury attorney in Houston, Texas, about the facts and circumstances of any dog bite injury.

Our personal injury attorneys welcome your calls to discuss what you may need to do right now to protect your rights. In the most severe cases, a dangerous or vicious dog can cause serious bodily injury or even death. In other cases, the canine attack may cause injuries that lead to scarring and disfigurement, nerve damage, or permanent disability. In many of these cases we can help our clients obtain money damages to compensate them for injuries including: 

  • medical and hosptial bills;
  • pain and suffering;
  • embarrassment and humiliation;
  • mental anguish;
  • loss of consortium claims; and
  • future medical bills.

Texas Law for Dangerous Dog Attack / Dog Attack Injury / Dog Mauling Injury

Dog attacks often cause extreme personal injury and disfigurement as well as severe mental anguish for victims. Any dog owner who know that their dog is likely to attack a person, or who should know that the dog could cause injuries, should properly restrain the animals at all times. Too often, however, dog owners fail to use common sense when making decisions about a dangerous dog and the results can be devastating.

Although other states have passed "dog bite" statutes that are considered far more favorable to the victim of a dog bite, Texas is considered a "one-bite" state. The one-bite rule means that the dog owner is only considered liable for the damages under the following circumstances:

  1. the owner was aware of the dog's dangerous propensities including the fact that the dog had previously bitten another person or animal;
  2. the intentional act or the negligence of the owner or the person handling the dog caused the injury;
  3. the attack occurred as a result of the owners violation of some animal control law such as the "dog at large" law or the leash law;

Many consider the "one-bite" rule under Texas law to be outdated and unfair. Proving the dog's dangerous propensities is often difficult, but it does not change the fact that the dog caused serious injury to another. Our attorneys perform a detailed investigations in these cases to preserve evidence showing that the dog owner should be held liable.

Dog Breeds Most Likely to Bite or Attack:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • German Shepherd
  • Siberian Huskie
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Chow Chow
  • Presa Canario
  • Boxer
  • Dalmation
  • Saint Bernard
  • Great Dane
  • Akita
  • Mixed Breed
  • Wolf-dog Hybrid
  • Bullmastiff
  • Chihuahua
  • Labrador

Liability for Dog Owners under Texas Law

Texas law recognizes two methods of imposing liability on a dog owner: strict liability and negligence. Each method has separate and distinct requirements for proving liability.

Strict Liability under Texas Law for Dog Bite Cases

The first method under Texas law for holding a dog owner liable for dog attack injuries is strict liability. Strict liability is only posed in very limited circumstances, such as injuries arising from attacks of dangerous domestic animals. In order to prove liability of the owner of the dog, the plaintiff must typically prove the following:

  1. the defendant was the owner or possessor of the dog;
  2. the dog had dangerous propensities abnormal to its class;
  3. the owner knew or had reason to know that the dog had dangerous propensities; and
  4. those propensities caused the injury.

To show that a dog has a "dangerous propensity" means showing that the dog acts in a way which is abnormal to its class when compared with other dogs. The showing of dangerous propensity is not breed specific. In other words, just because a dog is a Pit Bull or a Rottweiler does not necessarily mean it has dangerous propensities under Texas law.

Certain statutes in Texas can be used to make a finding that a dog is a "dangerous dog." For instance, if the dog has been declared dangerous, the owner must generally place high visibility signs and tags on the dog and the enclosure where the dog is kept indicating the dog is dangerous, and must also obtain additional homeowner’s insurance to provide coverage against injuries resulting from the dog attacking a person.

In general, to prove strict liability for a dog attack, a plaintiff will have to show either that the owner of the animal knew of the dog’s vicious propensities (e.g., the dog has attacked individuals in the past) or that the average person would have known that the dog had dangerous propensities. In certain cases, prior dog attacks on other dogs or other animals are relevant to this determination.

Negligence

The second method for proving a dog owner’s liability for dog mauling injuries, is the ordinary negligence standard. An owner of a dog may be liable for injuries caused by the dog even if the animal is not vicious if the injured party can prove that the owner's negligence in handling or keeping of the animal caused them injury. To prove negligence, the victim of a dog attack must typically show the following:

  1. the defendant was the owner or possessor of the animal;
  2. the defendant owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent the animal from injuring others;
  3. the animal owner breached that duty; and
  4. the negligence of the dog owner caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Under Texas law, the main difference between the strict liability claim and the negligence claim is that in a negligence claim the injured party is not required to prove that the dog had or was known to have dangerous propensities.

Texas' Dangerous Dog Statutes

Under Texas law, a “dangerous dog” is defined as an canine that makes any unprovoked attack on a human being that causes bodily injury when that attack happens outside of the dog’s enclosure. A dangerous dog can also include any dog that without provocation acts in a manner that causes a person to reasonably believe the dog will attack and inflict bodily injury while outside of the dog's enclosure.

