What is the “one free bite rule”?

Downtown Fort Worth Law FirmTexas follows the old “one free bite rule” in a dog bite or other animal attack case. The “one free bite” under the English common law rule meant that an owner could not be liable for his or her animal attacking another person until the owner knew it was dangerous to others. Hence, the one free bite was the first one that informed the owner the animal is dangerous. Yet Texas does not follow the old one free bite rule as originally applied in England; statutory changes expanded owner liability for dog bites and other animal attacks. If you have been bitten by a dog in Texas then you should contact a Texas lawyer ASAP to discuss your potential claim.

Dallas, Texas and Fort Worth, Texas liability rules

Texas will hold a dog owner liable if: (1) the negligence of the person handling the dog caused the injury; (2) the intentional acts of the person handling the dog caused the injury; (3) a violation of an animal control law, such as a leash law, resulted in injury; or (4) the owner knew the dog had bitten somebody before or had the dangerous propensity to bite a person. The fourth instance is where the one free bite comes into play.

The one free bite rule is watered down by creating liability for people who know the animal has a dangerous propensity to bite a person. This means a bite does not have to occur. An injured person could show that the dog had tried to bite somebody before, had tried to jump a fence to attack a passerby, tried to attack people while on a leash and other forms of hostility towards other people in the presence of the owner.

Once an owner knows of the threat caused by his or her dog, he or she has an absolute duty to protect others from attack by the dog. While this can seem harsh to the owner, the reason for the absolute duty is to push owners to take necessary steps to prevent their pets from becoming a danger to the neighborhood. We do not want dogs running around biting children playing in their yards or in the park. While many dogs are friendly and only attack when seriously provoked, they can be dangerous once that happens.

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