Steps to Take after a Dog Bite
If you have been injured by a dog, there are several important steps to take after the attack has ended. First, obtain the names and contact information for the dog owner and any witnesses who observed the attack. Second, take pictures of the dog and your wounds. It is not uncommon for dog owners to attempt to claim a different dog attacked the victim. You will also want to keep evidence of what your wounds looked like prior to receiving medical treatment. Third, seek medical attention. Even if the wound is not severe, you may need a rabies and tetanus shot. When you receive medical attention, do not lie on behalf of the dog owner and claim you do not know who owns the dog. This statement may be used against you by the dog owner’s insurance company if you seek compensation later. Fourth, contact an attorney that has experience handling dog bite claims. An insurance adjuster will likely attempt to settle with you for less than what your claim is worth.
Medical Treatment for a Dog Bite
Approximately 800,000 people seek medical care for dog bites every year. Medical treatment for dog bites varies depending on the severity of the injury. The most common injury from a dog bite is a puncture wound with some scarring. A medical professional will clean the wound and administer a tetanus shot and/or rabies shot depending upon when the victim last received a tetanus shot and the vaccination history of the dog. Most puncture wounds are not stitched because of an increased risk of infection. However, if the wound is very deep, the doctor may have to stitch the wound to stop bleeding.
More severe dog bite injuries include torn muscles, broken bones, lost appendages, deformity, nerve damage, and even death. When these sad situations occur, the victim undergoes surgery, rehabilitation, and other medical procedures. At the O’Hara Law Firm, our team has represented dog bite victims placed in intensive care and who have undergone multiple surgeries as a result of dog attacks. We have helped dog bite victims find medical providers for treatment.
Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bite injuries include more than just medical bills for medical treatment. Dog bite victims often have claims for lost wages, physical pain and suffering, disfigurement, impairment, and emotional distress. After medical treatment has concluded, the victim often has a permanent scar that serves as a painful reminder of the experience. Often, the medical bills are only a small portion of the claimant’s damages.
Most Common Dog Bite Victims
Children and the elderly are the most common victims of dog attacks. The rate of dog bite attacks on children is highest between the ages of five and nine. Children often have future medical needs as a result of dog attacks. Often, children will need future cosmetic surgery to reduce scarring or disfigurement. Our team helps parents understand the care their child may need in regard to future medical treatment. We can also help you find a medical provider if you have difficulty locating a medical provider that will treat you or your child.
Postal workers are often attacked by dogs as well because of the nature of their work.
Who is Responsible for a Dog Bite?
The dog owner is the first person that most people think of when considering who is responsible for a dog attack. If the dog owner was negligent or violated a leash law or ordinance, the owner has responsibility for the attack. If the owner knew the dog was aggressive prior to the attack, he is liable for the attack. However, depending upon the circumstances, the dog owner may not be the only person liable for the dog bite. Landlords, property owners, homeowner associations, and other entities may be liable for an attack if they were negligent or had prior knowledge about the dangerous nature of the dog.
Our attorneys will answer questions you may have regarding responsibility and the judicial system. Texas Dog Bite Laws
COMMON LAW – FIRST BITE IS FREE
Texas follows the common law principle that a victim of a dog bite may recover compensation from the owner or keeper of a dog if: (1) the dog previously bit a person or showed aggression towards a person; and (2) the owner or keeper of the dog was aware of the dog’s conduct prior to biting the victim. This doctrine is grounds for recovery if both elements are met.
A victim may also pursue a claim against an owner or handler of a dog if the person was negligent, failed to use ordinary care. Even if the dog has never bitten before, an owner may be found responsible for the attack if the dog owner was negligent. An example of negligent behavior would be allowing a newly adopted dog to play with young children unsupervised. Under a negligence theory, it is not necessary to prove that the dog bit someone else in the past or exhibited aggressive behavior.
Texas Health and Safety Code have government procedures for declaring a dog a “dangerous dog.” A “dangerous dog” is a dog that makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept. If a dog is declared a “dangerous dog,” the owner must carry $100,000 of liability insurance, and it is easy for a victim to prove liability if the dog was already declared dangerous before the attack.
Counties and cities across Texas have their own laws regarding restraining and leashing pets. If a dog is unrestrained and bites someone in a jurisdiction that requires a dog to be leashed, the victim may sue the dog owner or person in charge of the dog under the theory of negligence per se. The dog owner violated a Texas statute that was designed to prevent harm to citizens from dogs roaming unrestrained.
Most Dangerous Breeds
All breeds of dogs bite. However, some breeds are more prone to aggression than others. A Chihuahua is just as likely to attack you and your dog as a Pit Bull. However, Pit Bulls are considered more dangerous than Chihuahuas because they often inflict more damage when they attack due to their large size. The breeds that are most prone to bite and inflict serious injury are Rottweilers, Wolf-hybrids and Pit Bulls. There are other factors that increase the risk of attack besides breed.
An unneutered male dog is six times as likely to attack as a neutered male. Socialization and training play a large part in determining whether a dog will exhibit aggressive behavior.
Defenses a Defendant may Assert to a Dog Bite Claim
Many dog owners will claim that they were not aware that the dog was aggressive prior to the dog attacking the victim. If the dog owner was not aware that the dog was dangerous or aggressive prior to the attack, an element of the strict liability claim is not met. However, the victim still may assert negligence against the dog owner.
Trespassing is a defense to dog bite claims. Owners are permitted to have a guard dog protect their property from criminals and trespassers. The dog still would need to be restrained on the property. This defense is invalid if the person attacked was permitted on the property.
Another common defense is that the dog was provoked by the person bit. If someone is antagonizing the dog or attempting to hurt it, a jury will likely hold the person bit responsible for the dog’s behavior. However, this defense does not work well if a child is bit because a child may not understand or know better. The dog owner should not allow a child to interact with the dog unsupervised.
How to Prevent a Dog Bite
There are several simple rules that one should follow in order to reduce the risk of a dog attack.
- Always ask for permission before petting someone else’s dog.
- When approached by an unfamiliar dog, do not run. Tell the dog “go home” in a strong voice.
- Do not disturb a dog while it is sleeping or caring for puppies.
- Do not allow small children to play with a dog unsupervised.
Learn more about dog bites by clicking the links below: