Dog Bite Lawyer
Houston Attorneys Fighting for Dog Attack Victims
A dog bite lawyer fights for your rights when a negligent dog owner allows his dog to harm an innocent victim. There are different laws across the United States that dictate whether a dog owner is liable for an attack by a dog. Texas has some of the worst. If you are attacked by a dog through no fault of your own, call a Houston dog bite lawyer at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., Injury & Accident Lawyers to learn your rights today. We have helped hundreds of dog bite victims recover following a dog attack. Call us at 1-800-298-0111.
If you have been bitten by a dog, before doing anything else, you should read this: What Should I Do After a Dog Attack?
Why Hire Us
There are many attorneys to choose from when you are injured. So ask yourself what you want from your dog bite lawyer.
- Our attorneys have handled hundreds of dog bite cases.
- Attorney Paul H. Cannon has taught three continuing legal education courses on the subject of handling dog bite cases nationwide and has been interviewed on TV about dog bite law.
- We understand the differences between the One Bite Rule, Strict Liability, and Negligence claims and when they apply.
- Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., has over a 40-year track record of fighting for injured victims.
Do I Need to Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer?
An experienced lawyer is often critical in establishing and proving the facts required to hold a dog owner liable in Texas. You need to hire an attorney experienced in dog bites, who has experience handling dog bite cases. These cases can be tricky for an inexperienced attorney because:
- the laws are not in one central location so finding the applicable law takes some research, and;
- determining who is responsible and whether there is coverage can be difficult.
What Does a Houston Dog Bite Attorney Cost?
Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. You pay nothing upfront and we do not charge any attorney’s fee unless we win your case. This is true even if we have to travel to Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, or any of the many cities in Texas where we represent dog bite victims.
Dog Bite Statistics
According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite over 4.7 million victims every year in the United States with roughly 800,000 people having to seek medical attention. Of those, roughly half of them are children. 386,000 require treatment in an emergency room. Postal workers nationwide accounted for over 5,800 victims of dog bites in both 2019 and 2020 according to the USPS annual dog bite report. Texas was at the top of the list with 73 postal workers bitten by dogs. When this happens to you, a dog bite attorney can help.
Finding the Law and Dog Bite Legislation
Dog and pet owner liability law has been a constantly evolving and changing area. The traditional rule of the Common Law known as the “One Free Bite Rule” or “One Bite Rule” for short, was based on premises liability. It is still the primary manner of holding negligent dog owners responsible in the State of Texas as well as 17 other States. Most major cities and many smaller ones as well, however, have enacted more strict ordinances such as dangerous dog codes or leash laws which place a higher burden of care on the dog owner. There is also a statewide law now, known as “Lillian’s Law” that creates criminal responsibility in certain circumstances when a dog owner allows a known dangerous dog to run at large. 32 States have enacted strict liability statutes for dog bites.
If you have been injured due to an attack by someone else’s animal, you need a dog bite lawyer who knows how to research the correct laws for your area and apply them to your advantage.
What is the One Bite Rule?
The One Bite Rule is a rule of law used by many states that hold dog owners liable for their dog’s aggressive acts only after the owner has been given reason to know that the dog has abnormal vicious tendencies. Because the owner typically will not admit to knowing their dog is vicious before the bite in question occurred, you need to locate evidence of a prior bite to prove that a reasonable dog owner would have recognized the risk. Since there is often no way to prove knowledge existed before the dog’s first bite, the first bite is basically free for the dog owner.
Origins of the One Bite Rule
Under traditional Common Law, the liability of a landowner for an animal attack arose out of premises liability. If a landowner was aware of a dangerous condition on his property—including a dog—he had a duty to protect and/or warn certain persons of the danger. This is called the “One Free Bite Rule” or “One Bite Rule” for short. Until a dog displays hostile behavior toward a person, the owner was basically relieved of responsibility if he attacked someone unprovoked. Once the dog had attacked someone, the owner became charged with the knowledge, and a duty to protect or warn arose.