Under Texas law, the dog owner has certain legal responsibilities which including the following:

  • the owner must keep a dangerous dog in a secure enclosure. A secure enclosure is defined as an area that is fensed or locked and capable of preventing the general public from entering or the dog from escaping. Any dog not in the enclosure must be restrained with a lease and be under the immediate control of another person.
  • The owner of any dangerous dog must register the dog with the localanimal control authorities.
  • The owner of any dangerous dog must obtain and maintain continuous liability insurance coverage for at least $100,000.00 to cover any damages for bodily injuries or personal injury caused by the dangerous dog.

Criminal Liability for Owners of Dangerous Dogs

in certain cases, the plaintiff may face not only civil but also criminal liability if the dog has previously been declared to be dangerous. The owner of any dangerous dog can be arrested for a criminal offense if the dog attacks a human being while outside of its enclosure and causes any type of bodily injury that is not provoked by the person attacked.

If the dog attack causes serious bodily injury or death, the dog's owner can also be charged criminally under Texas law. Serious bodily injury is defined under Texas law to include any severe dog bite wound, ripping of flesh, or tearing of muscle that would cause a reasonable person to seek medical attention. It is not necessary that the victim of the dog bite or attack actually went to the hospital or sought medical attention.

If the attack resulted in serious bodily injury or death, Texas law does not provide for any defense based on the dog being provoked. Likewise, whether the attack occurred inside or outside of the dog's enclosure is not dispositive. Under Texas law, the judge can require that the dangerous dog is destroyed and require the owner to pay a fine of up to $10,000.00.

The personal injury attorneys at Wilhite and Associates, P.C., are experienced in representing cases in which someone was injured or killed due to a dangerous dog attack. Contact us to learn more about recent changes to Texas law under the Lillian Stiles law and the Unlawful Restraint of Dog statutes.

Texas' Lillian Stiles Dog Law

The Texas legislature recently passed the Lillian Stiles law which increases the potential criminal penalties for dog owners who fail to properly secure their dogs which that failure results in serious injury to another. The Lillian Stiles law creates increased criminal penalties for negligent owners, the law does not provide any extra civil protections for the victims of a dog attack.

Texas' Unlawful Restraint of Dog Law

The Texas legislature enacted the Unlawful Restraint law to prevent dog owners from chaining their animals. Chaining the dog is not considered cruel treatment which often increases creates dangerous and aggressive acts by the dogs. The language in the legislation only prevents dogs from being chained at night, within 500 feet of a school and during bad weather.

Wilhite & Associates, P.C. | Houston Personal Injury Lawyers

If you have been severely injured by a dog, you need the experienced personal injury attorneys at Wilhite & Associates, P.C. to represent you against the owner of the animal and their insurance company to obtain the best recovery possible for your injuries. Call us today at (281) 537-2171 or provide us with the brief details of your incident in our online form. Wilhite & Associates, P.C. handles dog bite and animals attack cases in Houston or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Washington County, Grimes County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

Wilhite & Associates, P.C. represents clients from all over Southeast Texas, including:

Harris County - Aldine, Atascocita, Barrett, Barker, Baytown, Bellaire, Brownwood, Bunker Hill Village, Channelview, Clear Lake, Cloverleaf, Crosby, Cypress, Deer Park, East Houston, El Lago, Galena Park, Hedwig Village, Highlands, Hilshire Village, Houston, Hudson, Humble, Hunters Creek Village, Jacinto City, Jersey Village, Katy, Kingwood, Klein, La Porte, Louetta, Lynchburg, Nassau Bay, North Houston, Pasadena, Piney Point Village, Seabrook, Sheldon, Shoreacres, South Houston, Southside Place, Spring, Spring Valley, Taylor Lake Village, Tomball, Webster, West University Place

Montgomery County - Conroe, Cut and Shoot, Magnolia, Montgomery, Oak Ridge North, Panorama Village, Patton Village, Roman Forest, Shenandoah, Splendora, Stagecoach, Willis, Woodbranch, Woodloch, The Woodlands

Fort Bend County - Arcola, Beasley, Fairchilds, Fulshear, Kendleton, Meadows Place, Missouri City, Needville, Orchard, Pleak, Richmond, Rosenberg, Simonton, Stafford, Sugar Land, Thompsons

Waller County - Brookshire, Hempstead, Pattison, Pine Island, Prairie View, Waller

Grimes County - Anderson, Bedias, Iola, Navasota, Todd Mission

Washington County - Brenham, Burton, Chappell Hill

The hiring of a personal injury attorney or other civil law attorney is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide which Houston attorney to hire for your case, ask us to send you free written information about our legal experience and qualifications.

This site is sponsored by George W. Wilhite, P.C. Our principal office is located in Harris County, Texas at 17101 Kuykendahl Rd., Houston, TX 77068.

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