Corpus Christi Dog Bite Law Firm
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, according to the Canine Journal. This means that one out of every 69 Americans suffers a dog bite annually. About 800,000 of these bites require medical care. While the risk of dying from a biting dog is relatively low, dog bites can cause severe injuries and even resulting in permanent disabilities, such as vision loss or disfigurement. If you or your child has been bitten by a dog in Corpus Christi, you should contact a personal injury attorney at the Patel Firm to determine your eligibility to seek compensation. An experienced dog bite lawyer can assist you.
Strict Liability or One-Bite Rule?
If a person is bitten by someone else’s dog, is the dog owner liable? What if the dog owner claims that he or she had no idea that the dog was capable of inflicting harm? These are questions that legislators in all 50 states have attempted to answer. Some states follow strict liability when it comes to dog bites, meaning that dog owners are liable if their dog causes harm to a person, whether they were aware of their dog’s vicious nature or not. Other states have a one-bite rule, which means that owners are liable only if they had prior knowledge that the dog was vicious, such as if it had bitten someone before.
While Texas doesn’t have a specific law on the books for dog bite cases, it does have legal precedent through the 1974 state Supreme Court case Marshall v. Ranne, in which the Court sided with the one-bite rule and determined that negligence must be proven in animal bite cases by proving:
- The owner knew the dog had acted aggressively or had bitten someone in the past
- The owner failed to use reasonable care to control the dog or prevent the bite
Texas law states that a dog that has caused the death or serious injury of a person must be seized and impounded until a court hearing can be held to determine the nature of the situation. The hearing must be held within 10 days after the attack, and written notice of the hearing must be given to the owner of the dog, the person making the complaint about the dog, and any other interested party who has evidence relevant to the case. If the hearing reveals that the dog did indeed attack, bite, or maul the person, the court can order the dog to be destroyed. However, there are some defenses to that action, including:
- The dog was being used as protection of its owner or its owner’s property, and the attack occurred in the enclosed area where the dog was being kept.
- The enclosure was reasonably sufficient to keep the dog from leaving on its own, and there was signage present to warn others of the presence of the dog.
- The victim of the bite was at least eight years old and was trespassing in the enclosure when the bite, attack, or mauling occurred.
- The bite, attack, or mauling occurred during the process of an arrest, and the dog was working with law enforcement.
- The dog was protecting its owner from assault or theft by the injured person.
Dangerous Dogs in Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi has its own dog bite ordinances, which spell out certain requirements for owners of so-called dangerous dogs. A dangerous dog, according to the Texas Health and Safety Code, is defined as:
- A dog that makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own; or
- A dog that commits unprovoked acts in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own, and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person.
In Corpus Christi, the animal control authority must inspect enclosures used to house dogs that are believed to be dangerous to ensure that the enclosure will reliably restrain the dog or that there is someone nearby who can restrain it. In addition, owners of dangerous dogs are required to purchase $100,000 worth of liability insurance that specifies that coverage for bodily injury and other damages that may be caused if the dog attacks someone. Dogs who are registered with the city as dangerous are required to wear green colors and large tags at all times stating that they are dangerous, and the address and description of registered dangerous dogs are publicized.
If a known dangerous dog attacks someone and causes bodily injury, the dog may be seized, impounded, and euthanized; the owner may be charged with a crime.
In March 2019, Corpus Christi passed an additional vicious dog ordinance pertaining to dogs who wound or kill other animals. The ordinance states that the owner of a dog is prevented from keeping that dog within the city limits if it has killed or seriously injured a dog, cat, fowl, livestock, or other pet. An animal will be determined to have been seriously injured if an attending veterinarian provides an affidavit stating that the animal’s life was at risk or that it suffered permanent impairment to basic bodily functions. Penalties for dog owners include $50 to $2,000, plus court costs. The ordinance does not apply to animals who are enclosed on the owner’s property and kill another animal who enters the property.
Injuries Caused by Dog Bites
81 percent of dog bites result in no serious injuries. Children are more likely to be bitten by dogs than adults are, according to the CDC, and the injuries to children tend to be more severe. It is more common to be injured by a dog in your own home than it is to be injured by a dog you’re unfamiliar with. Men have a higher likelihood of being bitten by a dog than women. Some of the injuries involved in dog attacks include:
- Severe lacerations or puncture wounds
- Trauma to soft tissue and tendons
- Damage to nerves and blood vessels
- Spinal Injuries
- Broken bones
- Eye and facial trauma
- Throat trauma
- TBI/brain injuries
More than 27,000 dog bites each year require reconstructive surgery. Up to 18 percent of all dog bites become infected, the CDC notes. Some infections that a person may obtain through a dog bite include:
- Rabies: Although the disease is rare in the United States, the risk is real, and this is one of the most serious infections a person can get from a dog bite. Rabies is passed through the saliva of the animal and affects the brain of the injured individual. It is almost always fatal.
- Tetanus: This is a toxin produced by a certain type of bacteria that may be present in deep puncture wounds. It causes rigid paralysis.
- MRSA: This is an antibiotic-resistant form of staph infection that may cause skin, lung, and urinary tract infections in some people, particularly those with weakened immune systems.
- Capnocytophaga bacteria: This bacteria lives in the mouths of dogs, cats, and humans, but does not produce symptoms for dogs or cats. In humans, the bacteria is particularly dangerous to those with weakened immune systems that may cause illnesses to be more severe.
- Pasteurella: This type of bacteria is seen in more than half of all infected dog bite wounds. Symptoms include redness and pain at the site of the infection, as well as swollen lymph nodes, swelling in the joints, and difficulty moving.
While damage to the skin is the most noticeable of dog bite injuries and often the one that everyone focuses on, care must be taken to evaluate the underlying body structure—bones, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels—to ensure that there are no hidden injuries that may damage the function of that body part. For example, a wound to the skin on a person’s hand due to a dog bite may look bad, but an injury that damages the tendon beneath the hand is worse and may prevent the injured individual from moving his or her finger.
Which Dogs Are Most Likely to Bite?
Any dog can bite under the right set of circumstances. However, as the Canine Journal reports, some dogs are more prone to biting than others. The top ten breeds that bite people most frequently are:
- Pit Bull
- German Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Lhasa Apso
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- Bull Terrier
Over 30 breeds of dogs have been associated with dog bites and fatalities. 25 percent of fatal dog attacks involved dogs of various breeds who were chained in someone’s yard. The majority of these bites involved dogs who were not spayed or neutered.
Preventing a Dog Bite
While not all dog bites are preventable, there are some actions you can take to avoid either having your dog bite someone or being bitten by someone else’s dog, the Canine Journal notes.
- Remember that dogs with a history of aggression are never appropriate for a home with young children. If you’re adopting an adult dog, make sure to spend time with the dog before taking it home to ensure that it does not have aggressive tendencies.
- Dogs who are not spayed or neutered are more likely to be aggressive than those who are. Spaying and neutering is one way to help ensure that you’re not housing a dangerous dog.
- If your dog is prone to biting, consider taking a dog training course to train the animal to obey your commands.
- Proper socialization of puppies is an important step in preventing aggressive tendencies in dogs. Don’t play aggressively with your puppy.
- Don’t ever approach an unfamiliar dog, and avoid approaching any dog while it is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
- When you are in contact with an unfamiliar dog, allow it to sniff your hand before you attempt to pet it. Scratch the dog beneath the chin rather than reaching to pat its head.
- If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog, do not run, panic, or make loud noises. Remain motionless. If the dog knocks you down, roll into a ball and remain motionless with your hands or arms covering your ears and neck. Avoid eye contact.
Your Next Steps
Dog bites resulted in $530 million in insurance claims in 2014. One-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims are due to dog bites or dog-related injuries. If you or your child has been bitten by a dog, you may be able to file a claim with the owner’s insurance company to recover your expenses. An experienced dog bite attorney can provide you with information about that process and may be able to represent you in the handling of that claim. An attorney can assist you with the process of seeking compensation through an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit in the following ways:
- Establishing a value to your claim based on the expenses you face, including time away from work due to your injury as well as travel to and from doctor appointments. The attorney will also consider non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, that you may have incurred because of your injury.
- Negotiation power. Attorneys spend a long time learning not only about the law, but also about successfully negotiating a settlement. Your dog bite lawyer will use his or her ability to negotiate to attempt to resolve your dog bite claim with the dog owner or the owner’s insurance provider.
- An understanding of the law, including liability. Your attorney will look at all of the details of the case, including potentially liable parties and potential insurance resources.
- The ability to present your case to the liable party or in court so that decisions can be made regarding fair compensation for your injuries.
Our Dog Bite Attorneys Can Help
If you or your child were bitten by a dog in Corpus Christi, contact The Patel Firm PLLC online or by calling (361) 400-2036 for a free consultation and case review. Some of the more common questions we receive about dog bite injury cases are listed below give us a call if your question isn’t listed.
FAQ’s about Dog Bite Injuries
Q: Who is liable if I am injured by a dog?
A: The dog owner is the party that is generally liable if you suffer a dog bite injury. Many Texas cities likely Corpus Christi are proposing new ordinances to increase the penalties for owners of dogs that cause dog bite injuries.
Q: Does insurance cover injuries from dog attacks and dog bites?
A: Yes. Generally, homeowners or renters insurance would be applicable if someone suffers a dog bite or dog attack.
Q: Are dog bite laws the same in every state?
A: No! Dog bite and dog attack laws vary from state to state. In some states like Texas, the injured party and their dog bite attorney must establish the dog owner knew or should have known (based on the aggressive nature/breed of the dog or prior incidents with the dog), that their dog was going to cause the victim’s injuries.