The One Bite Rule In Texas
This law is still in effect in many states like Texas. Because the burden of proving knowledge can be very difficult, this is the hardest way to make a case against an irresponsible pet owner. In order to prove a case, you must generally find evidence of prior attacks or aggressive behavior. Contacting the local animal control department is one resource we use to research prior attacks and bites by a pet. Often people who live in the neighborhood will have knowledge of other times the dog has escaped and attacked people or displayed aggression.
Witness interviews can be critical early on before the events fade or persons with knowledge move away. It is important that you have a Houston dog bite attorney with the resources and knowledge to do the proper investigation.
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State Of Texas Dangerous Dog Law
The Texas Health and Safety Code sets forth the minimum laws that must be followed in Title 10 Chapter 822. These regulations pertain only to “dangerous dogs.” A “dangerous dog” is defined as a dog that has made an unprovoked attack on a person causing bodily injury in a place other than a qualified enclosure, or; the dog commits unprovoked acts other than from inside a qualified enclosure and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person. Texas Health and Safety Code 822.041(2). Once an owner learns the dog is dangerous, he is required to register the dog with animal control and restrain the dog at all times. Failure to do so can result in both civil and criminal responsibility. Texas Health and Safety Code 822.044.
The Texas law contains a glaring flaw. If the owner has no knowledge of a prior attack or qualifying acts of aggressiveness that make someone perceive an attack as likely, the law simply does not apply. Thus, a person can keep any type of dog he likes on his property and he can claim a lack of knowledge that the dog was aggressive or had attacked anyone. This is true even if the dog is a pit bull trained as a fighting dog fight. Furthermore, since the law only applies to “dangerous dogs,” there is no proactive restraint requirement imposed upon dogs that have not yet attacked anyone. The State law is effectively just a codification of the State common law One Free Bite Rule.
The Texas Health and Safety Code allows municipalities and counties to enact their own more stringent dog laws, however, it prohibits the enactment of laws that are breed-specific laws. Thus, a law stating that pit bull owners or rottweiler owners are charged with knowledge that their dog is dangerous by virtue of its breed would be prohibited.
What are Dangerous Dog Laws?
Dangerous dog laws are ordinances and codes that give the government more power to deal with potentially dangerous animals. The State of Texas, as well as several municipalities and counties, have adopted more stringent requirements for dogs with a bite history. They typically give animal control departments the power to register, remove, and put down dogs that have shown aggression.
What Are Leash Laws?
Leash laws are laws created by municipalities to prevent dogs from running at large. Depending on the city, the leash law may be as strict as to impose absolute responsibility on the dog owner if the animal is off a leash anywhere except an enclosed space or as flexible as to only recognize a violation where the owner knowingly allows the dog to run at large. These laws may, in some cases, give an injured person another way to hold an irresponsible pet owner responsible.
Hiring a skilled Texas dog bite attorney who knows how to find and apply these municipal codes and ordinances can make the difference between winning and losing your case.
What is Lillian’s Law?
Lillian’s law is a law that was enacted to stiffen the criminal penalties (i.e. more jail time) for persons found criminally negligent when their dog attacks someone resulting in serious injury or death. Lillian’s law is named after Lillian Stiles, a 76-year-old woman who was mauled to death by a pack of pitbull/rottweiler mixes that escaped from a 3-foot high fence in her neighbor down the street’s yard came onto her property and attacked her while she was mowing the yard. Jose Hernandez, the dogs’ owner, was indicted for criminally negligent homicide. The jury found him not guilty. This law only applies to dogs running at large and requires a very high burden of proof and the prosecutor must show the owner should have been aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that someone would be seriously injured or killed by his dog. The full text of the law is found here.
Lillian’s Law becomes important when the owner is convicted by the State under this law. It is a felony. Evidence of this conviction can go a long way not only towards proving negligence but also towards establishing punitive damages against a grossly negligent or reckless animal owner. An trial attorney knows how to use these convictions to your advantage in your case for civil damages and personal injuries caused by a dog attack.
What is Negligent Handling of a Dog?
Negligent handling of a dog is the failure to prevent a dog that is not abnormally dangerous from biting when facts arise that should make a responsible dog owner aware that the dog is likely to attack. Some examples of this are tethering a dog around unknown people or allowing strangers around a dog that has recently given birth.
