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Dog Bite Law 101

Can I Recover Money from the Owner of a Dog That Bit Me?

Many people assume that the owner of a dog that has bitten another person is automatically liable for any injuries the victim sustains. In fact, this type of liability does exist and is known as "strict liability." In such instances, the owner of the dog is liable to the injured individual even if the owner did not know that the dog was vicious or prone to attack. It is also called strict liability because it does not matter how much care the owner took to prevent the dog from biting someone—the owner must still pay for the cost of the victim's injuries and other related damages. Certain states impose strict liability statutes and laws, including Arizona. Texas and New Mexico, however, do not have a statute or law that imposes strict liability on dog owners. However, this does not mean that a dog bite victim can never recover from the dog owner in these states. A skilled El Paso dog bite attorney who regularly handles dog bite cases can help you navigate the dog bite laws in your region and will know how best to use them to your advantage. At Harmonson Law Firm, our attorney has more than 12 years of legal experience. We can help you work to recover the maximum compensation you are owed for damages, harms, and losses caused by a dog bite.

Were you injured by a dog? Contact Harmonson Law Firm at (915) 228-4140 to speak with an attorney about your case today.

The One Free Bite Rule

Both Texas and New Mexico follow the so-called “one free bite” rule. Under this law, the owner of a dog is strictly liable to the dog bite victim only after the owner knows or has reason to know of the dog’s vicious nature. Such knowledge of the dog’s vicious nature usually comes after the dog has bitten another person, hence, the name “one free bite.” The name is not 100% accurate, however. The owner of the dog could learn of the dog’s vicious nature prior to the dog actually biting someone. For example, the owner of the dog may have viewed the dog growling viciously and barking at the mailman when he comes to deliver the mail. If the mailman or someone else approaches the house and the dog then bites that person, the owner of the dog could be liable under the strict liability theory even though the dog never bit a stranger beforehand.

Negligence & Dog Bite Liability

Dog bite victims can also recover money damages from the owner of a dog if the owner negligently handles the dog. The owner of a dog has a duty to act as a reasonably prudent person in handling the dog. This duty requires that the owner take reasonable precautions to confine or otherwise protect the public from the dog. There a number of city ordinances that provide that the owner of a dog must prevent the dog from running at large. So, if a dog is able to easily escape an owner’s premises, then the dog owner could be liable to the dog bite victim if the dog escapes and bites the person.

Both El Paso and La Cruces/County of Dona Ana have ordinances that state a dog owner must keep their dog “reasonably restrained.” In other words, the dog must remain in an enclosed yard/area or on a leash. Violation of these ordinances can lead to the owner’s liability to the dog bite victim.

If found liable, the owner of a dog is liable to the dog bite victim for damages, which includes as applicable:

  • Payment of medical bills
  • Payment for future surgeries/medical treatment needed because of the dog bite
  • Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental Anguish
  • Disfigurement caused by the dog bite
  • Physical impairment caused by the dog bite

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, contact the El Paso dog bite attorney at Harmonson Law Firm. We regularly assist clients throughout New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona, providing compassionate legal guidance, sound counsel, and aggressive representation every step of the way.

Call (915) 228-4140 to schedule your free case evaluation with our attorney today!

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