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.