Dog Bites under Texas Law
In the state of Texas dog bite law follows the "one bite rule." This means that owners are not responsible first time a dog bites someone.
However, if the dog has bitten anyone before or the owner knows the dog has the potential to bite someone the victim can sue for damages. A victim may also be able to sue for damages if they can show that the owner violated animal control law or if the accident is caused by the owners negligence.
Sometimes, even though a dog owner cannot be sued for damages the dog owner can still be held criminally responsible, charged with a third-degree felony if the dog causes serious bodily injury to the victim in an unprovoked attack. The punishment for this third-degree felony can be from 2 to 10 years in prison, and include up to a $10,000 fine.
If a person dies because of an unprovoked dog attack the dog owner can be charged with a second-degree felony that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Under Texas liability law a dog owner may be forced to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages and possibly compensate you for permanent disfigurement or disability.
Failure to stop an attack in progress is also actionable. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that an owner may be held liable even if the requirements of the one bite rule or negligence cannot be established.
Landlords and landowners can be held liable for failing to remove dangerous dogs from a premises. The landlord or landowner has a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep common areas safe for the use tenants and guests.
Under a statute known as Lillian's law the owner of a loose dog that causes a person's injury or death may face criminal penalties including jail if he or she is found criminally negligent in failing to prevent the dog's escape. If the person injured does not need hospitalization the owner may be charged with a misdemeanor. If the injury is severe the owner may be charged with a third-degree felony potentially serving 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the attack is fatal the owner may be charged with a second-degree felony and serve up to 20 years in prison.
Lillian's law defines a dangerous dog as a dog that has previously injured someone in an unprovoked attack outside of a structure meant for its confinement, or has committed unprovoked acts outside its enclosure that would cause a person to reason believe the dog is capable of attacking and causing injury.
If a dog causes serious injury or death of a person a municipal or county court can order seizure of the dog by warrant. Once a dog has been seized the must be housing humane conditions until a court decides it's disposition.
John Q. Lawyer
Attorney at Law
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