Dog Bites In Utah

Dog Bites In Utah

When a dog bites someone, it is easy to blame the dog. However, the dog likely does not have any financial resources from which the victim can be compensated. Therefore, the law imputes responsibility on the dog’s owner. Dog bites continue to be a widespread problem with approximately 4.5 million dog bites occurring each year. Many of these incidences result in the victim needing medical treatment, including hospitalization or reconstructive surgery. Children and mail carriers are often the target of choice. In response to this continuing epidemic, state laws and municipal ordinances seek to crack down on these expensive and dangerous incidences. In some locales, a dog owner is held strictly liable for the actions of his or her dog, meaning that the victim does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent or that he or she knew about any of the dog’s vicious tendencies.

Common Causes of Dog Bites
Dogs may bite for a variety of reasons. Often, biting is a response in reaction to an environmental factor. Some common causes of dog bites include:
• Fear: Some dogs bite because they are afraid. A dog may feel threatened by a trespasser, an unknown person or the presence of another animal and will attack in order to protect itself.
• Protection: Many dogs are trained to protect the property. They may feel territorial. Their territorial nature may emerge when it is triggered. Another common reason why dogs bite is to protect their masters or puppies. Dogs may also feel territorial over their food, so if a dog feels like someone is interfering with its food, it may lash out.
• Sickness: In other instances, dogs bite when they are sick. They may be irritable and may snap at sources of irritation, including children.
Preventing Dog Bites In Utah
There are a number of steps that individuals can take to protect against the occurrence of dog bites. These include:
• Avoiding Unfamiliar Dogs: If a person is not familiar with a particular dog, he or she should not approach it or assume that the dog is friendly. Even “nice” dogs can sometimes lash out when it its territorial instinct or fear is triggered. Children should let an adult know if there is a stray dog or if a neighborhood dog appears to be acting strangely so that the proper interventions can be put in place.
• Avoiding Disrupting the Dog: Individuals may also be able to avoid injury if they avoid making disruptions to the dog. They should leave animals alone when they are eating so that the dog is not interrupted during its meal. They should also avoid disrupting the environment. Like children, animals thrive on routines and on consistency. Therefore, animals should not be disturbed when they are eating, sleeping or caring for their pups.

• Not Antagonizing the Dog: Individuals also should not antagonize a dog. This includes avoiding any violent contact with the dog, including hitting him, shoving him or otherwise hurting him. Dog owners and those playing with dogs should not encourage aggressive play. In many locations, it is a viable defense for the dog owner to avoid financial liability if the individual injured was antagonizing the dog and then got injured.
• Confronting a Dog: If a dog appears menacing but has not yet attacked, individuals can take steps to prevent a dog bite from occurring. They should be still and avoid making any sudden moves. They should not run from the dog and should avoid making loud noises. They should not panic and should avoid direct eye contact with the dog. Individuals should also avoid any aggressive stances or actions that may appear aggressive to the dog.
Different Legal Standard for Different Animals
Many states have enacted “dog-bite laws,” which impose strict liability on dog owners for injuries caused by their dog. Strict liability means that the dog owner is liable for injuries caused by his or her dog, regardless of whether or not the owner was personally at fault. If there is no dog-bite law that imposes strict liability on the dog owner, the injured party must prove that the owner knew (or should have known) that his or her dog was vicious. Regardless of whether there is a dog-bite law or not, an injured person might not be able to recover if the dog owner shows that the injured person provoked the dog, and sometimes if the injured party was trespassing. People who have wild animals as pets are often subject to strict liability because wild animals are considered inherently dangerous. For this reason, even if the pet owner tries his or her best to protect people from his or her wild animal, if a person is injured by the animal, the owner can still be held liable. Horses and other domestic animals, on the other hand, are generally treated under the standard rule of negligence. Thus, the owner will usually be held liable if he or she knew (or should have known) that the animal had dangerous tendencies.

