Austin Dog Bite Lawyers

Getting bitten or attacked by a dog can be a painful and horrifying experience. It can lead to expensive medical bills, lost time at work and permanent physical and emotional scars. As a victim, you owe it to yourself to seek justice.

Texas law provides many ways to hold careless dog owners responsible for the harm caused by their pets. Contact Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, to discuss the legal options that may be available to you.

As the oldest personal injury law firm in Austin, we have helped countless dog bite victims and their families to recover full and fair compensation for their damages. Allow us to put that experience to work for you.

What Should You Do If Attacked by a Dog in Austin?

We can meet with you at our Austin office or any other location that is convenient for you. Our consultations are always free, and we won't charge you any legal fees unless we obtain a financial recovery for you.

Before you meet with Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, we suggest that you go through the following steps:

  • Get medical treatment. Make sure to wash your wound with hot soap and water and see a doctor right away. If left untreated, a wound could become infected. You may also need a rabies or tetanus shot. Make sure to follow your doctor's treatment plan.
  • Collect information about the dog and owner. Find out what you can about the dog's breed, age and vaccination history. Get the dog owner's name and contact information.
  • Take photos. If possible, get shots of the dog, your wounds and the scene of the attack. Additionally, you should hold on to the clothes you wore.
  • Report the attack. Call the local police or report the attack to Austin/Travis County Animal Control Services. You should file a report without undue delay.
  • Store all of your documents. Gather and keep your medical bills, a copy of the police or animal control report, dog owner information, eyewitness information, insurance company letters and any other related documents.
  • Don't talk with the insurance company. If the dog owner's insurance company contacts you, simply refer the insurer to your lawyer. Do not give a recorded statement or accept a settlement offer until we meet with you.

Do You Have a Right to File a Texas Dog Bite Lawsuit? How Do Texas Dog Bite Laws Work?

Unlike many other states, Texas does not have a dog bite statute that imposes civil liability on dog owners when an attack occurs.

Still, an Austin dog bite victim - and even family members who witnessed an attack - may have several legal remedies available to them. Our lawyers can investigate your case and explore your potential options, which may include:

What Are the Stages of a Texas Dog Bite Lawsuit?

Every dog bite case is different. Many different factors will determine the direction that your dog bite case takes. However, generally speaking, you can expect the following six stages (which also tend to overlap):

1. Gathering and analyzing evidence

Our firm moves quickly to investigate dog attack claims. We will gather and analyze all available evidence of what happened to you or your loved one, including:

  • Eyewitness statements
  • Photos of the dog, area of the attack and your injuries
  • Any police reports or animal control records involving the dog, dog owner and/or dog handler (including past reports)
  • Clothes you were wearing at the time of the attack
  • Medical records showing the nature and extent of your injuries.

2. Consulting with experts

In certain cases, such as where liability and/or damages are contested, it may be necessary for us to consult with experts in areas such as animal behavior, veterinary care or life-care planning.

Our firm also works with computer animation experts and graphic artists to prepare exhibits which illustrate how a dog attack occurred and its impact on you. These exhibits can be highly effective when presenting a case during settlement negotiations or during trial.

3. Preparing and submitting a demand letter

In some situations, we can resolve a dog bite claim without the need to file a lawsuit. A demand for compensation can be submitted to the dog owner's insurer. If liability and damages are clearly established, the insurer may agree to the demand or extend an offer that otherwise fully and fairly compensates a victim. However, in most cases, a lawsuit must be filed before settlement talks occur.

4. Filing a lawsuit

We can file a lawsuit in the proper court. It is important to know that the Texas statute of limitations will apply to your case. Generally, you will have two years from the date of injury - or the date of the dog attack - in which to file a complaint or, if a wrongful death claim is filed, two years from the date of your loved one's death. The statute of limitations would be tolled if the dog bite victim was a child. We will closely examine your case to determine the time period you will have in which to bring a claim.

