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Do Dogs Actually Get One Free Bite?

Can you sue for a dog bite?

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 of those dog bites need medical attention, causing the injured party to incur medical expenses.

Texas is a “one-bite” state, meaning that the dog owner won’t generally be liable for the dog’s bite unless the dog owner had reason to know of the dog’s vicious tendencies. But, 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.”

For example, Fort Worth, Texas requires all dog owners to have a license for their dog. Fort Worth also has an ordinance that allows the city to seize and euthanize dangerous dogs.

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 the dog wag its tail/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?

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 as soon as possible and contact an attorney to determine if you have a claim or a defense.

If you have any questions regarding dog bites in Texas, call the Fort Worth Personal Injury attorneys at Gardner & Smith, PLLC.

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