Proving a Dog’s Vicious Propensities
In states that do not have strict liability for dog bites, the injured party needs to prove that the animal had vicious propensities that the owner knew or should have known about. There are various factors that a plaintiff can use to help his or case in proving that the dog had vicious propensities. A good way to show that the owner knew that the dog could be dangerous is if there were previous complaints brought to the owner’s attention. If the owner didn’t do anything after receiving the complaints, he or she could be held liable for injuries because of his or her negligent behavior. Actions by the owner, such as often confining or muzzling the dog, could also be used as indications that the owner was aware that the dog could be dangerous.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
Most often dogs bite people when they feel threatened in some way. It’s a natural instinct that is still present in domesticated dogs, no matter how nice they are. That is why it’s important for everyone who interacts with dogs to understand what may provoke this aggressive behavior.
• Dogs may bite in defense of themselves, their territory, or a member of their pack. Mother dogs will fiercely protect their puppies as well.
• Startling a dog, such as waking one up or a child suddenly approaching from behind, can provoke a dog bite.
• Running away from a dog, even if it’s during play, can provoke it to bite. They may think it’s part of the fun at first, but even that can turn to aggression quickly.
• Dogs who are in a fearful situation may bite whoever approaches them. This may be something as severe as being abused or abandoned, or it may be something you perceive as ordinary, such as a loud noise.
• Injury and illness are a common reason as well. If a dog is not feeling well, they may not even want to be approached or touched by their favorite people.
Dog Bites and the Law
Dog bite laws can vary greatly depending on the local jurisdiction. It is important that you research the laws in your area, so you know what to expect. The following conditions typically apply in dog bite cases:
• You will need to show proof of your dog’s rabies vaccination history.
• A quarantine period may be required. The period will likely be longer if the rabies vaccination is not current.
• Depending on the situation and your dog’s history, it is possible for your dog to be designated a “dangerous dog.” You may have to comply with specific laws regarding the handling of your dog.
• Laws may require that your dog is euthanized if your dog is considered “dangerous,” if the injury was very serious, or if a fatality occurred. Also, you could be held legally responsible and face criminal charges.
Your Role After a Dog Bite
The dog bite victim may choose to press charges or file a civil suit against you. In either case, you should immediately hire an attorney. While you may or may not be legally ordered to cover the victim’s medical expenses, it is a good idea to offer up front to pay. This shows the victim that you are accepting responsibility for your dog. It may even help you avoid a messy lawsuit. Above all, it is the ethical thing to do, even if you have an explanation for the dog bite. In reality, proving your dog was provoked or somehow justified will be difficult unless it can be proven that the victim was committing a crime. This simply may not be an argument that is not worth having. If you are fortunate enough to get to keep your dog, it is your responsibility to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future. Take steps to prevent your dog from biting again. In most cases, a dog bite can be easily prevented by taking the proper safety measures. If you are able to determine what triggered the bite, try to keep your dog from getting into the same situation. Work with your dog to adjust its reaction to the trigger. It is absolutely essential to work on training and socialization with your dog as soon as possible after the bite. The best plan is to contact a professional trainer and possibly a veterinary behaviorist. Many dogs with aggression can be helped through training, socialization, and behavior modification. Sadly, in some cases of major aggression that cannot be reversed, the most humane thing to do is euthanasia. Of course, this is the last resort.

How to File a Dog Bite Report
Whether you’re an avid dog lover or you shy away from all four-legged creatures, no one ever wants to be attacked by one. Unfortunately, it happens more often than you may realize. If you or a loved one have been attacked by a dog, it’s important to file a dog bite report with your local animal control agency as soon as possible.
Why File a Dog Bite Report?
Sometimes a dog bite victim doesn’t want to file a report because he or she is friends with the dog’s owner, afraid of the owner, or doesn’t want anything to happen to the dog itself. However, authorities strongly suggest or require victims of dog bites to report these incidents to the local animal control agency for a number of reasons, including the following:
• It provides legal documentation which helps if you need to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the owner. Filing a report will help you obtain records regarding the dog’s owner, the dog’s history, and vaccination information. The investigation may also provide evidence you can present to the insurance company or during a lawsuit.
• It helps local authorities enforce state and local dog bite laws. A dog bite report triggers an investigation into the incident, and if the dog is categorized as dangerous, the owner may be required to carry special insurance or take extra precautions to ensure the public’s safety. They may also face fines or even criminal consequences if they fail to comply.
• It helps protect others from being attacked by the same animal. Someone is more likely to take extra precautions once the authorities are aware of the dog’s dangerous behavior, especially if they are required to do so by law. In more extreme cases, a particularly vicious dog may need to be put down in order to avoid devastating attacks. Local animal control agencies also help protect dogs that are being abused or neglected, so filing a dog bite report may be in the animal’s best interest as well.
How to File a Dog Bite Report
After sustaining a dog bite, you should first seek medical attention. Dog bites can lead to infection and even rabies in some cases. You should also document your injuries and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Take pictures of your wounds, write down what you remember from the incident, and speak with others who witnessed the event. After these initial steps, research your local animal control agency to find out how to file a dog bite report in your area. The animal control agency may be a division of the local police department, the humane society, your county’s health department, or some other entity. Some have forms you can fill out online or submit via fax, while others require you to call in to initiate the report process. Lastly, you must cooperate with animal control’s investigation into the incident. Local agencies may issue subpoenas, interview witnesses, and hold hearings to determine what happened and whether or not they need to exact penalties or remove the dog from the owner’s care.
What to Do If a Report Has Been Filed Against Your Dog
If a dog bite report has been filed against your dog, you will need to cooperate with the investigation conducted by the animal control authority. However, you should also consider contacting a dog bite attorney. As a result of a dog bite, you could be sued, your insurance rates can go up, your dog could be taken away from you, and you could face fines or even criminal charges in more extreme cases. A dog bite attorney will know the applicable dog bite laws in your state and the legal defenses that may be available to you.
Criminal Penalties for Owners of Dangerous Dogs
Dog owners could face fines or jail time for violating legal restrictions on keeping dangerous dogs. They may also be charged with serious crimes if their animals attack and severely injure people. It’s every dog owner’s nightmare: Your pet mauls someone, seriously hurting or even killing them. Although dog bites are fairly common, they rarely result in severe injuries or death. When they do, there’s generally evidence that the owner failed to take precautions despite knowing that the animal presented a grave danger usually because it was trained to fight or had already attacked or menaced people. In situations like that, dog owners will probably be liable to the injured people in civil lawsuits. They may also face criminal charges, under laws aimed at dangerous dogs or general criminal statutes.
Penalties Under Dangerous Dog Laws
At least 39 states in the U.S. have “dangerous-dog laws” laws that are intended to protect the public from dogs that are dangerous or vicious. In order to save the animals from being euthanized, owners must generally meet certain conditions, ranging from keeping the dog confined or muzzled to buying liability insurance or a special license. In many states, it’s a crime to violate these restrictions, particularly if the dog hurts someone. Penalties range from fines to prison time for a felony. For example: In Utah, if a dog that’s been declared dangerous is found at large or injures someone, the owner will be guilty of a misdemeanor. However, it will be a felony if the injury is serious or involuntary manslaughter if the dog kills someone.

