Dogs can serve a wide range of purposes in a modern home. From providing services for those with medical conditions to companionship for children and the elderly, dogs have many roles. But, with all those benefits, comes the risk for an animal to become aggressive and potentially hurt other people.

If you or someone you love suffered a dog bite in Texas, you may wonder what rights you have under state law. In some cases, you may have to take legal action to protect yourself.

Texas does not apply strict liability to dog owners

Many states have so-called strict liability rules that make dog owners instantly liable for anything their animals do, provided that the victim was not breaking the law at the time of the incident. Texas, however, requires that victims of dog-bite attacks demonstrate that the owner was somehow negligent or the animal was vicious.

Negligence in the care or housing of an animal could include letting it roam free, failing to fence the property or failing to restrain or train an animal to be safe around other humans. A vicious dog is a dog that has either received training to attack/fight or a dog that has a history of aggression toward humans or other animals. Even a “Beware of Dog” sign on the property could be enough to convince the Texas courts that the owner had reason to know that the dog was dangerous.

Victims can recover medical costs and other financial losses

Depending on the breed of the dog involved and the age and overall health of the human victim, a dog-bite attack could range from merely painful to fatal. Children and elderly adults are at high risk for severe injuries including broken bones or permanent disfigurement during a dog-bite attack.

However, even a healthy adult could wind up requiring surgery for wounds caused by a vicious dog. Typically, victims will have the right to seek compensation from renters or homeowners insurance policies to recover their medical costs, therapy expenses and lost wages after a dog-bite attack.

In the event that the dog breed was not covered under the insurance policy, its residence in the home went unreported to the insurance company or the owner does not have adequate insurance for the liability the dog poses, a civil lawsuit may be the only option for recovering the losses associated with a vicious dog attack.