If you're a Texas dog owner, or you've been bitten or otherwise hurt by someone else's dog, your state's laws pertaining to dog-bite liability and lawsuits may be of interest to you. In this article, we'll cover:
Dog-bite victims shouldn't wait too long to pursue their legal options if they think they're entitled to compensation for their damages. Like every state, Texas requires victims who want to file lawsuits in civil court to do so before too much time has passed. This deadline is called the "statute of limitations."
Texas' deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit, including a dog-bite lawsuit, is two years. The clock typically starts ticking on the day the victim is injured. (Tex. Civ. Prac. and Rem. Code Code § 16.003 (2023).)
Texas dog owners can be found liable for bites and other attacks committed by their pets in two situations.
When an owner is liable under the one-bite rule. Under Texas' version of the so-called "one-bite" rule, owners of dangerous animals are presumed to be legally responsible for any damage those animals cause. An owner who should have known that their dog might hurt someone (for example, because it had previously bitten or threatened someone) is "strictly liable" for injuries their dog inflicts. "Strict liability" means a victim can recover damages without having to prove that their injuries were caused by the owner's irresponsibility. (Marshall v. Ranne, 511 S.W.2d 255 (Tex. 1974).)
When an owner is irresponsible. Even if the one-bite rule doesn't apply, a victim might still be able to sue for negligence. In a negligence lawsuit, the victim has to show that they were hurt by the owner's dog because of the owner's carelessness. (Dunnings v. Castro, 881 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. App. 1994).)
Texas dog owners have several potential defenses to a dog-bite lawsuit. These include:
Both owners and bite victims need to understand how Texas law applies to them. In addition to civil liability, owners can face criminal penalties and risk losing their dog depending on the seriousness of the incident. If you have questions about your situation, it might make sense to reach out to an attorney with experience handling cases like yours.