5. Litigation

After a lawsuit is filed, we will go through a formal evidence-exchanging process with the dog owner and any other parties involved in your dog bite lawsuit. This is known as "discovery." During this stage, we may obtain sworn written statements (affidavits) or oral statements (depositions). We may also litigate pretrial motions.

You may need to provide an affidavit or undergo a deposition during this stage. You may also need to undergo a medical examination. Rest assured, we will make sure your rights are fully protected.

We are highly skilled trial lawyers at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP. We know what it takes to prevail in court. If your case goes to trial, you can count on us to present the strongest case possible on your behalf.

In addition to representing you at trial, we can also advocate for you in any post-trial proceedings, including appeals to a higher court.

6. Collecting the settlement or judgment

If we secure a settlement or verdict in your favor, we will work efficiently to collect the full amount owed to you, including any interest that may have accrued. We also will quickly resolve any medical liens or other claims in a manner that maximizes the amount you receive.

Keep in mind: We will charge no fees for our legal services unless we obtain compensation for you. This is known as a contingency fee. Our fees will be based on an agreed-upon percentage of your recovery.

One-Bite Rule

Texas is among the minority of states that follow the "one-bite rule." Generally, this means that you may be eligible for compensation if you can show:

  • The dog bit someone before or acted as if it wanted to do so
  • The dog's owner or keeper knew or reasonably should have known of the dog's previous vicious or dangerous conduct.

You can show that the owner was aware or should have been aware of the dog's tendency to bite through evidence that the owner:

  • Previously saw (or received reports of) the dog growling or lunging at people or attacking other dogs
  • Trained the dog to fight or to serve as a guard dog
  • Warned others about the dog's propensity to bite
  • Put a "Beware of Dog" sign in the yard
  • Typically kept the dog chained or muzzled.

The size and breed of the dog - for instance, the fact that it is a large pit bull - may also be factors that come into play in your case.

Negligence

A dog-bite victim may also seek compensation by showing that the dog owner or keeper negligently failed to control or prevent an attack, and as a result of that negligence, you suffered injuries.

Although you do not need to show that the dog owner had knowledge of the dog's previous vicious conduct, you must present evidence that the owner failed to exercise reasonable care. For example, did the owner fail to put the dog on a leash when around children?

In some cases, negligence may be based on a violation of a local animal control ordinance, or "leash law." This is considered negligence per se. If you can show that the violation of the law caused you to suffer injuries, you may be eligible to recover compensation.

For instance, in Austin and other areas of Travis County, a local ordinance requires dogs to be "restrained" at all times when in public except when in approved areas.

Additionally, the city and county have a dangerous dog ordinance. Under this law, if a hearing officer deems a dog to be "dangerous" based on evidence that it previously attacked a person, unprovoked, and caused bodily injury, then the owner must keep the dog leashed at all times.

Other Causes of Action

In addition to pursuing a claim based on the "one-bite rule" or negligence, a dog bite victim may seek damages if an owner failed to restrain or take other reasonable steps to control an animal in the course of an attack.

If you witness - in person - a child or other close family member getting attacked by a dog, Texas law recognizes your right to bring a claim for negligent infliction of mental anguish (or emotional distress). You hold this right regardless of whether you have suffered any physical injury.

At Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, we will focus on every detail of your case in order to determine all of the legal options you can pursue.

Who Can You Sue if a Dog Attacks You in Austin?

A dog owner, of course, may be held liable for an attack. However, a person who harbors or keeps the animal may be liable as well. For instance, a person hired to feed or walk a dog or a kennel owner may be legally responsible for a dog bite.

Additionally, you may be able to hold a landlord liable if a tenant's dog bit or attacked you in a common area. You would need to show that the landlord:

  • Had actual or imputed knowledge a dog was in a common area or was routinely there
  • The landlord knew the animal was vicious or had a vicious temperament.

If the attack occurred in a rental unit, the landlord may be liable if the landlord:

  • Knew of the dog's dangerous propensities
  • Was aware that the dog was in the unit
  • Could have taken steps to remove the dog (and failed to do so)

In some cases, a municipality may be liable if it had knowledge of a dangerous dog in Austin or elsewhere in Travis County and failed to take steps to see that the animal was secured.

