More than 63 million households in the United States have at least one dog, making this furry, four-legged friend the most popular pet in the country. Unfortunately, dogs do not always live up to the old saying of “man’s best friend.” As Houston dog bite lawyers, we have seen time and time again how traumatic dog attacks can be.
While we cannot undo the harm that you or a loved one suffered, we can advocate for your recovery. Contact our Houston, TX office to speak directly with a personal injury attorney who has the experience and knowledge it takes to hold irresponsible dog owners accountable for their actions.
Dog Bite Statistics
Dog bites are not as rare as many dog owners believe. While we might like to believe that our beloved animals would do no harm to others, reality paints a much different picture:
- There are approximately 5 million dog bites every year
- Children between the ages of 5 and 9 make up half of all dog bite victims
- 20% of all dog bite attacks are so severe they require emergency medical attention
- Texas leads the country in the occurrence of fatal dog attacks
- Households with two or more dogs are five times more likely to be involved in a dog attack
As of 2020, Texas had the third highest rate of dog bites in the entire nation. In 2018 alone, there were 922 reported dog bites in the state.
Not all dog bites are reported, though. Owners who are fearful of what may happen to their pups may refuse to disclose a bite if a family member was harmed. In other situations, victims sometimes fail to understand the severity of an aggressive dog and may not report a bite if they did not need to go to the emergency room.
Dog Bites in Houston, TX
Houston is among one of the most dangerous cities for postal workers. In 2018 there were 75 dog attacks on postal workers, more than any other city, earning it the nickname of Dog Bite Capital of America.
It is not just postal workers at risk, though. Irresponsible pet owners put everyone in Houston, TX, in danger when they fail to take accountability for their animals. Between 2011 and 2021, dogs killed five people in Houston. The victims ranged in age between 42 and 77 years of age.
Does Breed Matter?
A pit bull might be the first dog that springs to mind at the mention of a dog bite, but many experts are quick to stress that breed is not a factor in aggressive or dangerous behavior. While this might be true, human influence and preference for dogs that have naturally powerful bites puts them at the top of the list for dog breeds that bite the most:
- Pit bulls
- German shepherds
- Cocker spaniels
Texas Dog Bite Laws
Dog bite law varies from state to state, as every state has its own set of laws governing dog bites. Although Texas personal injury law does not have a specific statute that addresses the civil liability of an owner for a dog bite, there is a precedent set by the Texas Supreme Court. This is what we refer to as the one-bite rule.
The One-Bite Rule
Under the precedent set by the one-bite rule, an owner is generally not considered liable the first time their dog bites someone. In other words, dogs get one “free” bite.
The first bite proves that an owner knew their dog was dangerous or aggressive. As dog bite lawyers, we build cases off the idea of negligence, in that we work to prove that a dog had previously bitten someone and that their owner was aware.
Preventing Dog Bites
Pet owners have a responsibility to properly train and socialize their dogs to minimize the risk of an animal attack. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommend:
- Socializing your dog with other dogs and people. Proper socialization will teach your dog to feel more comfortable in a variety of situations, including high-stress circumstances that lead to animal attacks.
- Always leash your dog in public settings. This will protect both your dog and those around you.
- Attend dog training classes to ensure your dog knows how to recall, heel, and follow other commands to keep them out of harm’s way. A dog that does not return when it hears its owner call its name may be more likely to be involved in a situation that leads to a dog bite.
- Supervise dogs around children to prevent serious dog bite injuries. Young children are often unfamiliar with how to properly act around a dog, so both parents and owners should properly supervise any situation involving a dog and a child.
- Keep aggressive dogs at home when possible. If you must take a dangerous dog out, consider using a muzzle or using a leash with a warning.
Do not scream or run if you are approached by an unfamiliar dog. This type of behavior can trigger dangerous dogs and may make the situation much worse.
Experts advise staying quiet and still. Avoid making eye contact, but do your best to keep the dog within your line of sight and be aware of its location as you steadily move away.
