McAllen Dog Bite Lawyers

Dog Bite Injury Attorneys in McAllen, TX

Dogs bite about four to five million people in America every year, with about 800,000 Americans seeking medical attention for dog bite injuries. Annually, people spend more than $200 million treating dog bite injuries in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found dog bites to be a more common health problem for children than bike accident injuries, playground injuries, or skateboarding injuries.

And that’s just the numbers. An animal attack can leave people permanently disfigured. Stronger dog breeds can crush the bones of the hands, limbs, and even the face, requiring orthopedic and plastic surgery to correct. A dog bite can leave victims with PTSD and social anxiety and a lifetime of psychological therapy to address.

If this happened to you or your child, you may not know how to pay for all of the damage.

That’s when you need to call the McAllen dog bite lawyers at Patino Injury and Accident Attorneys for help. We know how to help people just like you—it’s our job. We want to hear your story, evaluate your McAllen dog bite case, and see if we can help you, too. Call us today.

Dog Bite Injuries in McAllen, Texas

As of 2020, 63.4 million American households own dogs. In Texas alone, 43.4 percent of households own a dog. Dogs are “man’s best friend,” but they can also be dangerous. Dog bites can cause physical harm and emotional distress to victims.

Dog bites are most likely to seriously injure young children.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Texas ranks second in the United States for having the highest dog population, at 7.7 million dogs. Over 4 million households in Texas own dogs, with an average number of dogs per household of 1.7.

Texas also sees the most incidences of fatal dog attacks. From 2005 to 2020, Texas had 67 fatalities from dog attacks. A report analyzing dog bite fatalities in Texas from 2005 to 2013 found that 68 percent of the victims were children ages 11-years-old and younger. Of this group, 52 percent were ages two and younger. Pit bulls were responsible for 76 percent of total recorded dog attack deaths.

If you click here, you’ll find a map that shows every location of a fatal pit bull mauling in Texas from 2005 to the present. In 2008, a local judge in Hidalgo County stated that pit bulls were a “serious problem” after several deaths and injuries. In 2019, Texas saw the third-highest number of dog bite claims in the country, with 937 claims total.

The average cost per claim was $40,853.70, and the total claim payout was $38.28 million, making dog bites and attacks not only serious but expensive.

What to Know to Stay Safe: What Causes a Dog to Bite?

Recognizing why dogs bite can help you avoid situations where you’re likely to get bit. The vast majority of dog bite injuries happen in regular social settings while people are engaged in ordinary activities. Dogs bite for a variety of reasons that can be difficult to predict. The AVMA states dogs mostly commonly bite as a reaction to something.

Dogs may bite in the following scenarios:

Because they feel threatened

To defend themselves or their territory

Because they are scared or have been startled

To protect something valuable to them (i.e., their puppies, food, or toys)

Because they are sick or sore due to injury

Because they want to be left alone

When they are playing

Safety Around Dogs

Dogs might nip and bite during play, which can be fun for the dog but dangerous for people. It’s best to avoid wrestling or playing tug-of-war with any dog.

Because dogs can bite to protect what they perceive to be theirs, avoid walking on an unfamiliar homeowner’s property. Try not to disturb a dog’s resting place or withhold toys/property even if you feel it’s innocent or playful. A dog might not share the same sentiment.

Sneaking up behind a dog can easily startle the dog to react by biting. It’s always best to approach a dog slowly and cautiously, making sure the dog is aware of you.

While it’s always smart to avoid stray dogs, most dog bite injuries in the U.S. happen by pets. Family or domesticated dogs living in people’s neighborhoods inflict three out of every five dog bites. Additionally, in Texas, between 2005 and 2013, family dogs caused 53 percent of all fatal attacks, and 88 percent of all fatal attacks happened on the dog owner’s property.

In McAllen, it’s illegal for any dog to run at large. Therefore, it’s unlikely for you to encounter dogs within McAllen city limits that are not on a leash. This restriction, though, does not apply when the dog is on the owner’s property.

Types of Dog Bite Injuries

Any dog, regardless of shape or size, has the capability of causing harm due to its sharp teeth. In severe cases, a dog bite that deeply penetrates the skin can cause muscle and deep tissue damage that may require surgery.

A dog bite can cause the following types of injuries:

Abrasions

Laceration

Punctures

Bone Fractures

Crushing injuries

Avulsion (tissue loss)

Infections (e.g., rabies, tetanus, etc.)

Scarring

Nerve damage

Sprain and strain injuries

Psychological injuries can also come from the stress and shock of the victim’s physical injuries and the event’s trauma.

Veterinarians define several categories of dog bites in increasing severity:

Pre-bite

Near bite

Shallow puncture

Multiple shallow punctures

Deep puncture

Death

What to Do if a Dog in McAllen Bites You

Here’s a list of five steps to take if you find yourself the victim of a dog bite injury in McAllen:

  1. First and foremost, take care of the injury. Immediately clean your wounds with soap and warm water to mitigate diseases the dog may carry.
  2. Second, try your best to keep the animal in sight. Find the owner and obtain their contact information. If you can, verify the owner’s information by their photo ID. If it is safe to do so, take pictures of the scene itself and your injuries. Remember as much as you can about how and where the incident occurred.
  3. Third, you should seek medical attention to receive proper treatment and make sure that you are up-to-date on your tetanus shots. Your doctor can mend your wounds and treat infections while documenting the injury, the treatment given, and any costs associated with your care. Your well-documented medical information will prove valuable if you decide to press charges or file a lawsuit.
  4. Fourth, animal control officers respond to reports of dog bites. For bite emergencies, contact the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office at: (956) 383-8112.
  5. Lastly, without delay, contact our attorneys to evaluate whether you have a viable dog bite claim.

