You’re at a friend’s house, about to pet their pup. The dog seems nice — until they switch moods and bite your hand. Or even worse, let’s say you’re getting the mail, but the neighbors let out their scary dog…and now it’s chasing after you.

If you were the victim of a dog attack, you’re not the only one. There are 4.5 million dog bites in the US every year. Dogs only act out on their natural instincts, so it’s not always fair to blame the pooch for the animal attack. But there are times when you can hold the owner liable for a dog attack. Here’s what to do after a dog attack, medically and legally, in the state of Texas.

Seek Medical Treatment

Depending on the severity of your dog bite, seeking treatment is the very first step. If you endured uncontrollable bleeding, extreme pain, broken bones, deep lacerations, and loss of function, call 911 or visit the emergency room immediately.

But even if your dog bite doesn’t seem severe, it may be worth it to visit a walk-in clinic. 50% of dog bites introduce various bacterial strains into your system, increasing the risk of infection.

Identify the One at Fault

If you decide to press charges, you’ll want to identify the individual at fault. In most cases, the owner is the one at fault. 

Owner Liability

Let’s say you’re getting the mail and are doing yard work. Your neighbor’s dog isn’t on a leash and it attacks you. The owner also has “dangerous dog” signs on their yard. In this case, the owner knows the dog’s threat, it may have attacked another person, and the owner didn’t restrain the dog. The owner is liable and proving this is easy.

One Free Bite

But liability can be more difficult to prove than you think. That’s because Texas has a law nicknamed “one free bite.” In other words, If the owner didn’t know the dog was a threat and it never bit anyone previously, then the owner is safe from liability. However, there are still some exceptions.

Let’s say a friend’s dog bit you, but the dog is a small breed such as a chihuahua. The bite didn’t hurt or cause severe bleeding, but you still got an infection. The chihuahua’s owner may say the dog never bit anyone and had no prior reason to prove the dog was a threat. But the victim can still prove negligence if the owner failed to stop the act.

Landlord Liability

While the owner is likely the culprit, Texas has some specific dog bite laws that could dictate the one who’s really responsible. For example, let’s say the dog owner is a renter.

The dog attacks you while you’re getting the mail or are doing yard work. You noticed the dog was on a leash, yet it escaped. However, you failed to notice a “dangerous dog” sign in the yard. In this case, the landlord is liable for the attack, since its owner originally restrained the dog and the property owner never warned the public about the dog.

Gather Information on the Attack

No matter which scenario fits your attack best, you’ll need to gather information to prove you’re the victim and the owner or landlord is responsible. Start with the dog. See if there are records of previous attacks and obtain any licenses the owner has on the dog.

Next, gather information about the attack, such as the dog’s owner, how the dog attacked you, if it was restrained or not, and whether or not you saw a “dangerous dog” sign.

Photographs are also essential to proving liability. If you can, take photographs after the bite. Even if you weren’t able to, ask a nurse or medical professional to take photos. It’s important to seek assistance from a medical professional in case you have to unwrap gauze or a cast.

If you can’t get a photo of the injury, you can still prove the attack by taking photos of blood and torn clothing. Even photos of the dog’s location, such as the spot of the injury, its leash, and the “dangerous dog” sign, can all be beneficial to your case.

Contact a Lawyer

Once you gathered the essential information, contact an attorney. Texas has complex dog bite laws and they can be difficult to navigate on your own. The right lawyer will look out for your best interests and will create a compelling case to ensure you win.

Every city and county also has its own dog bite laws, so it’s best to find a local lawyer. For example, if you live in Waco, find a local attorney who specializes in dog bites. Keep in mind that some lawyers can operate in multiple cities. Always check and see if an attorney can operate in your area before contacting them.

File a Dog Bite Report

Once you have legal representation, you can file a dog bite report. This is a report you fill out to the county or city. In short, this report will make it easier for authorities to enforce the next steps. This report will not only benefit your case but will warn others in the area about the dog.

Know the Costs

A dog bite can come with serious costs. Medical expenses and legal fees are some common examples of costs you may obtain. It’s best to know how much this is costing you so you can seek compensation. Most victims start a journal and document all of the bills and fees they have to pay.

Keep in mind that it may take years for this case to complete — especially if the case was complex. Continue updating this journal throughout the case’s course of time.

Are You Looking for a Dog Attack Lawyer?

While most dogs are loving, there is always a dog attack risk. And that dog bite can come with suffering, pain, and lots of medical bills. If you got bit by a dog, it’s essential that you seek legal representation. We operate in various cities, such as Waco, Austin, and more. Contact us today and we will review your case for free.