If you want to understand Texas dog bite law, it starts with the story of a charging hog. The incident occurred in Van Zandt County, between neighboring hog farmers, Paul Marshall and John Ranne.

Marshall had been dealing with a dangerous boar hog that kept escaping from Ranne’s farm. The boar ran after his wife several times, per his statements. It had kept him stuck inside his outhouse a few times too.

This threatening behavior from the hog had been occurring for 7 to 10 days when the incident occurred that generated the lawsuit. Paul had just unloaded a few barrels of bread from his truck to feed his own hogs and entered the house to change his clothes. Then he looked outside for the dangerous boar and headed from the house to his truck. Marshall was about 30 feet away from the pickup when he heard a sound behind him and turned to see the hog running straight at him. As the boar charged, Marshall put out his hand in defense. The hog bit his hand.

Treatment and other damages amounted to $4146. But Marshall did not collect when this case was decided by the Texas Supreme Court in Marshall v. Ranne. The court found that Paul was negligent in not putting up a fence to stop the hog. They also determined it was negligent for him not to have shot it, since he did have a gun. In this manner, Paul was found to have accepted the attack risk voluntarily.

That key case shows the victim of an animal attack cannot collect if they are found to be negligent. However, victims often win cases by establishing owner negligence.

Let’s look at a few frequently asked questions on the topic. After that, we review civil and criminal liability – both ways the defendant may be at fault. Finally, we discuss the two ways a dog owner might be able to defend themselves against your claim.

What is the Texas one bite rule?

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal may file a personal injury claim in Texas. They must be able to demonstrate the dog had a history of aggression and that the owner did not make a reasonable effort to stop the bite from happening. These parameters make Texas a one bite rule or negligence state. Keep in mind, this rule does not imply that a dog gets a “free” bite.

What is the Texas dog bite statute?

Often people want to look at the law related to their case within the Texas Statutes; however, civil liability related to dog bites is not covered in them. (Criminal liability is in the statutes though; see below.) Rather than the statutes, the animal bite law here is determined through the Restatement of Torts, Section 509. This decision was made in the 1974 Marshall v. Ranne decision from the Texas Supreme Court.

What is the dog bite statute of limitations?

While civil liability is not covered in the statutes, that should not be confused with the statute of limitations. As decided in a Texas civil court, you have a maximum of two years following an attack in order to file a claim.

Is it dog bite law or hog bite law?

Dog bites occur so commonly that the legal guidelines related to vicious animals are often called dog bite law. However, the incident that occurred on the hog farm more than four decade ago reminds us that any animal bite is treated the same way in Texas.

Does it have to be a bite?

Personal injury cases related to animals do not need to involve biting in order to be valid. A person who is injured when a dog knocks them to the ground can file a suit using the same negligence standard.

Civil and criminal liability

The worst-case scenario for the dog owner stems from criminal liability, as indicated in Texas Health and Safety Code section 822.005. Someone may know their dog is dangerous and fail to take reasonable actions to control it. While they may not feel they are being criminal by allowing their animal to move around freely despite its temperament, they can be charged with a felony if it kills or badly injures someone.

Civil liability is a financial rather than a criminal issue. In order to win a civil case, a person who is bitten by a dog must typically demonstrate that the owner did not prevent the attack through reasonable care. While the “one bite rule” or negligence standard applies to most cases, it will be much easier to collect if the dog is understood to be aggressive or vicious. This form of liability in a civil case is called strict liability. You do not have to prove negligence by the owner if you can establish that they knew the dog was vicious.

The defendant’s (dog owner’s) case

The two legitimate defenses for a dog bite in Texas are trespassing and lack of knowledge. The first scenario is rather obvious: the dog’s victim cannot recover damages if they are unlawfully on the owner’s land. In the second scenario, much more common, the defendant attempts to prove they did not know the dog was dangerous.

Your Texas dog bite lawsuit

Have you been bitten by a dog or otherwise attacked by someone’s animal in Texas? At Farrah Martinez Law Firm, we can prove your dog bite case by showing negligence led to the attack. See our six-step process.

