As a victim of a dog bite attack, you may be wondering if you have grounds to pursue legal action even if there was a “Beware of Dog” sign posted. The short answer is yes, you can still potentially file a lawsuit. Property owners and dog owners are required to take reasonable precautions to prevent dog bites and attacks. A simple warning sign is typically not enough. They must ensure their dog is properly secured and unable to access people, especially in public areas. If a dog escapes confinement or its owner's control and bites someone, the victim can argue the owner was negligent. The owner failed to adequately restrain the dog and prevent foreseeable harm. While a "Beware of Dog" sign can be one precaution, it does not release an owner of liability in the event of an attack. As the victim, you deserve to have your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering compensated. Speaking with an experienced dog bite lawyer is advisable to understand your legal options.
What Texas Law Says About Dog Bite Liability
Under Texas law, a property owner can still be held liable for injuries from a dog bite even if there were "Beware of Dog" signs posted. A dog owner may be strictly liable for damages caused by their dog biting another person. This means the owner is responsible regardless of the owner's knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities or the owner's negligence.
However, there are two exceptions to this rule:
- If the injured person provoked the dog by teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog. In this case, the owner would not be liable.
- If the injured person was trespassing on the owner's property at the time of the bite. Here, the owner would only be liable if the dog bite occurred in an area of the property where the trespasser had a legal right to be, such as a common area.
To avoid liability in the event of a dog bite, property owners should take appropriate measures to ensure visitors' safety. This includes:
•Properly containing the dog to an area clearly marked with "Beware of Dog" signs.
•Muzzling or restraining aggressive dogs when others are present.
•Providing clear warnings about the presence of dogs on the property.
•Obtaining liability insurance in case of injuries.
While posting signs may deter some, according to Texas law signs alone do not absolve a property owner of responsibility. By taking proactive safety steps, owners can limit their liability exposure in the event of this unfortunate situation.
Beware of Dog Signs Do Not Negate an Owner’s Responsibility
While “Beware of Dog” signs are intended to warn visitors that a dog is present on the property, they do not absolve the owner of liability in the event of an attack. Property owners still have a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent foreseeable harm.
If a visitor is attacked by a dog on the owner’s property, the owner may be found negligent for failing to adequately restrain the dog or warn visitors of aggressive behavior. Signage alone is typically not enough. Owners are expected to take additional measures such as securely leashing, caging or confining the dog, especially if it has a history of aggression.
Provocation and Trespassing Exceptions
There are two circumstances in which a “Beware of Dog” sign may limit an owner’s liability. First, if a visitor provokes or aggravates the dog without cause, the owner may avoid liability. However, merely approaching a dog or entering its territory does not constitute provocation. Second, if a visitor trespasses on clearly marked private property, an owner may avoid liability for any injuries. However, if the dog inflicts an unreasonably severe attack, the owner may still be found negligent.
In summary, while “Beware of Dog” signs serve to warn visitors of potential danger, they do not release owners from their responsibility to properly restrain dogs and prevent attacks. Owners of aggressive dogs must take further action to control their animals and ensure the safety of anyone lawfully on their property. If a visitor is attacked, the owner may face legal liability for any injuries due to negligence in failing to do so.
The Dog Owner Still Had a Duty to Use Reasonable Care
Even if a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign was posted on the property, the dog owner still had a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent their dog from harming others. Simply posting a warning sign does not absolve the owner of responsibility.
The owner is obligated to take further precautions to ensure public safety, such as:
- Keeping the dog confined in a secure enclosure like a fenced yard or pen when unattended. Allowing a dog to roam freely, even on private property, can demonstrate a lack of reasonable care.
- Properly training and socializing the dog. Owners should take measures to prevent aggression and ensure the dog will not bite or attack, especially unprovoked. Failure to adequately train a dog known to be dangerous can be considered negligence.
- Following leash laws. Dogs must be kept on a secure leash in public to prevent them from confronting, chasing or biting passersby. Owners who frequently allow their dogs off-leash may be liable for bites that occur, even with a warning sign posted.
- Warning visitors. Owners should directly inform visitors, especially utility workers, delivery drivers and others accessing the property, about the presence of a dog and take precautions to secure the animal during these visits. A sign alone does not suffice as an adequate warning in these situations.
