Dog Bite Cases and Negligence – Texas’ “One Bite Rule.” In Texas, more than half of the population owns at least one pet. Dogs make up 43% of pets owned by Texans, and some of the most popular breeds are Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and finally mixed dogs (commonly referred to as “mutts”).
Although dogs make great pets, some breeds may be more susceptible to displaying a poor temperament and aggressive behavior than others. Texas was among the highest-ranked states in the nation for dog bite claims in 2019 with an average payout of over $40,000 and a total of 937 claims.
While the chances of being seriously injured from a dog attack are low on average, some cases have been truly horrifying–which is why it’s important to know your legal options when filing for damages sustained during a dog attack.
Proving Negligence – A Good Dog had a Bad Day?
In dog bite cases, Texas’ “One Bite Rule” states that the person or persons attacked have the right to recover compensation if the dog has displayed aggressive behavior in the past or bitten another person. For a dog bite victim to receive payment, these conditions must be met, as well as the following:
- You have to prove the dog’s owner knew or should have known that the dog had bitten someone in the past
- You have to prove the dog’s owner knew or should have known that the dog had acted aggressively towards another person in the past
- You have to prove the dog’s owner was negligent (failed to use ordinary care) in preventing the bite and controlling the dog
- You have to prove this negligence directly caused the victim’s injuries
In many dog bite cases, the owners responsible for the dog may have had no idea their dog was dangerous or capable of seriously injuring someone in an attack.
The reasons dogs bite people can range from feeling scared and anxious to getting carried away during playtime; an otherwise good dog may attack someone if they’re caught in a bad mood. Additionally, dogs that have a history of mistreatment or abuse can be extra sensitive and defensive around strangers, which is why their owners don’t see the signs of aggression until it’s too late.
Oscar, the bad dog had a bad day
Most cases demonstrate clear neglect from the owners, however, like in the case of Jennifer Duggin. Duggin was a 42-year-old mother of two children who worked as a special education teacher. She loved riding and taking care of horses and had an interest in raising sheep and pigs for livestock competitions.
Unfortunately, Jennifer was the victim of a dog attack in 2017 that left her unable to enjoy her hobbies and passions. She was bitten by a neighbor’s dog and the resulting puncture wound was so deep that it never healed properly, leaving her with permanent damage to her veins and recurring swelling accompanied by severe pain.
While the owners of the dog initially agreed to pay her medical bills, they quickly recanted the offer after seeing just how badly she’d been hurt and the associated cost. Thankfully, Duggin was able to retain counsel and take legal action.
The dog, named Oscar, had been owned by Timothy and Paula Turner. The Turners routinely let Oscar out of their property to roam freely in the neighborhood despite the fact that he was an aggressive and temperamental dog.
Oscar was a blue heeler mix, also referred to as an Australian Cattle Dog. These dogs are incredibly active and energetic and require plenty of exercise, attention, and companionship, but the Turners had other plans in mind for Oscar. Timothy would try to “train” Oscar to bite people on command, using his own children as practice targets. He had also allegedly bragged about using Oscar to win “bar fights,” and would routinely get drunk and “sic” the dog on his stepson.
Paula and Timothy had known for years that Oscar and their other dogs would dig holes in their fence to roam the neighborhood and they had multiple calls, visits, and warnings from neighbors that their dogs had been aggressively trespassing on other properties in the neighborhood. The Turners denied and ignored these complaints and as a result of their negligence, Jennifer Duggin received life-altering injuries.
Thankfully, Duggin and her legal representation were able to prove that the Turners demonstrated neglect in their ownership of Oscar. Duggin was awarded a total of over $700,000 in damages for the injuries sustained in this attack.
The Legal Aspect
In dog bite cases Texas is considered a “one bite rule” state. This means that the owner can be held strictly liable for a dog known to be dangerous, but if the dog hasn’t bitten anyone before, the claimant must prove that the dog was dangerous before they can claim financial compensation. Texas dog attack cases don’t have civil statutes associated with them–rather, they have associated criminal statutes as the owner may be held criminally liable if they were criminally negligent or had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous behavior.
Injuries from dog attacks can be life-altering or possibly even fatal, and should be treated by a medical professional as quickly as possible. If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt in a dog attack, give the Dr. Shezad Malik Law Offices a call at 214-390-3189 and we’ll get you started on your road to peace of mind and fair compensation.
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