San Antonio Dog Bite Lawyer
You probably haven’t given dog bites much thought—unless you’ve been bitten by a dog. Dog bites are more common than people imagine, and they can lead to serious injuries.
A dog bite victims’ rights group conducted a 13-year study and determined that Texas leads the nation in fatal dog bites. From 2005 to 2013, 34 Texans died as a result of dog bites. Pit bulls caused 26 of the deaths, calling into question the state’s one bite rule. While most states hold dog owners strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dogs, Texas law only holds negligent owners liable. While dog bite fatalities remain low, dog bite injuries in Texas continue to rise. For example, State Farm Insurance handled 168 dog bite claims in 2016, a 15 percent increase from 2015.
While many people think that dogs attack only when provoked, in many cases, dogs with no history of aggression turn on their owners, and unfortunately, more than 50 percent of dog bite victims are children.
While your dog is your best friend, your neighbor’s may well not be, and you should always proceed with considerable caution when you encounter a dog that you don’t know—and teach your children to do the same. Dogs are unpredictable, and a dog bite can be very dangerous.
Texas dog bite cases are complicated, but your legal rights and just compensation are critical. If you or your child was injured by a dog bite, you might be entitled to seek compensation. Call the Law Offices of George Salinas, located in San Antonio, Texas, at (210) 225-0909 to discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Your Dog Bite Case
If you suffered a dog bite, make your health and safety your primary concern. Even if the bite appears to be minor, seek immediate medical attention for necessary treatment and testing. If the dog’s owner is present at the time of the attack, you can (if feasible) take several steps to protect yourself and your dog bite case:
- Obtain the owner’s contact information.
- Obtain the owner’s insurance information.
- Inquire about the dog’s health and vaccination history.
- Inquire about whether the dog has a history of aggressive behavior.
- Don’t discuss a monetary settlement or any kind of compensation with the owner.
Dog Bite Injuries That Require Legal Help
If you suffer a dog bite, you might sustain a variety of injuries that are severe enough to require medical attention and legal help. Here are some examples:
- Deep cuts and lacerations that might result in scarring, disfigurement, or the transmission of diseases, such as rabies, MRSA, and tetanus
- Fractured or broken bones, including multiple fractures or crushed bones in small-framed children
- Soft tissue injuries, including tearing tendons, ligaments, or muscles
- Scarring and disfigurement that may require reconstructive surgery
- Loss of mobility in the affected area that can require ongoing physical therapy
- Emotional trauma from a dog attack, especially in children (Texas also permits those who are innocent bystanders and related to the victim to recover damages for mental anguish. See Reagan v. Vaughn.)
- Death might occur in serious attacks, in which case you should speak with your attorney about filing a wrongful death suit.
Texas Laws About Dog Ownership
In 2007, Texas implemented Lillian’s Law, the state’s dangerous dog law. The law was enacted after a 76-year-old woman who was out mowing her lawn was attacked and killed by a pack of dogs (of mixed dangerous breeds) that was on the loose. When Lillian’s family learned that Texas law at the time didn’t, in most instances, hold dog owners responsible for injuries or deaths brought on by their dogs, their stunned outrage resulted in the new legislation.
One Bite Rule
Texas’s one bite rule is rooted in Marshall v. Ranne, a 1974 decision issued by the Supreme Court of Texas. Victims of dog bite injuries cannot recover compensation unless they prove both that:
- The dog is dangerous, as evidenced by a previous bite or other dangerous behavior, and
- The dog owner knew of the dog’s previous aggressive behavior.
Lillian’s Law doesn’t eradicate Texas’s one-bite rule, which basically provides dog owners with a “first-bite-is-free” pass, but it provides for the criminal conviction of a dog owner if the prosecution can prove that the dog’s owner either knew (because the dog had bitten or acted aggressively before) or should have known that the dog was susceptible to dangerously aggressive behavior.
