Every day, more than 1,000 people are rushed to the emergency room following a dog bite. Many times, due to the serious nature of their injuries, these victims require follow-up medical care or rehabilitative therapy. As a result, the average hospital bill in these cases easily eclipses $18,000, which is about 50 percent higher than the bill for other injury-related hospital stays. Finally, after the return home, many victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder-type symptoms. They often have flashbacks and nightmares; additionally, they may be afraid of dogs or even afraid to go outside. These symptoms are particularly common in children.
For the most part, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy covers both economic and noneconomic damages.
Theories of Recover
Texas is a “one-bite rule” state. Owners are liable for damages if the plaintiff can establish scienter, which is legalese for knowledge of wrongdoing. In the dog bite context, the plaintiff must prove either a previous bite or dangerous propensities, like growling, baring teeth, or snapping; the plaintiff must also prove that the owner knew about the bite or viciousness. Generally speaking, a “beware of dog” sign is insufficient to prove scienter.
Texas does not have a dog bite law, so there are several theories of recovery available for victims:
- Animal Attack: The plaintiff must prove that a specific dog caused a specific injury; recovery is subject to the one-bite rule.
- Negligence: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owned the animal, had a duty of reasonable care, breached that duty, and the breach caused injury; at least one court has ruled that the one-bite rule does not apply in these situations.
- Leash Law: Most cities have leash laws and other restraint requirements; violation of these laws is negligence per se. The defendant does not have to be an owner, but can be any person who was in charge of the animal at that time.
Many times, to reduce or deny liability, the insurance company argues that the victim provoked the animal, so an attorney must be prepared to refute this defense. If successful, victims in these cases are entitled to compensation for both their economic damages, like lost work, and noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering.
Dog bites cause serious damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Braunfels, contact our office. Call 830-443-9193. for a free consultation at The Bettersworth Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.