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I Was Bitten by a Dog in San Antonio. Can I Sue its Owner?

Posted on Monday, May 15th, 2017 at 4:52 am    

Dog bites are much more frequent than you might think and no more so than here in Texas which leads the country in fatal dog bite attacks. The vast majority of fatal dog attacks in Texas are due to two main breeds: pit bull terriers (76%) and Rottweilers (16%), according to statistics revealed by the dog control organization dogsbite.org.

Other statistics that the organization reveals is that the majority of those who are killed every year are children. 68% were younger than 11 and of those children in that age group, 52% were actually younger than 2.

It’s not all bad news. San Antonio is one of a handful of Texas cities that has initiated more progressive dog control laws aimed at keeping the number of dog bite attacks down.

Fatal dog attacks are just the tip of the iceberg. The number of people who are bitten by a dog, whether it is a serious attack or just a playful nip, is high. Non fatal dog bites can cause serious complications, including deep skin, muscle and bone infections. The long term psychological and emotional effects of serious non fatal attacks can be traumatic and live with a victim for a life time.

Many people who are bitten by a dog wonder what they can do to obtain compensation from the dog owner and how the dog can be prevented from biting anyone ever again.

Dog bite law in Texas does not specifically exist, in the sense that there are no statutes that address the question of liability in the event that a dog bites someone. This does not mean that you cannot sue the owner. The exact circumstances of the attack and the amount of evidence that can be obtained will determine whether a civil case can be brought against the owner. Like much personal injury law, you, as the plaintiff, must be able to prove that the person you are taking legal action against was liable. Here are some examples of liability in Texas.

When the owner knew that the dog was dangerous

If you are able to prove that the owner had previous knowledge that the dog was dangerous, for example if it had attacked someone else in the past, even if it hadn’t bit them, then this may be grounds for liability. Some states have what is called a “one bite law”, which means that the dog owner can be sued if the owner was aware that the dog had bitten someone before. Although this is not actual law in Texas, the situation is essentially similar, except that the dog just has to be known to be dangerous.

When the owner was negligent in their control of the dog

This basically encompasses most of the grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner. There are many ways that a dog owner could be shown to have been negligent, including the last example (knowledge that the dog was potentially dangerous). Here are some examples:

  • The dog was unrestrained in a area where dogs were meant to be on a leash;
  • The dog was allowed to approach a small child or place where small children were present, such as a kindergarten or day care center;
  • The dog was able to enter a neighbor’s property because there was no fence or wall keeping it in the owner’s own property;

How a dog bite claim can be denied

Dog bite claims must be filed within the state’s statute of limitations for this type of civil claim. This is within two years of the dog attack.

A dog owner has several main options for his or her own defense which may cause a dog bite claim to be dismissed.

  • If the person who was bitten was trespassing;
  • If the dog owner was unaware that the dog could be potentially dangerous;
  • If the dog owner did everything within his or her power to prevent the dog from biting anyone i.e. did not show any negligence in duty of care;
  • If the dog bite victim was more than 50% to blame for the attack (contributory negligence laws in Texas allow the dog bite victim to still be awarded a percentage of the compensation claim if he or she was less than 50% to blame for the attack)

If you, or a family member, have been bitten or attacked by a dog, your first recourse is to contact the Patino Law Firm in San Antonio. Our experienced dog bite lawyers will assess your circumstances and fight vigorously on your behalf if there is a reasonable chance of success.