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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Dog Bites

Dog Bites

Title 18-Chapter 1 of Utah State Legislature’s Utah Code says, “every person owning or keeping a dog is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog.” It also says that it is not necessary to prove any dog or owner was guilty of a “mischievous disposition.” If you were attacked by more than one dog, and the dogs are owned by different individuals, then all of the owners of the dogs involved are liable to your injuries and damages.

Why Would I Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Case?

While cases can be won without representation, the trend shows that fighting the legal battle with a lawyer will reward you with a much higher settlement. It is proven that plaintiffs without legal representation often misstep in their case by giving a recorded statement, demanding too much or too little, assuming the system makes sense, taking the insurance company’s “final” offer and settle the case without knowing the full extent of their injuries.

Utah Dog Bite Law

Injuries from dog bites can be extremely serious, and cost the victim large sums of money due to medical bills. In addition, dog bites may cause strong emotional trauma to young children. Children who have been bitten by a dog may experience loss of sleep, fear of dogs, and general trepidation. It is important for anyone whose child has suffered from a serious dog bite injury to seek an experienced personal injury attorney.

An attorney is invaluable in sorting through state laws regarding dogs, gathering and evaluating medical information and negotiating with dog owners or insurance companies. Dog bite law differs from state to state. Some state use a “One Bite” rule that is that an owner is not liable if they do not know that their dog might act aggressively. However, once a dog has bitten someone, the owner is on notice and can be held liable for later injuries. Still, other states will not hold an owner liable if the dog was provoked or if the person bitten had no legal right to be where they were at the time they were bitten. However, more and more states apply a strict liability standard. That is the dog owner is liable for the injuries caused whether the owner knew the dog to be potentially dangerous or not. Utah follows the strict liability standard. Utah law places responsibility upon the dog owner for any injuries caused by the pet. That is, a dog owner in Utah need not be aware of the dog’s vicious tendencies before the owner is responsible for the damages caused by the pet. The person who was bitten does not need to prove that the dog was vicious or that the owner knew that the dog was vicious. Every person owning or keeping a dog is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog, and it is not necessary in the action brought therefore to allege or prove that the dog was of a vicious or mischievous disposition or that the owner or keeper of the dog knew that it was vicious or mischievous.

If two or more dogs are acting together and they are owned by different owners’ liability, both owners can be joined as defendants. Liability among the dog owners is to be apportioned among them and judgment is to be entered severally against all of the owners. Severally liable means that if two dogs are deemed to have caused injury and one of them caused most of the damage, say 80% while the other dog caused 20% of the damage, the owner liable for the 20% would only have to pay 20% of the damages, even if the owner with 80% liability could not pay for some reason. This is different than “joint and severally liable.”

