Although your dog is loyal and affectionate towards you, these same traits could heighten its instinct to guard you when it perceives a threat. People can use force, even deadly force, to stand their ground and defend themselves in Texas if they reasonably believe it is necessary. But do the same rules apply to your dog? The regulations governing liability in dog bite cases are a bit more complex.
You might think that if your dog has never shown aggression, you are free from liability. Your dog was defending you against a stranger, which is an isolated case. Therefore, neither you nor your dog is at fault for the injuries. However, this does not always hold true. The person your dog bit might press charges. They become the plaintiff, and you must assume the role of the defendant.
Defending yourself against dog bite personal injury claims
In its approach to dog bite liability, Texas laws blend the “one bite rule” with considerations of negligence and the owner’s knowledge. Dog owners must be aware of the vital affirmative defenses they can use in response to personal injury claims arising from dog bites. Here are some possible defenses:
- Lack of Knowledge: Under the “one bite rule” in Texas, a plaintiff may not hold a dog owner liable for a dog bite if the owner had no prior knowledge that the dog had the propensity to bite or act aggressively. An owner cannot be responsible for an animal’s unforeseen actions.
- Trespassing: If the injured party was unlawfully on the property where the bite occurred, the dog owner could use it as a defense. Texas law generally does not favor trespassers, and owners may not be liable if the bite occurred during an act of trespassing.
- Provocation: If the plaintiff provoked your dog, they might be unable to hold you liable for the bite. Provocation can include taunting, hitting or harassing the dog, and if the plaintiff’s actions led to the bite, it could be a valid defense.
- Assumption of risk: If the injured party were fully aware that the dog could bite but still chose to interact with the dog, the defense may argue that they assumed the risk of injury. The assumption might apply to veterinarians, dog groomers or dog trainers who work with dogs as part of their profession.
Remember, personal injury claims, including dog bites, are subject to a statute of limitations. In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury is two years from the date of the injury. If your dog bit someone a long time ago and they only recently decided to file a claim, it could be too late.
The role of contributory negligence in claims involving dog bites
Under certain circumstances, the defense could also argue that the injured party’s negligence contributed to the incident. If the plaintiff’s carelessness played a role in their own injury, it could reduce or negate the defendant’s liability.
When facing a dog bite claim in Texas, understanding liability and taking a proactive stance can put you in a position of strength should the worst happen.