Can You Sue the Owner of the Dog?

Yes, but the process might be more difficult in Texas than in other states in the U.S. Thirty-two states across the country follow a “strict liability” law for dog bites and attacks, which holds a dog owner legally liable for injuries caused by their dog. The dog owner does not need to have firsthand knowledge of the attack, nor does the victim need to prove that negligence caused the attack, for the dog owner to be legally liable for their animal’s actions. However, the victim must show that the dog bite directly caused their injury, and they were not breaking any law at the time of the incident.

Though, Texas is one of 18 states that apply the one-bite rule to govern liability for dog bites. This rule states that the owner is only liable if they “knew or should have known about the animal’s dangerous or vicious propensities, which have been manifested in the past.” Essentially, it gives the dog one free pass if it’s the dog’s first bite. After that, the owner is reasonably aware of the dog’s propensity to biting and is likely liable for future injuries.

One Bite Rule

To claim injuries and recover monetary damages for a dog bite under the one-bite rule in McAllen, you must:

Prove that the dog has bitten or displayed aggressive behavior towards another person in the past; and

Prove that the dog’s owner knew about the dog’s prior vicious behavior.

The focus is on whether the owner knew or should have known that the dog might bite and whether the owner took reasonable precautions based on that knowledge.

Two points to keep in mind include:

  1. Although it is called the one bite rule, other aggressive behavior besides biting—such as a dog charging at and knocking over a child, not in play—can count as the first time an animal displays dangerous propensities the owner should be aware of.
  2. There are ways to prove the owner knew of a dog’s violent tendencies even if it has not bitten or injured anyone before. For example, if the owner keeps the dog as a guard dog and the owner has trained the dog to attack, the owner should be aware of its propensity to attack. Or, the dog may be of a certain breed known to tend toward more aggressive behaviors.

McAllen Criteria for Vicious Dog

The City of McAllen lists all the following criteria for declaring an animal to be vicious:

Any animal with a known propensity to attack, without provocation, or to threaten human beings or domestic animals’ safety

Any animal which, without provocation, has attacked or injured a human being or domestic animal

Any animal owned or harbored primarily or in part for fighting or any animal trained for fighting

Any animal that, without provocation, chases or approaches a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public or private property in a menacing fashion or apparent attack attitude

Any animal that has behaved so that the owner knows or should reasonably know that the animal is possessed of tendencies to attack or bite human beings or other animals

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Filing a Negligence Claim

If you cannot prove the dog owner had prior knowledge that the dog might attack, you can try to prove negligence instead.

In Texas, negligence is the failure to act reasonably. In a dog bite case, you’ll need to prove that negligence caused your injury. To do that, you will need to show the following:

  • The defendant owned or cared for the dog;
  • The defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care in preventing the dog from injuring others;
  • The defendant breached this duty; and
  • The breach of duty was the primary cause of your injuries.

There are a few different examples of negligence in a dog bite case, including:

Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se is when a person violates a law, and that violation causes an injury that the law intended to prevent.

Negligence per se applies if the dog injured you while the owner was violating an animal control law such as:

  • Leash laws
  • Dog trespass laws
  • No “free-run” laws

With McAllen’s ordinance that requires dogs to be restrained at all times, negligence per se may apply any time a dog is running unleashed within McAllen city limits.

Landowner Liability

It may be possible to sue the dog owner’s landlord if the landlord knew—or should have known—that the dog could bite others and did not fulfill the obligation to remove the animal from the location, either through animal control or evicting the dog owner. This claim must prove that the bite occurred on property controlled by the landowner.

Comparative Negligence

Be aware that your actions that contributed to a dog bite injury can come into play, too. You may be found partially at fault for your injuries under Texas comparative negligence law when circumstances warrant the application of this legal standard (i.e., if you trespassed on the owner’s property or you were breaking a law that led to your attack). The court can attribute any percentage of fault to you that it deems suitable and deduct that from your total award. If you are more than 50 percent at fault, your chances of receiving any compensation might be at risk.

Criminal Liability

In addition to civil liability, a dog owner can face criminal charges.

The Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.005 states that a dog’s owner may be charged with a felony if either of these situations causes serious bodily injury or death:

  1. The owner “with criminal negligence” fails to secure the dog, and the dog attacks someone, unprovoked, at a location away from the owner’s property; or
  2. The owner knows the animal is a “dangerous dog” according to Texas law, and the dog attacks someone, unprovoked, at a location other than a secure enclosure in which the owner restrains the dog.

Who Can Sue?

McAllen Dog Bite AttorneysThe dog attack victim is not the only person who can take legal action over an attack.

Texas allows close family members to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim to recover damages for mental anguish, if:

  • The family member directly witnessed the attack
  • The bite victim suffered severe injuries or died

Call Our McAllen Dog Bite Attorneys Before the Deadline to File Suit Passes

In McAllen—and all of Texas—plaintiffs have two years from the date the dog attack occurred to file a lawsuit. You must start initial paperwork within these two years, or you lose the right to seek compensation for any injuries.

If a dog bit you or a loved one in McAllen or the surrounding Rio Grande Valley area, contact us now at Patino Injury and Accident. You can reach us 24/7 at (956) 255-0023.

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Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501
956-631-3535

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