Unlike many other states, Texas has no specific statute that addresses dog owners’ civil liabilities for damages incurred by their pets’ aggression. Instead, Texas uses negligence principles for dog bite cases, and injured plaintiffs must prove that one of two conditions was satisfied:
- The injured party must show that the pet owner knew that the dog had already bitten someone or had acted aggressively in the past.
- The injured party must show that the pet owner failed to use reasonable care to control the animal or prevent the attack, and that the injured party was wounded as a result.
Specifically, in Marshall v. Ranne, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that victims of dog bite injuries can recover damages for their injuries if the dog owner acted negligently. Victims must prove the following four elements to establish negligence in dog bite cases:
- The defendant owned or possessed the dog.
- The defendant owed a duty of reasonable care to prevent the dog from harming others.
- The defendant breached this duty of care.
- The breach of duty led to the plaintiff’s injury.
Texas Strict Liability
Although the negligence rule pertains to most Texas dog bite cases, in some instances the state applies a rule of strict liability. A dog that’s bitten a person in the past can be classified as dangerous even if the bite didn’t cause serious harm. If a dog is known to be vicious, dangerous, or mischievous, and if the bite in question is a result of the known nature of the dog, then the injured party is not required to also prove that the dog owner failed to implement reasonable care to control or restrain the animal. In such a case, the injured party should recover damages upon demonstrating that the dog was known to be dangerous.
Animal Control Violations
Dog owners who violate animal control regulations may be found negligent if their violation leads to a dog bite injury. For example, dog owners who tie up their dogs and leave them unattended may be liable for any injuries caused by their dogs. This scenario often unfolds when a dog owner ties up a dog in close proximity to a school, a child approaches the dog, and the dog bites the child.
Failure to Stop a Dog Attack
Dog owners and other bystanders may also be held liable for a dog bite if they do not take reasonable steps to stop a dog attack once it begins. Importantly, individuals who fail to prevent a dog bite can be found liable regardless of the state’s one bite rule and general requirement of negligence.
San Antonio’s Leash Law
The City of San Antonio has an animal code that states all dogs must be confined to their owner’s property at all times except when on a leash. Furthermore, Animal Care Officers are authorized to enter unenclosed private yards to impound animals that aren’t restrained. If an unleashed animal causes a bite, the owner may be found liable because of a safety law violation.
The City of San Antonio’s Investigation Process for Dog Bites
If a dog bit you or your child and you live in San Antonio, you need to report the incident to the city or have your lawyer assist you in reporting. Reporting the incident requires a sworn affidavit of complaint that includes a description of the incident, the date, the location, the dog owner’s information, and a description of the dog. Once the police have received the complaint, they will investigate the incident and may even order the immediate seizure and impound of the dog. If authorities determine that the dog is dangerous, they won’t release it to the owner until he or she demonstrates the ability to comply with San Antonio’s legal requirements for dangerous dogs.
What Types of Damages Might You Recover from a Dog Bite Injury?
A dog bite injury might entitle you to recover the following damages:
- Medical costs, including bills for ambulance services, hospitalizations, prescription medication, and reconstructive surgery, if applicable
- Future medical costs, especially if you require multiple surgeries due to scarring and disfigurement
- Lost wages for time missed from work
- Lost earning capacity in the event of a permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
Contact Our Dog Bite Lawyer in San Antonio
Dog bites can be very dangerous and are often traumatic. If you or your child was injured by a dog bite, first obtain immediate medical attention, then consult with a knowledgeable San Antonio dog bite attorney at the Law Offices of George Salinas. Our attorneys have experience representing people who suffered dog bites and injuries resulting from other acts of canine aggression.
Dog bites can lead to serious, painful injuries that necessitate ongoing medical treatment, and these personal injury claims can be difficult to pursue. Your claim and your rights matter, however, and you deserve rightful compensation. If you work with us, your lawyer will investigate your case, interview witnesses, and guide you through the complex legal process. Call us today at (210) 225-0909, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation.