Do Dogs Actually Get “One Free Bite?”

What Are the Statistics on Dog Bites in Texas?

Approximately 40% of American families have a dog. While it’s unthinkable that the lovable family pet could bite someone, accidents do happen. The American Veterinary Medical Association states that 4.5 million people are bitten each year and of those, 800,000 need medical attention, causing the injured party to incur medical expenses. This article covers the one bite rule in Texas.

What is the One Bite Rule in Texas?

While Texas is a “one-bite” state, (meaning that the dog owner won’t generally be liable unless the owner had reason to know of the dog’s vicious tendencies), there are several ways for liability to attach even if the gentlest dog suddenly snaps at a stranger. Leash laws, city ordinances, and general negligence could all create liability even if it is the dog’s “first bite.”

The “one-bite rule” may seem simple on the surface, but the facts underlying each bite generally require each case to be handled differently. Does the dog growl at strangers? Does it wag its tail or bare its teeth? Has it bitten anyone in the past? Maybe the dog thought it needed to protect its “territory,” or was it trespassing on a neighbor’s property? Was the dog being provoked, or could the dog have interpreted the human as being aggressive, such as sticking a hand through a fence? Was it on a leash?

Liability for First Dog Bite in Texas

All of these questions come into play in a dog bite suit. The “one bite” rule is not as black and white as it sounds. If the dog demonstrated “vicious” tendencies previously, then the plaintiff generally has an easier case for liability and damages. If you’ve been bitten, or your dog bit someone, it is a good idea to write down the details, take photos, as soon as possible and contact an attorney to determine if you have a claim or a defense.

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