That Bites

If the dog’s bark is worse than his bite, a court case likely won’t be the end result. However, if the bite is worse than the bark, that is another matter.

In some instances, a dog owner may face civil and criminal charges if their dog takes a bite out of someone. While it might not seem like a big deal, it may turn out to be that way.

Dog bite law is an interesting mixture of civil and criminal law and the laws vary widely among jurisdictions. If faced with a dog bite, it’s best to hire a competent dog bite attorney who will know what the law says in the particular jurisdiction where the incident took place. An important issue in dog bite cases is whether the jurisdiction follows the one-bite rule.

“The one-bite rule actually originated in English common law and generally speaking, protects a dog owner until he has actual knowledge his dog is dangerous/vicious. Once that becomes evident, the owner is strictly liable for any injuries inflicted by the dog,” explained Jack Zinda, a partner at the law firm of Heselmeyer Zinda PLLC, Austin, Texas.

Most states are fairly consistent in saying that an owner is liable if any injuries were caused by negligence in handling the dog or by violating a strict leash law. “If a person happens to live in a state where an owner is considered to be liable by virtue of an existing statute because they own the dog, hiring a dog bite attorney is the smart thing to do,” added Zinda.

If faced with a dog bite situation, make certain to assist the victim to get medical attention if it is necessary. “Do not volunteer any information to the person about the dog or the dog’s habits or personality. Save this discussion to have with the attorney,” advised Jack Zinda, a partner at the law firm of Heselmeyer Zinda PLLC, Austin, Texas. If the dog has unexpectedly bitten someone, or even if it was provoked to bite, immediately take all reasonable precautions to protect anyone else from a dog bite.

If there were any witnesses to the dog-biting incident, get names and addresses, etc. and call the insurance company to report the incident. This is to make sure that if there is a claim, the insurance company defends the owner in a lawsuit. If they are not aware of the incident, any claims filed later may be denied. “Here is one tip that most home owners don’t know about, and that is insurance companies will generally ask what breed of dog is on the premises because they will either charge higher rates or decline to insure at all,” said Zinda.

Jack Zinda is an Austin business lawyer with Heselmeyer Zinda, PLLC. To learn more about Austin business attorney Jack Zinda visit