Injury Attorney in Texas

Personal Injury
Animal bite cases vary from state to state. Just like automobile collisions, the Texas plaintiff can recover from an animal bite if his/her comparative negligence is not greater than 50%. To illustrate, if the verdict deems you to be 20% accountable for your animal bite (due to provocation, for example) and the jury awards you $50,000.00 in total damages, you would subtract your percentage of responsibility – leaving you with a $40,000.00 judgment.

Make no mistake: the term Animal Bite is entirely applicable in the Lone Star State. Dog is the most common and universal culprit; however, Texas residents are known to house tigers, lions, ocelots, feral hogs, nutria, ring-tailed lemur, mountain coati, kinkajou, hedge hogs, sugar gliders, and degus. Some are classified as wild animals known to have dangerous propensities and owners can be held strictly liable for damages should their “pet” attack or otherwise injure an individual.

But for conventional purposes, let’s outline some of the more relevant dog bite protections. Inexplicably, Texas does not have a dog bite statute. Hence, the burden is placed squarely on the victim to prove that the owner’s/custodian’s dog whose bite directly caused the harm (a) had previously bit another individual, or acted like it wanted to, and (b) the defendant knew of the dog’s prior conduct. This common law cannon is called the “one bite” rule and has an element of owner/custodian scienter (IE; knowledge) that can be difficult to prove.

Fortunately, we can fall back on our good 'ol general personal injury affiliate: negligence, which often enables an animal bite victim grounds for recovery. Negligence is the absence of ordinary care; in essence, what a reasonable, prudent person of ordinary sensibilities would do under the same or similar circumstances. The Texas Supreme Court asserted that an owner/possessor of a non-vicious animal may be liable for his/her “negligent handling” of the animal. Marshall v. Ranne, 511 S.W.2d 255, 259 (Tex 1974). This approach circumvents the “one bite” rule; now we are no longer required to prove the animal had previously bit an individual or, in the alternative, acted like it wanted to.

In addition, the proper standard of care must also be applied when determining degree of fault to the victim. For example, the conduct of a minor child or young adult must be judged by what an individual of similar age, intelligence, maturity, and capacity would have done – not the actions or responses of an adult. It’s important to note that the defense of comparative negligence is not recognized as to children five years of age or less unless it can be proven the child was somehow conscious of the consequences of his/her actions.

Moreover, the owner of an animal who attacks/bites is not necessarily the only entity that can be held accountable. Depending on jurisdiction, liability can attach if it is shown that the animal was under the care and dominion of an owner, keeper, or person in control.

Unsure how to proceed with your animal attack case? Let us sort out the grueling details.

Setterberg Law Office