Adults and children should also never pet or interact with a dog that is:
- In a fenced-in yard
- Injured or sick
- Playing with a toy
- Barking or growling
- Resting with puppies
Signs of aggressive dog behavior can also vary depending on the size or breed. No two dogs are alike either, so be aware of the following behaviors any time you encounter a dog:
- Flattened ears
- Ears that are forward or up
- Fur standing up on their back
- Straight or tucked tail
- Bared teeth
- Intense eye contact
- Avoiding eye contact
- Crouched stance
What To Do After a Dog Bite
Dog attack victims often struggle with what to do in the immediate aftermath of a bite. At Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm, we want anyone who has suffered a Houston dog bite injury to reach the fullest possible recovery, which is why we recommend taking the following actions.
Get Medical Help
Your first step should be to assess the extent of the dog bite injury and seek medical attention as necessary. If in doubt, go to the emergency room. The typical dog’s mouth carries a host of bacteria that can be harmful to humans, so even a seemingly minor bite may lead to a severe infection.
Going to the doctor as soon as possible is also important for documenting the attack. When we take on dog bite cases, it is our job to build a strong case that proves how you were harmed.
If you fail to seek any type of medical treatment either at the emergency room, with your primary care doctor, or at an urgent carefacility, you’ll have an uphill battle to proving your damages.
Call Local Animal Control
Texas law requires all animal bites—including bites from pet dogs—to be reported to Animal Protection at 3-1-1. Only use the number for animal control if you do not require emergency care, as all emergencies should be directed to 9-1-1.
Any pet owner involved in a dog bite case will be required to provide proof of a current rabies vaccination.
If an animal owner cannot provide proof of a current rabies vaccination or the vaccination status is otherwise unknown, Texas law then requires the dog to be placed into quarantine under the observation of a veterinarian.
Your Houston dog bite attorney can use any photographs you take to construct the strongest possible case against the negligent dog owner. We advise victims to take pictures of the following any time dog bites occur:
- The dog bite, including puncture wounds
- Other injuries sustained in the attack, including scratches from the dog’s paws
- The scene of the dog attack
- The dog or owner (only if your safety is not compromised)
Contact a Houston Dog Bite Lawyer
Victims of dog bite injuries often struggle with emotional distress after an attack. Knowing what to do next or how to secure compensation can be overwhelming when your mind is still trying to make sense of what happened. The good news is that you are not alone—Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm is here for you.
A Houston dog bite attorney from our firm can be a powerful advocate for your case. If you are unsure where to turn after suffering a serious injury because an irresponsible owner allowed their vicious dog to bite you, contact us today so that we may get started on establishing dog bite liability in your case.
Are Owners Always Responsible for Dog Bites?
Since Texas law does not have any specific statutes addressing civil liability in dog bite claims, a dog’s owner is not always responsible for paying damages. This can be disheartening to hear, as establishing dog bite liability is critical to the success of this type of personal injury claim.
If you have suffered bodily injury after being bitten by a dog, it is crucial that you work with an experienced Houston personal injury lawyer who can prove a dog owner liable in your case.
When Is a Dog Owner Responsible for a Bite?
One of the most effective ways to establish liability is to prove that a dog owner knew that their dog had previously bitten someone and was at risk for causing another animal attack. Your Texas dog bite lawyer can also prove that a dog’s owner is liable by showing that the animal was classified as a:
- Dangerous dog
- Aggressive dog
- Public nuisance dog
The above classifications are set forth by the State of Texas Health and Safety Code. Your Houston dog bite injury lawyer should be familiar with each classification and how to find information that supports your claim that you were bit by an aggressive or dangerous dog.
Was There a History of Aggressive Behavior?
A dog attack is not any less serious just because it was the first time that a dog bit a person. Victims still need help with their dog bite injuries regardless of Texas’ one-bite rule.
This is where your Houston dog bite attorney should work to do some digging into the dog’s past. It may still be possible to recover compensation even if it was the dog’s first recorded bite if you can prove a history of:
Should I File a Dog Bite Injury Claim?
