Dogs are often fun animals to play with that can be treasured family members. However, dogs are still animals and no matter how well trained they are, their instincts can surface and they may lash out and bite people. These experiences can be traumatic—with the potential to cause permanent scarring, muscle and nerve damage, and mental anguish. Children can be especially emotionally traumatized by a dog bite. Depending on the severity, dog bites may require extensive and expensive medical treatment and counseling to help a victim recovery fully.
If someone is bitten, the dog owner’s liability insurance should typically provide some compensation for the victim. In some cases though, the insurance company may try to deny the claim or not provide enough to compensate the victim for the pain and suffering they have endured. Texas also has what is known as a “one free bite rule,” which means the owner must be aware his or her dog is prone to vicious acts in order to be held liable for their dog biting someone. Essentially, the owner can deny knowledge of the dog being prone to violence if the pet has never been reported to have bitten someone else. If this is the dog’s first reported attack, it may be more difficult to obtain compensation. Interviewing neighbors, mail carriers, or other people who regularly access the house (like babysitters and housekeepers) can help provide a picture of the canine’s tendencies if needed.
Matthews & Forester urges all victims of a dog bite to contact a lawyer as early as possible after the attack. Experienced injury attorneys can help manage the claim process from the beginning and negotiate with the insurance company on a client’s behalf. If needed, they can gather evidence and take legal action against the insurance company or the dog owner or both. Especially if the dog owner is a friend of family member, it’s a good idea to work through a lawyer to resolve any claims or disputes. This provides a buffer and can help keep important relationships from fraying. No matter the circumstances, we work hard to make sure our clients are appropriately compensated for the consequences of a dog attack.