Calculating Damages and Medical Expenses in a Personal Injury Claim

The value of your personal injury claim depends on the different types of losses you have suffered. This blog will focus on how to calculate medical expenses in a personal injury claim.  Now for medical expenses, you must consider your past medical bills, your current medical bills and any future medical bills you might incur from an ongoing problem related to a serious injury.  Then, you gather all of your medical bills, prescription medication costs, physical therapy and chiropractic care bills, and any other medical bills you received as a result of the bodily injury you sustained as a result of a car accident, a dog bite or animal attack claim, a slip and fall claim, or any other type of personal injury claim.  From there, most people think you just add them all together and presto out jumps your total medical damages.

Well over the years Texas case law has complicated the process of calculating costs and rather than quoting a bunch legal mumbo jumbo, I have provided the case reference if you want to read more.  See Haygood v. Escabedo, 09-0377 (TEX. July 1, 2011).  In the meantime, I will provide you with some examples you can understand.

Example 1.  John Doe is involved in an car accident and he rushed to the hospital from the scene.  John provides the medics with his health care information.  His healthcare plan picks up the $25,00 bill.  His insurance company has a preexisting agreement with the hospital so, it recalculates the costs and his healthcare plan only pays $9,000 for John’s hospital bill.    Now when John’s claim is evaluated by the at-fault party’s car insurance company,  it will only look at the $9,000  rather than the $25,000.

More importantly, if John’s case goes before a jury he can only provide evidence of the $9000 paid versus the $25,000 actually billed by the hospital.  This is significant because juries often look at the total medical expenses to calculate pain and suffering.  A bill of $25,000 indicates a more serious injury than a $9,000 bill.

Example 2.  Now look at Sally Doe who is involved in a similar accident and she incurred $25,000 in medical bills and has no insurance.  She is able to present evidence to show the total $25,000 in medical bills and the jury has all the medical information needed to make a decision as to the seriousness of the injury and the pain she suffered.

This is not true for John’s personal injury claim; he is essentially penalized for having insurance because the jury is not given all of the information to determine the pain and suffering John experienced as a result of the wrongdoer.

Calculating medical expenses is no longer a matter of taking all your medical bills and simply adding them together.  You must know the law surrounding medical damages and how to accurately calculate those damages in personal injury claims.  Then you must be able to provide evidence to show the seriousness of certain injuries even when the bills do not add up.

For more information, contact Farrah Martinez, PLLC at (713) 853-9296 or visit us at www.InjuryLawyerHOU.com. Farrah will evaluate your personal injury claim at no cost to you.


  1. Find out who owned the dog or animal that bit you or your child. If possible, get their full name, address and telephone number.
  2. Take pictures of the injuries caused by the dog or animal. It is important to take pictures of all of the injuries not just the worst of the worst.
  3. Make a list of the names of anyone who saw the dog or animal attack. If possible, get their telephone numbers and addresses.
  4. If you know the pet owner’s neighbors, make a list of the neighbors. Often, neighbors have information regarding the dog or animal’s past bad behavior and dangerous tendencies.
  5. File a report with your local pet control agency. For the City of Houston Animal Control contact (713) 547-9400 or for Harris County Animal Control contact (281) 999-3191.
  6. Hire a lawyer. Dog bite and animal attack claims are serious. You need a lawyer who can assist you with your animal attack claim and deal with the insurance company. If the pet owner, owns a home, then their homeowner’s insurance policy, will likely cover dog bites and attacks by domesticated animals. Some dangerous dogs and animals might be excluded from the policy. An experienced dog bite lawyer will provide you with the help you need to receive compensation for your medical bills, loss of wages or earnings, and any other actual damages you have suffered.

Houston Dog Bite Lawyer Farrah Martinez represents individuals that have been injured or suffered severe damage caused through a dog bite or animal attack. If you or your child has been attacked by a dog or animal, call Houston Dog Bite Lawyer Farrah Martinez at (713) 853-9296 for a free consultation.