What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone on My Property in Texas?

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but not all dogs are friendly. As homeowners and dog-lovers, we’d like our guests to bring their furry friends over to visit from time to time. When a guest’s dog bites someone on your property, even the most well-intentioned property owner can get into legal hot water. 

Landowner Liability for Dog Bites

In Texas, there is no statute that imposes strict liability for dog bites. Rather, Texas case law has created a “one-bite rule.” A dog gets one “free” bite before Texas law will hold the dog’s owner responsible for biting a victim. 

In Texas, you typically must prove the following in order to have a successful dog bite claim:

  • the dog’s owner knew that their dog was aggressive or had bitten someone in the past
  • the dog’s owner failed to use reasonable care to restrain the dog
  • The dog bit and injured you

If an owner’s dog bites a person, the owner would then have notice of the dog’s aggressive tendencies. If their dog bites again, the dog owner can be liable for the victim’s damages.

Landlord Liability for Dog Bites

Sometimes landowners rent their property to tenants. Generally, a landlord is not responsible for a dog bite that occurs on their property. However, a court may find that the landlord is responsible under a negligence theory of premises liability.

The victim can argue that the landlord breached their duty of care owed to the victim. For example, a landlord that knows a tenant’s dog has a history of aggression can be responsible if the dog attacks another tenant on their property. 

This is because the landlord owed his tenants a duty of care. The landlord breached the duty by not acting to prevent the attack after learning about the aggressive dog. For instance, the landlord could have asked the owner to remove the dog from the premises.

Defenses for Dog Owners and Keepers

Dog owners may have certain defenses if their dog bites someone for the second time.

Provocation

Sometimes dogs attack because the victim provokes them. A dog owner or keeper has a defense if they prove that the victim teased, tormented, or abused the dog before the attack. This is Texas’ way of recognizing that it is sometimes understandable for dogs to respond to aggression with aggression.

Trespassing

Dogs are protective, and many are trained to scare off trespassers on private property. If the dog owner or keeper can prove that the victim was trespassing at the time of the dog bite, they won’t be held liable. The key is proving that the victim was an actual trespasser and not simply a guest or a person performing a legal duty (like a mailman).

Tortfeasor

A tort is a civil wrong that causes injury or harm to another person. Examples of torts include assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and nuisances. If the victim was committing a tort at the time of the attack, then the dog owner or keeper is not responsible for the dog bite. 

Damages in Dog Bite Cases

Many homeowners’ insurance policies cover dog bite claims. However, the victim may decide to file a lawsuit. If the court finds that a landowner is responsible for a dog bite that happened on their property, it will award damages.

The court has wide discretion to award economic and non-economic damages, including past and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other emotional trauma.

You should contact an experienced dog bite lawyer for help after a dog bites you.

Your lawyer can help you explore your options for recovering compensation from the owner, including a home owner’s insurance claim or lawsuit. Contact Anderson Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.