A cause of action for negligent handling of a dog is based upon the Restatement of Torts 518 which states:
“Except for animal trespass, one who possesses or harbors a domestic animal that he does not know or have reason to know to be abnormally dangerous, is subject to liability for harm done by the animal if, but only if he is negligent in failing to prevent the harm.”
The Restatement of Torts is not a law in and of itself, but merely a statement of legal principles that have been accepted by some courts. However, Texas Courts have used this to define a cause of action for the negligent handling of a dog. The elements of a Negligent handling claim are:
- The defendant was the owner or possessor of the animal.
- The defendant owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent the animal from injuring others.
- The defendant breached his duty.
- The defendant’s breach was a proximate cause of injury.
Even if the one-bite rule does not apply, the owner may be liable under a negligent handling cause of action after a dog attack. The key in these cases is that something must trigger a duty to act that would not otherwise be there. For example, if a dog is injured or nursing pups, one should know better than to send a stranger out in the yard with it. Because of these circumstances, a dog owner should be on alert that even a dog that has not shown any vicious propensities abnormal to its class, might become aggressive toward a stranger invading the dog’s space. Another example: A person who has a large dog that he knows jumps up on everyone it meets ought to be on notice not to let the dog run free in a retirement community. Allowing such a dog to do so, even those these are not vicious tendencies could give rise to a negligent handling claim. Thus, it is worth contacting a dog attack lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Common Injuries from Dog Attacks
Dog attacks can result in severe and permanent injuries, particularly when the dog involved is powerful and/or has been trained to fight or attack people. Some of the injuries commonly suffered as a result of a dog bite include:
- Broken Bones
- Injury to the eyes (dogs often go for the face or throat)
- Amputation of fingers or toes
Any attack can be not just physically but also emotionally scarring.
Types Of Dog Attacks
We handle all types of dog attacks including:
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Doberman Pinschers
- Great Danes
- Pit Bulls
- Chow Chows
- Presa Canarios
- Other Breeds
Contact Our Experienced Dog Bite Lawyers
At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., we appreciate that we are living in the midst of very difficult economic times. Moreover, we understand that your own financial situation may have become more complex and challenging as a result of being the victim of some sort of animal attack. Therefore, we never charge a fee unless and until we obtain a judgment or settlement on your behalf. Don’t be a victim any longer. Call us today for a free consultation with a lawyer who is skilled in dog bites, the laws, and able to fight for your rights with the goal of obtaining the recovery you deserve under the law. The initial consultation with a lawyer is free and you pay nothing unless we win your case.
- Dog Bite Ordinances for Southeast Texas
- How to declare a dog dangerous in Houston
- Katy Municipal Codes relevant to dog bite law
- Tomball leash laws may help to make up for inadequacies in Texas dog attack laws.
- Sample Open Records Request for dog bite incident reports.
- Insurance issues in Texas dog bite cases.
- What recourse do I have if another dog attacks and injures my dog?
- Can homeowner’s insurance refuse to cover dog bites?
- What if your child is bitten by a dog.
Animal Control Numbers
Aggressive dogs in the possession of irresponsible dog owners pose a serious threat to the public. If you are attacked by an aggressive dog, be sure to find your local animal control and report the incident so that a record of the attack is documented. Here are several of the area animal controls’ contact information:
- Houston area animal control phone numbers.
- Katy area animal control phone numbers.
- Galveston area animal control phone numbers.
- Montgomery County animal control numbers.
- Austin area animal control phone numbers.
- Dallas area animal control phone numbers.
- Fort Worth area animal control phone numbers.
- San Antonio area animal control phone numbers.
Actual Client Review
Review: 5/5 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ” Simmons and Fletcher was a very nice and friendly law firm from the moment I went in for my initial consult. A big thank you to all of them for hearing me out and agreeing to take on my claim. The process was easy and painless. Alicia did a magnificent job at keeping me updated regarding my case. Simmons and Fletcher comes highly recommended by me.” – Irma G., an actual client.