Texans love their dogs, but every dog owner knows that it’s possible for these animals to hurt people. That’s a big reason it’s so important to train dogs — it’s not just so they won’t mess up the couch. Even a trained dog who has never behaved aggressively can sometimes lash out and hurt someone if they feel threatened.
When this happens, what can the injured person do?
The answer lies in the Texas dog-bite statute.
Negligence and strict liability
Texas follows two tracks for personal injury actions after someone has been injured by a pet dog: negligence and strict liability. If you have been injured in an attack from someone else’s dog and you wish to take legal action, your chances of success may depend upon the track that applies to your set of circumstances.
If the owner has no special reason to believe the dog is dangerous, the injured person must show that the owner was negligent. This means that the owner was careless in some way, and that this carelessness led to your injury. If you are the plaintiff, the burden is on you to show that the other party was negligent, and that their negligence led to your damages.
Negligence law holds that everyone has a duty to others to take reasonable actions to avoid the risk of injuries to others. So, if you are trying to show that the dog owner was negligent, you need to show that they failed to do something a reasonable dog owner would have done under the circumstances. For instance, you might show that the owner failed to put the dog on a leash while at a busy city park, and argue that a reasonable dog owner would have restrained their dog in these circumstances.
The legal picture changes if the dog attacked someone on another occasion before the incident in which you were injured. In this case, the law recognizes that the owner had reason to know that this particular dog was dangerous. In this case, the owner is held strictly liable for damages caused by their dog. They may even face criminal penalties.
With regard to your personal injury lawsuit, strict liability means you, as the plaintiff, don’t have to prove that the owner was negligent. This takes some of the burden off from your case, making it easier for you to prevail.