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Getting bitten or attacked by a dog can be a painful and horrifying experience. It can lead to expensive medical care, 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 recover full and fair compensation for their damages. Allow us to put that experience to work for you.
We can meet with you at our Austin office or any other location that is convenient for you.
Before you meet with Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, we suggest that you go through the following steps:
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.
Every dog bite case is different. Many factors will determine the direction your dog bite case takes. Generally speaking, however, you can expect the following six stages (which also tend to overlap):
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:
In certain cases, such as when liability and/or damages are contested, we may need to consult with experts in areas such as animal behavior, veterinary care and life-care planning.
Our firm also works with computer animation experts and graphic artists to prepare exhibits that 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 trial.
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. In most cases, however, a lawsuit must be filed before settlement talks occur.
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 attack — 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.
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 advocate for you in any post-trial proceedings, including appeals to a higher court.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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 to determine all your legal options.
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:
If the attack occurred in a rental unit, the landlord may be liable if the landlord:
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 homeowners insurance policy.
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. In many cases, however, 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 aimed at maximizing the value of your dog bite compensation.
We can seek damages that include:
Because we work on a contingency fee basis, you will pay no legal fees until we obtain a settlement or verdict that provides full and fair dog bite victim compensation for you.
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 its space and act out accordingly. Even leashing a dog can incite feelings of defensiveness. Understanding when and why dogs are driven to attack can help you prevent an incident:
You should always ask the owner of a leashed dog if you can pet it 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:
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a dog bite or attack, speak with an Austin dog bite attorney at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP. If the owner had knowledge of the dog’s tendencies, he or she is to blame.
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 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 consultation.
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