Many dog bite injuries are minor and require only a quick cleaning at the emergency room. Unfortunately, though, more vicious dog attacks often result in severe injuries. Victims may require stitches, surgery, or even a series of plastic surgery procedures in the future to minimize scarring. The costs of treating this type of wound can add up quickly.
Fortunately, you may be able to file a claim based on the dog owner’s insurance for financial recovery to pay your medical bills and cover lost wages. If you suffered bite wounds in an attack by another person’s dog, the lawyers at D. Miller & Associates, PLLC® can help you understand your legal options for recovery from the animal’s owner.
It can be difficult in Texas to hold an owner responsible for their dog’s aggressive behavior, but we can explain how state laws apply to your case. We are here to help you get the recovery you need to cover your losses. Call us today at (713) 850-8600 to schedule a free case evaluation with a dog bite lawyer in Houston.
What Laws Regulate Texas Dog Bite Cases?
Texas does not have a law specific to dog bite incidents. Instead, the state relies on a common law sometimes called the “one-bite rule.” Under this much-scrutinized rule, victims cannot hold the dog’s owner liable unless they can prove the owner was aware the dog had previously exhibited “vicious propensities.”
To file for recovery from the dog owner, we need to show:
- The dog previously attacked another person or behaved in a way that demonstrated an ability to harm someone; and
- The owner or handler of the dog was aware of this previous behavior.
As you can probably imagine, it can be much more difficult to file a claim for recovery for your dog bite injuries in Texas than it is in other areas that do not have a one-bite rule. However, “difficult” doesn’t mean “impossible.” Our dog bite lawyers can evaluate your case and compile evidence to demonstrate the dog was dangerous.
What Evidence Can Be Used in a Dog Bite Claim?
Since Texas law requires establishing that a dog is vicious, a large component of our work for your case will involve gathering proof. That could include:
- Medical records
- Photos or video evidence
- Eyewitness accounts
- Testimony from neighbors
- Owner and pet history
- Expert analysis
For example, we may interview neighbors who have encountered the dog and felt unsafe or noticed it not being properly restrained. An expert on dog behavior or on your specific wounds can also highlight the danger of the animal.
What if Blame Is Shifted onto You?
Even if the dog previously bit someone, the owner and their insurance company will often counter that the victims provoked the dog in one or both incidents, or that the dog had another justification for the attack.
When this occurs, we may need to identify eyewitnesses or provide other proof the dog acted without provocation in both incidents. We are prepared to delve into the animal’s past if it means helping provide financial recovery for your future.
Furthermore, we stand up to any number of tactics used by negligent parties or insurance companies to avoid blame, from dragging out claims to pressuring you to settle for less. We stand in solidarity with victims of vicious dogs.
Can You File a Dog Bite Claim Based on Negligence?
Because of the one-bite rule, we often find it easier to prove that a dog owner or handler acted negligently, and this caused your injuries. If we can show the dog owner was careless in handling or containing their pet, and this allowed the attack to occur, we can seek recovery for your damages.
“The elements of a negligence cause of action are the existence of a legal duty, a breach of that duty, and damages proximately caused by the breach.” IHS Cedars Treatment Ctr. of DeSoto, Tex., Inc. v. Mason, 143 S.W.3d 794, 798 (Tex.2004).”
To secure a dog attack claim based on negligence, we need to show:
- The party in question owned or provided care for the dog
- They owed a certain duty to keep their dog contained and away from others
- They acted carelessly, failing to uphold this duty
- This careless behavior allowed the attack to occur
What Laws Could Play a Role in Your Case?
One of the most common ways a negligence claim occurs in Houston is when dog owners fail to follow the local leash laws. While there are no statewide leash laws in Texas, Houston and many other municipalities have laws in place that require all dogs to be on a leash when in public areas. This means if a dog runs from their unfenced yard into your yard and bites you, the owner is likely liable.
It’s also important to remember that dog bites are considered a form of premises liability—dogs are viewed as property, and property owners are obligated to avoid causing harm. A dog doesn’t have to leave their own yard for a dog owner to be liable for an attack. We will just need to prove the handler failed to keep the dog contained, and this directly led to your injuries.
In fact, 80.2 percent of dog bites occur at home, according to a 2019 study in Heliyon. If you visited the home of an aggressive dog and the owner failed to put it on a leash, put it in another room, or let it out in the yard, a resulting bite could be grounds for a case. Owners can be negligent in their own homes, not just by letting their pets roam the streets.
What do You Need to Do to Protect Your Rights After a Dog Bite Incident?
Your first concern after a dog bite incident should be to see a medical care provider. A walk-in clinic or the emergency department of your local hospital can clean the wound and provide advice on how to lower your risk of infection. Dog bites have a high incidence of infection and require diligent care to prevent problems.
If your wounds are penetrating, gaping open, or are on your face, hands, or other sensitive areas of the body, you will need extra attention to limit scarring and ensure you retain all range of motion. You may want to call 911 and request an ambulance if you suffer serious attack injuries. You will likely receive a thorough wound cleaning, stitches or another closure method, and a tetanus shot, among other treatments.
Secondary issues tend to be the primary concern after an animal attack. The Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other health experts warn of infections like:
Due to being a consequence of the bite, the costs related to vaccination against or treatment for any of these infections could be covered in your financial recovery. With that in mind, don’t be afraid of the cost of care or let worries about bills deter you from seeking help.
Getting the medical care you need immediately ensures you make the fullest recovery possible, while also ensuring there is no denying how and when your injuries occurred. You will need to continue the care regimen your doctor recommends until they release you.
What Kind of Records do You Need of a Bite?
It is also important to report a bite to authorities as soon as possible. In Houston, you can report an incident by calling 311. This helps to document your incident and will also create a record in case the dog attacks someone else in the future. Often, these reports play a key role in our case against the dog owner.
Your medical records can also prove crucial in pursuing an insurance claim or lawsuit, providing additional paperwork that testifies to what happened to you. We can procure copies of your records, as well as interview witnesses and other experts, to build your case.
How Can a Dog Bite Attorney in Houston Help You Recover?
Most dog bites require at least a visit to the doctor. The resulting serious injuries may leave you out of work for several weeks or even longer. Some require ongoing care in the coming months or years. All this costs, and you may wonder who will pay for it.
We may be able to help you obtain recovery to pay for your:
- Past and future medical bills related to the bite
- Lost wages, including salary, hourly income, and commissions
- Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other losses.
Your financial recovery could include considerations for the emotional trauma of suffering a dog attack. Conditions like PTSD, anxiety, depression, or phobias carry their own financial and personal costs. Likewise, if you were left with disfiguring injuries, you may receive specific damages.
If we can show the owner acted negligently, we can file a claim based on their homeowner’s insurance policy. Often, we can negotiate a settlement with the insurance company and obtain the recovery you need. If not, we can file a personal injury lawsuit and ask the judge to award for damages.
Through this entire process, we remain in touch with you, translating legal documents into more understandable terms, notifying you of any changes or progress, and answering any questions that arise. Accessibility is important to you and important to us, so much so that we offer free consultations and even hold Facebook livestreams to answer questions. We help you by listening to what you need help with.
How Can You Discuss Your Dog Bite Case with Our Lawyer for Free?
At D. Miller & Associates, PLLC®, our lawyers offer free case evaluations for Houston dog bite victims. Call us to schedule a time to meet with one of our personal injury attorneys.
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