The Types of Compensation in a Dog Bite Lawsuit

From medical bills to mental anguish, and who is liable for it, in Texas

According to data cited by Canine Journal, nearly 4.5 million dog bites are reported nationally each year—and approximately 20 percent of these injuries require professional medical attention. If you or your loved one was injured by a dangerous dog, you need financial compensation to pay your bills. In Texas, you can hold a negligent dog owner—and any other negligent parties—liable for an animal attack. Below, you will find an overview of the Texas dog bite laws, the standard of liability, and your ability to recover financial compensation.

Texas Does Not Have a Dedicated Dog Bite Statute

Unlike many other states, Texas does not have a dog bite statute on the books. Instead, these cases fall under the state’s negligence laws. In the 1974 case of Marshall v. Ranne, the Texas Supreme Court set forth the standard of liability to be used in dog bite injury claims.

Under the ruling, Texas follows the one-bite rule. In effect, this means that a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by an animal they know or should have known to be dangerous. If a dog is not dangerous, then a dog owner is liable if they act in a negligent manner. Other parties can be held liable on the negligence standard as well.

An Overview of Compensation You Can Recover in a Dog Bite Claim

Under Texas law, a victim of negligence can recover financial compensation for their out-of-pocket losses and noneconomic damages. Depending on the nature and severity of your injuries, you may be eligible to recover money damages for:

  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Other medical bills and costs
  • Rehabilitative care and physical therapy
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of long-term earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Permanent disability
  • Wrongful death

“The amount of recovery is often determined by the place on a person that was attacked,” says Brandy Austin, a personal injury attorney in Arlington. “A face is generally worth more than a leg, if the severity is the same.”

Who is Liable for a Dog Bite in Texas?

As was mentioned previously, dog bite injury claims are negligence claims. Any defendant whose negligence contributed to an animal attack can be held responsible for an injured victim’s damages. Some of the parties that can be held liable for a dog bite in Texas include:

  • Dog Owners: Dog owners are responsible for their animal. A negligent dog owner is liable for injuries caused by their carelessness or recklessness.
  • Landlord/Property Owners/HOAs: Dog bite claims may fall under premises liability law. Parties other than the dog owner may also bear some responsibility for the attack. Often, these claims are filed against landlords, property owners, and even homeowners’ associations.
  • Other Negligent Parties: Any other negligent party can also be held liable for a dog bite in Texas. All serious dog bite injuries should be comprehensively investigated to ensure that every potential defendant is identified.

Austin notes that it’s not uncommon that landlords of property owners are considered liable. “They sometimes hold the insurance policy,” she says. “The landlord usually approves the dogs.”

It is important to emphasize that dog bite liability is based on fault. Successful dog bite lawsuits are supported by well-organized evidence. If you or your loved one was injured by a dangerous dog, an experienced Texas personal injury attorney can help you gather all of the evidence you need to prove liability and recover the full and fair financial compensation that you rightfully deserve.

“Animal attacks come from more than just dogs—we have been contacted for a pig attack and a cat attack,” says Austin. “Not all are recoverable, but everyone should contact an attorney to review their case if they are attacked by someone else's animal.”

If you’d like more information on this area of the law, see our animal bites law overview.

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