For the average dog bite victim, life after an attack is never the same. The physical, psychological, and financial damages associated with most dog biting incidents are severe.
You cannot file a dog bite injury claim if you were harmed by your own dog, but you can hold another pet owner liable for the harm their animal caused.
While the decision to file dog bite cases is a deeply personal issue that should always be left up to dog bite victims, we strongly encourage anyone who has suffered an injury in a dog attack to take legal action. This type of action is meant to secure compensation necessary for a victim’s recovery while also holding a negligent dog owner responsible for their actions.
Should Dog Bite Victims Work With a Lawyer?
In most cases, it is not the dog’s owner directly paying the settlement for a dog bite case—it is their homeowner’s insurance company.
Insurance companies are large, profit-minded corporations that do not care about your lost wages or medical bills. Instead, their only goal is to minimize their own liability and to subsequently reduce or even eliminate the compensation you are owed.
The animal attack lawyers at Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm are familiar with all the tactics the insurance company uses to try to deny your claim. From dragging out negotiations to repeatedly asking for additional documentation, insurers are not above pulling dirty tricks to prevent you from receiving any type of compensation.
If a dog attacked you and you are now dealing with the repercussions on your own, reach out to a Houston, TX personal injury attorney so that the insurance company will have fewer opportunities to deny your claim.
Why Work With Our Houston Dog Bite Lawyers?
When you work with an experienced dog bite attorney, you are making a choice to align yourself with a tireless advocate who will prioritize your needs every step of the way. When dogs bite our clients, here are the steps we take to stand up to the insurance companies on their behalf:
We Investigate Your Dog Bite Claim
As experienced personal injury lawyers, we have the background required to thoroughly investigate a Texas dog bite claim. When we look into your case, we’ll draw from multiple sources, including:
- Security footage
- Eyewitness reports
- Police reports
- Proof of aggressive or dangerous dog designation under the State of Texas Health and Safety Code
- Evidence of previous bites
- Evidence of aggressive behavior
We Are Sensitive to the Situation
Many victims of dog attacks are also owners and lovers of dogs. We understand that most of our clients do not wish to demonize all dogs, and are instead seeking compensation for things like medical care as allowed by dog bite laws. This situation can be particularly complex for owners of pit bulls, who experience often unfair discrimination against their dogs on a regular basis.
When working with a Houston dog bite lawyer from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law firm, you can expect an advocate who is also sensitive to the mental anguish you might be dealing with as a dog owner.
We Calculate Your Damages
Recovering from dog bite injuries is an expensive undertaking. Simply seeking medical care at the emergency room can yield hundreds if not thousands of dollars in medical bills, and any additional interventions (including surgery) can create an impossible mountain of debt. A good dog bite lawyer should be prepared to calculate exactly how much compensation you need to fully address your injuries.
What Compensation Am I Owed After a Dog Bite?
Most victims with dog bite injuries can expect to receive compensation for their economic and noneconomic damages. Punitive damages are exceptionally rare in personal injury cases, as they are intended to punish negligent parties for particularly egregious behavior. Your personal injury lawyers will let you know which types of compensation you are eligible for if you were bitten by a dog.
Economic damages are intended to cover the financial losses associated with your injuries. In a typical case, this might include compensation for:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills, including the cost of future medical treatment
- Mental health treatment
- Home or vehicle accommodations
When your dog bite lawyer calculates your noneconomic damages, they will consider the non-financial ways that the attack impacted your life. While the impact will be different for everyone, common examples of noneconomic damages include:
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship or consortium
Speak With a Houston Dog Bite Lawyer During Your Free Consultation
Victims of dog bite injuries deserve strong representation to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve.
The support and guidance provided by a Houston dog bite lawyer from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm is unrivaled. Whether you were bit by a pit bull, chihuahua, or any breed in between, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We’ll discuss the details of your situation at length to determine your eligibility for a dog bite injury claim.