Texas is one of the leading states in the country for dog bite injuries. Unfortunately, over 30 people have been killed by dog attacks in Texas since 2005, and over two hundred more are injured every year. If you or a loved one was injured by a dog bite in Texas, it is important to understand dog bite laws and how your case might proceed. It is also important to understand how dog bites are compensated by homeowners insurance, and when insurance might not cover the injuries.
The Texas personal injury attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm help injured victims throughout the Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston areas seek compensation for their injury cases. If you or a loved one was injured by a dog bite, you might be entitled to compensation for medical bills, missed work, and pain and suffering.
Texas Dog Bite Laws
Texas’ dog bite laws were originally confusing, with various courts adopting various theories of how the case should work. Since there is no statewide law regarding dog bites, it was up to the courts to decide how the cases should be handled. When the Supreme Court of Texas heard an animal bite case (actually based on a pig, not a dog), the court established a common rule, called the “one bite rule” or the “one bite free rule.”
This rule is based on a suggested legal rule from the Restatement of Torts (a collection of judicial opinions into a suggested set of rules). That rule, Restatement (Second) of Torts § 509 holds the owner of the dog liable if it bites someone – but only if the owner had reason to know that the dog was dangerous.
This means that in order to recover for dog bite injuries, you need to prove that the dog’s owner knew the dog was dangerous. The simplest way to prove that the owner knew the dog was dangerous is to prove that the dog previously bit someone else. This is why the doctrine is called the “first bite rule” or “one bite free rule,” referring to the first bite that proves the dog is dangerous. Many times, if a dog has always been well behaved and non-violent, it is difficult for a victim to win a dog bite case. If, on the other hand, the dog has previously bitten someone or the dog is known to be aggressive and dangerous, the victim can win the case.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bite Injuries?
If you were bitten by a dog, you may be wondering who will pay for your injuries. Certainly, you may be able to sue the owner of the dog – but if the dog’s owner is in an average or lower economic state, they might not be able to afford the injuries. Luckily, there are situations where homeowners insurance can step in and pay for your injuries.
Homeowners insurance exists to help pay for injuries people receive in accidents on someone else’s property. Because the accident could cause severe injuries, it may be difficult for homeowners to pay for those injuries out of pocket unless they are quite wealthy. Homeowners insurance means someone can pay for the injuries, even if the home owner is a friend you do not want to sue.
Luckily, dog bites are usually covered by homeowners insurance. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute (III) ranks dog bites and other dog injuries as the number one cause for homeowners insurance claims. Over a third of all homeowners insurance payments are for dog-related injuries, according to the III.
Homeowners insurance usually only extends to the boundaries of someone’s property. This means that if their dog is walking down the street or on your own property, it may not be covered by their insurance. That may mean that you need to sue the dog owner in court, outside of the insurance system.
Suing the owner directly instead of going through insurance may be better for your case. When insurance pays for injuries, they often will only cover medical expenses and some lost wages. However, especially in Texas, some of the highest damages in personal injury lawsuits come from the damages for physical pain and mental suffering. Unlike medical bills and lost wages, these damages have no paperwork to prove their value. Instead, they are based on your personal experience of the pain, and can be very high awards.
Talk to an attorney before accepting any insurance payments or offers to settle, as they could be too low and may block your chance to sue in court.
Dallas Personal Injury Attorneys
The lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm may be able to help with your dog bite injury case. Our goal is to help injured victims get the compensation they need for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To see what your case might be worth and for a free consultation with our attorneys, call (817) 476-1797 today. Act fast, because your case might have strict deadlines to follow.