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:
In each state, a law called a "statute of limitations" sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit in civil court. Different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases. Most states don't have a dedicated statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits. Instead, these kinds of claims almost always fall under the umbrella of "personal injury" or "tort" cases.
The Texas personal injury statute of limitations is spelled out at Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, which says that such cases must be filed in court "not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues"—that means two years from the date of the bite or other incident in which someone else's animal harmed you, in the context of a dog bite case. If you don't get your Texas dog bite lawsuit filed before the two-year deadline passes, you'll almost certainly lose your right to hold the dog owner liable for your injuries.
Unlike in most states, Texas has no civil statute that spells out a dog owner's civil liability for damages when their animal bites or otherwise injures someone. But in a 1974 decision called Marshall v. Ranne, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state follows the "one bite rule" when it comes to personal injury liability arising from dog bites.
The term "one bite rule" is based on the idea that a dog's first bite is "free" when it comes to the owner's liability to whoever was bitten; after this first bite, the dog owner is said to be on notice of his or her dog's tendency to bite. Put another way, an owner whose dog has bitten someone in the past is more likely to be deemed negligent for failing to prevent a later bite. So, Texas's rules for a dog owner's civil liability could also be said to be based on negligence.
The legal rules laid out in the above section mean that, in order to recover damages from a dog owner (or from the dog owner's homeowner's insurance company) after an incident in which their animal injures you in Texas, you typically must show that: