Texas ranks as one of the top ten states in the country for dog bites per year. With its high ranking, it’s surprising that Texas doesn’t have firmer laws on the books regarding dog bites. While Texas has no laws outlawing certain breeds of dogs, Texas does currently have in place two standards for handling dog bites and assigning liability.
Texas One-Bite Rule
Prior to 2007, one-bite rule was about the only rule that the state of Texas had regarding dog bites. Essentially, the one-bite law allowed a dog one “free” bite without consequence. However, the dog-bite victim could recover compensation from the dog owner in the case that (a) the dog had previously bitten and/or attacked a person; and (b) the dog owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive history. If neither of these standards were met, the dog owner was off the hook in terms of liability. The one-bite law is still adhered to.
In 2007, a ferocious dog attack that resulted in the death of a woman named Lillian Stiles caused lawmakers to pass a new piece of legislation known as “Lillian’s Law.” Lillian’s Law stipulates that in the case that (a) a person is attacked, but not hospitalized, the dog owner faces misdemeanor charges; (b) if severe injury results from the attack, the dog owner may face a third degree felony charge, serve up to ten years in prison, and pay up to a $10,000 dollar fine; and (c) if the dog-attack victim dies, the dog owner may be charged with a second degree felony, and serve up to twenty years in prison.
Felony charges, however, are conditional on the terms that (a) the injuries to the dog-bite victim are fatal or cause serious impairment and (b) that negligence against the owner is proved.
As such, Lillian’s Law has a loophole that makes it very similar to the one-bite rule: criminal culpability on the defendant’s part must be proven by establishing that the dog owner was aware of risk prior to the attack and acted negligently. Additionally, Lillian’s Law offers no protections in the form of compensation to victims of dog bites.
So Who’s Liable?
Essentially, until a dog attacks a second victim and negligence can be proven, the dog’s owner is protected from liability. If a dog bites someone because its owner was violating animal control law, then the dog owner may be liable. However, in cases of people reaching through fences, intruding onto someone’s property, or provoking an animal, the victim is responsible. Even if the dog is loose or unleashed, the owner is not to blame unless one-bite and Lillian’s conditions are satisfied.
Seek Legal Help Today
Obviously, if you have been bitten by a dog, the first step you should take is to seek medical treatment immediately. After this though, it is important that you speak to a skilled Dallas dog bite attorney for help. We can help you navigate the complex dog bite laws in Texas, and assist you in securing the damages to which you are entitled. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.