When Animals Attack

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2015 | Personal Injury

Quite contrary to popular myth, dog bites are among the most serious personal injury events in South Central Texas and elsewhere.

Statistically, 1,000 Americans are rushed to the emergency room every day because of a dog bite. Most of the victims are children under 10, and most of the animals are molosser breed animals, including pit bulls, rottweilers, and boxers. Following their hospital stays, these victims leave with an average of $18,200 in medical bills, which is about twice the normal amount in personal injury hospital admissions, largely due to the frequency of reconstructive surgeries.

But the suffering is just beginning, especially for children. In the months and years after the attack, many of these victims suffer from lingering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to Dr. Larry Schmitt, a dog attack to a child is like a bear attack to an adult, but there is one significant difference. While adults will readily share the account of the bear attack, children are much more tentative, because they do not want to make their parents feel guilty about the attack.

Dog Bites in Texas

The Lone Star State does not have a dog bite statute. Instead, courts have embraced the common law approach of the so-called “one bite rule.” Victims are entitled to compensation under this rule if:

  • The dog previously attacked a person, or showed any violent propensity; and
  • Its owner knew about the animal’s conduct.

Violent propensity typically means baring teeth, growling, or snapping. Also, in most cases, the owner must actually know about the propensity; a “beware of dog” sign or second-hand knowledge of a bite is usually insufficient proof.

There is a second approach: victims may allege negligence, which is a lack of ordinary care. The standard elements in a negligence case are:

  • Duty;
  • Breach;
  • Cause in fact;
  • Proximate cause; and
  • Damages.

Most courts have held that violating a municipal ordinance, like a leash law, is a breach of a legal duty. The plaintiffs must still prove that the breach caused their damages.

Vicious dog bites often lead to substantial physical and emotional injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Braunfels, contact our office. After hours and hospital appointments are available.