While a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign can be one part of a reasonable effort to prevent harm, dog owners must take further substantial action to fulfill their duty of care and avoid legal liability. Simply posting a sign, without undertaking other safety measures, likely will not protect an owner from being found negligent if their dog bites or injures someone, even if that person was trespassing at the time. The owner’s responsibility is to exercise the utmost caution to prevent their animal from harming others in any reasonably foreseeable situation.
An Austin Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help Determine Liability
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you may still have grounds to pursue legal action even if there was a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign posted. An experienced Austin dog bite lawyer can help determine who may be liable in your specific situation.
Property Owners and Renters
Property owners and renters have a duty to ensure the safety of lawful visitors to their property. If the sign was not prominently displayed in a clearly visible area or the dog was not properly confined or restrained, the property owner or renter may share liability for any injuries. They also have a responsibility to be aware of their dog’s aggressive behavior or biting history and take appropriate precautions to prevent attacks.
The Dog Owner
The dog owner is typically the primary responsible party in a dog bite claim. Even with a posted warning sign, dog owners in Texas can be held strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dog. This means the victim does not need to prove negligence or fault. The dog owner is responsible simply because they owned the dog. The only defenses a dog owner may have are if the victim provoked the dog or was trespassing at the time of the attack.
An experienced dog bite lawyer can investigate the details surrounding your attack, determine all responsible parties, and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. Compensation may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent disability. Do not delay in contacting a lawyer to discuss your options for holding the negligent parties accountable and recovering damages. The statute of limitations for filing a dog bite lawsuit in Texas is two years, so time is of the essence.
FAQ: Dog Bite Cases and Premises Liability in Texas
As a dog owner in Texas, you have certain responsibilities to prevent injury to others on your property. However, posting a "Beware of Dog" sign alone does not absolve you of liability should someone be bitten by your dog. There are several factors that determine whether the victim can pursue legal action.
Was the Victim Legally on the Property?
If the individual was not lawfully on your property at the time of the attack, you may not be held liable. For instance, if a trespasser enters your fenced yard and is bitten, you would typically not be responsible. However, if the person was invited onto the property, such as a utility worker or postal employee, you could face legal liability.
Was the Dog Properly Contained?
Merely posting a warning sign is insufficient if you failed to properly contain your dog. In Texas, dog owners must keep their dogs confined to their property through secure fencing or restraint. If your dog was running loose or easily escaped confinement when it attacked, you could be found negligent. The victim may argue that the sign alone did not provide adequate warning of the danger.
Did the Victim Provoke the Dog?
If the individual provoked or harassed the dog to the point that it reacted in defense, you may avoid liability. However, the provocation must be significant. Simply walking past a dog that is barking or greeting it in a friendly manner would not qualify as provocation. The victim must have taken clear action to incite aggressive behavior from an otherwise non-aggressive pet.
In summary, while a "Beware of Dog" sign can warn individuals of potential danger, it does not release a dog owner from responsibility in the event of an attack. By properly containing your dog, ensuring it does not have aggressive tendencies, and restricting access to lawful visitors only, you can limit liability risks. However, if your dog does bite someone, it is best to contact an attorney regarding your rights and responsibilities.
Call Fletcher Law For Help With Your Dog Bite Injury Case
If you have suffered injuries from a dog bite, even if there was a “Beware of Dog” sign posted, you may still have a case for compensation. Dog bite laws vary by state, but most adhere to strict liability statutes, meaning the dog owner can be held legally responsible regardless of whether or not they knew the dog could be dangerous.
Consult With A Personal Injury Attorney
The first step is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. They can review the details of your case, examine any photographs of injuries or the scene of the attack, and determine if you have grounds to pursue legal action. Some key factors they will consider include:
- The severity of your injuries. More serious injuries, especially those requiring extensive medical treatment, strengthen your claim.
- Witness statements. Eyewitness accounts of the attack from impartial observers can help establish the owner’s negligence.
- The dog’s history. If the dog had a history of aggressive behavior or previous attacks, it indicates the owner should have taken greater precautions.
- Your own actions. Whether or not you provoked the dog in some way will also be taken into account. Unprovoked attacks typically lead to greater liability for the owner.
While a “Beware of Dog” sign may provide a warning, it does not absolve a dog owner of responsibility. If you suffered harm due to an owner’s negligence in properly containing or controlling an animal they knew to be dangerous, you deserve to be compensated. Speaking to a lawyer about your legal options can help you pursue a dog bite claim and recover damages related to your injuries. The attorneys at Fletcher Law have years of experience handling dog bite cases - contact us today for a free consultation.