In many cases, a victim may be hesitant to take legal action because the dog's owner is a neighbor or family friend. However, it is important to know that a claim would not seek a recovery from the dog owner's personal assets. Instead, a claim would be filed through the owner's homeowner's insurance policy.

What Compensation Can You Recover in an Austin Dog Bite Injury Lawsuit?

Our firm understands the importance of seeking just compensation for dog bite victims and, in some cases, their family members as well.

A dog bite can cause serious injuries, including harm to the face, ears, nose, arms and legs. In some cases, the dog will go for the victim's throat. As a result, most dog bite injuries are deep cuts, punctures, crushing wounds and bone fractures.

Cosmetic surgery may be necessary to repair scars. However, some victims may suffer permanent disfigurement or other disabilities.

Additionally, a dog bite victim may become infected with rabies, pasteurella, tetanus or other bacteria and toxins. MRSA, a potentially deadly staph infection, can also result.

During one recent year, the average cost of a dog bite insurance claim in Texas was $30,241, according to a report by The Insurance Information Institute. However, in many cases, a claim for dog attack compensation may be significantly higher.

You can count on Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, to thoroughly investigate your case, review your medical records, consult with experts and take other steps that are aimed at maximizing the value of your dog bite compensation.

We can seek damages that include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost income and diminished future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium.

Because we work on a contingency fee basis, you will pay no legal fees unless and until we obtain a settlement or verdict that provides full and fair dog bite victim compensation for you.

Preventing Dog Bites

You should never approach a dog you are unfamiliar with. Dogs, especially stray dogs, require that you respect their space. Certain situations (e.g. when a dog is tied up, behind a fence or in a car) can make a dog (even one who isn't normally aggressive) feel threatened and protective of his space and act out accordingly. Even leashing a dog can incite some feelings of defensiveness. Understanding when and why dogs are driven to attack can help you prevent an incident:

  • Fear - A dog can react defensively when it feels fearful. A loud noise, sudden movement or unfamiliar circumstance can all incite feelings of fear in a dog. This is especially true of dogs that have a history of abuse.
  • Territory - A dog who feels that his territory is threatened can attack. The easiest way to avoid this sort of attack is by not coming to close to a dog that is unfamiliar to you. With some otherwise calm dogs this is a problem when guests enter their home. Even dogs who won't harm a guest, might welcome it with a few threatening barks.
  • Sickness - Sometimes a dog who is weakened by an injury or illness will feel threatened more easily and attack.
  • Resources - Food aggression is a really common cause of dog bites. Dogs that otherwise have a very even temperament can become very aggressive when they feel that either their food or water source is being threatened. This can also be a stage that younger dogs go through when the nutrients are very crucial to their growth.

You should always ask the owner of a leashed dog if you can pet them before coming too close to the dog or attempting to touch it. Then you should slowly approach the dog from the side (never head on) and extend your hand slowly for the dog to smell. The moment a dog exhibits signs of defensive behavior you should slowly back away. Here are some of those signs:

  • The dog's hair on the nape of its neck and down its back are standing up.
  • The dog's tail is stiff, and unmoving.
  • The whites of the dog's eyes are visible, eyes bulging.
  • If the dog backs away from you do not continue to step towards it.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a dog bite or attack, speak to an Austin dog bite attorney at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP can help. If the owner had previous knowledge of their dog's tendencies they are to blame.

Our Austin Dog Bite Attorneys Want to Help

Generally speaking, you have two years from the date of a dog attack in which to file a personal injury claim in Texas.

However, if the victim is a child, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until two years after the child's 18th birthday, or age 20.

Because it is important to investigate a dog bite claim as soon as possible in order to ensure that evidence is not lost or destroyed, you should get help from an experienced Austin dog bite lawyer as soon as you are ready to take legal action.

The lawyers of Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, are ready to help you today. Contact us now to schedule your free consultation.