San Antonio Dog Bite Lawyers
When a dog bites a person, the experience can be traumatic, and recovering can be a lot on its own. Many people do know what legal recourse they have after a dog bites them. The aftermath of an injury is never a great time to need to learn legal procedures. That’s when a San Antonio dog bite lawyer at Patino Injury and Accident Attorneys can help guide you through possible courses of action you can take.
Some specific ways the San Antonio dog bite lawyers at Patino Injury and Accident Attorneys can help you include:
Guidance. Different states can have specific laws about dog bite claims, statutes of limitation, comparative negligence, and more. Your San Antonio dog bite lawyer can explain how the laws apply to your specific case.
Find and organize evidence. You must support any claim you bring with evidence. An experienced lawyer knows the types of evidence you will need to build a strong case and will gather all the necessary documentation from different sources. Having strong evidence is vital for determining liability and damages, which will directly affect how much compensation you can claim for the dog bite incident.
For example, we can:
- Procure police reports and medical reports
- Find witnesses and take witness statements
- Take pictures and gather camera footage
- Organize other documents such as bills, employment documents, property damage reports, etc.
Handling insurance companies. Some insurance policies do cover dog bites, but things can become complicated if there are exemptions to coverage or the insurance company does not offer a reasonable amount. There are also things a victim can say to insurance companies that jeopardize their San Antonio dog bite claim. Having a lawyer communicate with insurance companies instead prevents an insurance company from giving you the lowest settlement amount they hope you will take. Further, having a lawyer handle these communications allows a legal expert to ensure the insurance company and defendant provide you with a fair settlement.
Help you decide what legal action you can take. If insurance negotiations don’t work or aren’t enough, you can also file a lawsuit, which our dog bite lawyers can walk you through. A lawyer will guide you every step of the way – from filing a negligence claim to even pressing criminal charges. San Antonio dog bite attorneys are crucial for these lawsuits because a San Antonio lawyer knows Texas’s applicable laws and how to best present your case here.
Relevant Laws in San Antonio
Texas is one of 14 states that uses a one-bite law, which does not apply liability to the dog owner indiscriminately. The one-bite rule states that the dog owner is liable only if he or she knew, or should have known, that the animal has the potential to be dangerous or vicious from past actions and should have prevented the attack. While no statute lays out this rule, common law negligence covers this sector of the law based on the ruling in 1974, Marshall v. Ranne.
This rule essentially provides the dog with one free pass where the owner is not responsible because the dog wasn’t known to potentially bite someone. Only once there is a history of biting established (or the dog is classified as dangerous by some other metric), then the owner is responsible for future injuries.
If you want to recover compensation by claiming injuries under the one-bite rule, you must prove:
- That the dog had bitten someone before or displayed aggressive behavior towards someone in the past.
- Even though it is called the “one-bite” rule, any act of aggression, even if not biting, counts.
- Sometimes, a dog doesn’t need to have necessarily attacked someone for the owner to have reasonable knowledge of the dog’s violent capabilities. For example, if the owner trains the dog as a guard dog, then the owner should know about the dog’s propensity to attack and is therefore liable for injuries
- Or another way owners should know is if they own a specific breed of dogs known to be vicious, such as pit bulls.
- That the dog’s owner was aware of the dog’s prior vicious behavior.
- This is why you must report dog bites. Having documented history is sufficient to show the owner is aware)
Criteria for Dangerous Dogs
The law defines a dangerous dog as a dog that:
(A) makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own; or
(B) commits unprovoked acts in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person.
Statute of Limitation
San Antonio’s statute of limitation (the amount of time you have to start filing a lawsuit) is two years from the time of the dog attack. If you do not file your claim within these two years, you probably can’t seek compensation for your injuries.
What Options Do You Have After a Dog Bite?
The one-bite rule makes the legal options steeper in Texas, but a San Antonio dog bite lawyer can explain other options that might work if you cannot prove the dog owner knew that the dog could attack someone.
Filing a Negligence Claim
You can try to prove negligence to hold the dog owner for your injury. Negligence is a core concept in dog bite claims, and Texas law generally defines the concept as a failure to act reasonably.
To support a negligence claim, you will need to prove:
- Duty. We must prove that the negligent party had a duty of care. In general, everyone has a legal obligation to act reasonably as not to harm other people. An example of this may be that a dog owner must supervise the dog around young children. For dog bites, this step will also include proving the defendant owned or cared for the dog.
- Breach. We must show that the offending party breached that duty. So, perhaps the dog owner left the dog alone in a room with a baby.
- Actual harm. We must show that the real injuries were sustained, which can be proven by photos or medical reports from a doctor.
- Causation. We must show that the breach of duty causes the injuries. This is where fault comes into play. Did the owner’s breach of duty cause the injury, or did something unforeseeable happen, or did you contribute in some way to cause the dog to attack? This analysis is where a dog bite lawyer’s expertise can help demonstrate that the owner’s breach did cause the injury.
Furthermore, there are a few different types of negligence your lawyer may want to pursue in a dog bite case:
Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se applies to circumstances when a person violates a law, and that violation causes an injury that the law intends to prevent.
For example, if a dog injured you while the owner was violating an animal control law such as:
- Leash laws
- Dog trespass laws
- No “free-run” laws
In Texas, you have the option to sue the dog owner’s landowner in some circumstances. Suppose the landowner was aware or should have been aware that a dog living on their property could be dangerous to others. In that case, the landowner must remove the animal from the premises. If the landowner did not do so either through animal control or evicting the dog owner, the landowner is liable as well. One caveat is that the bite must have occurred on the land owned by the landowner.
Besides these civil liability cases, a dog owner can also face criminal charges based on Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.005.
This code states that you can bring criminal charges if either of these situations causes death or serious bodily injuries:
(1) with criminal negligence, as defined by Section 6.03, Penal Code, fails to secure the dog and the dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than the owner’s real property or in or on the owner’s motor vehicle or boat and that causes serious bodily injury, as defined by Section 1.07, Penal Code, or death to the other person; or
(2) knows the dog is a dangerous dog by learning in a manner described by Section 822.042(g) that the person is the owner of a dangerous dog, and the dangerous dog makes an unprovoked attack on another person that occurs at a location other than a secure enclosure in which the dog is restrained in accordance with Subchapter D and that causes serious bodily injury, as defined by Section 822.001, or death to the other person.