Arbitration of Dog Bite Cases

Utah allows the use of binding arbitration to resolve bodily injury claims for dog bites. Arbitration can be a good solution for the resolution of a dog bite case. Arbitrations are less formal and are typically faster and cheaper than taking the matter through trial. In order to eligible for binding arbitration under Utah’s dog law a complaint must be first filed in court and then a notice to submit the case for arbitration must be filed within 14 days and the complaint has been answered. An arbitration award under this statute cannot exceed $50,000 in addition to medical benefits and a claim for property damage. There are other limitations of the recovery under the arbitration statute. For instance, recovery is limited to the amount of monies available from insurance and punitive damages are not available. Discovery is available as provided for under Rule 26 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules of Evidence , but with caveat that discovery is to be completed within 150 days after the election of arbitration. If either party is not satisfied with the arbitration award, they can seek a trial de novo. However, if the award at trial is not different by 30% from the arbitration award, the party moving for trial de novo will pay the costs of the other party.

Comparative Fault

Even though Utah is a strict liability state, the actions of the victim are taken into account. A dog owner may not be held responsible for the acts of his dog if the victim is to blame. For example, of the dog was provoked by kicking or striking, teasing or tormenting the dog. In a case such a provocation, a comparative fault analysis is available which would apportion blame between the owner and the victim. Petting or playing with a dog is not usually considered provocation, unless the victim was warned not to do so. A comparative fault analysis is typically not available in the case of children being injured by a dog. A child is not expected to know not to provoke a dog, depending on his or her age. If a dog owner is held responsible for a child’s injuries from a dog bite, the owner will be required to pay for treatment of all of the injuries caused by the animal. The owner may also have to pay extra money for physical pain, mental anguish, and apprehension of rabies. In addition, the owner may have to pay punitive damages, which is money required to punish the owner, if he knew about the vicious nature of the dog. If a dog is found to be extremely vicious, a court may require that the dog be put to death.

Time Limits on Utah Dog Bite Cases

Utah, like all states, has its own “statute of limitations” that sets a time limit on the filing of lawsuits in Utah courts. In Utah, a person injured by a dog has four years to bring any case to court. This four-year time limit typically starts running on the date of the injury, but since certain situations can change the running of the statute of limitations, it’s important to understand how the rule applies in your particular case. And remember, if your case is not filed within the four-year time limit, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it.

Defenses to Dog Injury Lawsuits in Utah

Utah’s dog injury law is comprehensive, so very few defenses are available for those facing a lawsuit under Utah’s dog injury statute. The law does create an exception to liability for trained law enforcement dogs who are “reasonably and carefully being used in the apprehension, arrest, or location of a suspected offender or in maintaining or controlling the public order.” When a Utah dog bite or other dog-related injury case is based in negligence, however, a dog owner may raise one or more defenses. For instance, the dog’s owner may argue that the injured person was partly or totally responsible for the injuries. This argument, known as “comparative negligence,” may apply if, for instance, the injured person was provoking the dog at the time of the injury. Utah is a “modified” comparative negligence state. If the injured person is found to be less than 50 percent at fault, Utah law requires the court to reduce the injured person’s total damages award by a percentage equal to his or her fault. If the injured person is found to be 50 percent or more at fault, however, he or she is barred from collecting any damages at all from any other at-fault party. If the injured person was trespassing at the time of the injury, a dog owner may also be able to argue that limits on homeowner liability for trespasser injuries apply to the case.

Things You Must Do After a Dog Bites You in Utah

Almost every city in Utah has a law that requires dog owners to put a leash on their dog to prevent injury – and sometimes even death – to others. Because under Utah law, if a dog gets out and bites you, dog owners become “strictly liable.” What this means is that the dog owner will held responsible, except in those cases where the victim may have provoked the dog. Even where the dog may have been as peaceful as could be before the bite, with no history of even nipping at someone, the dog owner will be accountable. The Utah dog bite rules says: “Every person owning or keeping a dog shall be liable in damages for injury committed by such dog, and it shall not be necessary in any action brought therefore to allege or prove that such dog was of a vicious or mischievous disposition or that the owner or keeper thereof knew that it was vicious or mischievous.” Thus, while some states have a “one free bite rule,” Utah law puts the responsibility on the dog owner for the dog’s very first bite, even if that bite was unexpected. And it doesn’t even have to be a bite. A young child or jogger who is trying to get away from a dog off its leash and injures him or herself, is one of the people who is meant to be protected under this rule. Damages from dog bites can include the cost of medical treatment, shots, plastic surgeries to help reduce scars, visible scars, scar tissue, muscle and ligament damages, lost time from work, future time off work, emotional distress, etc. These claims are usually made against the home owner’s insurance policy of the dog owner.

If the dog owner is a renter, however, they will typically not have this type of coverage.
• Get the contact information for the dog owner or person in charge of the dog, including their name, phone number and address;
• Notify animal control as the dog could have rabies or some other disease and may need to be quarantined to see if they have a disease;
• Get the names and contact information of witnesses who saw the bite happen;
• Find out the type of dog that bit you and the breed;
• Take pictures of your wound after the bite and as you heal to show the healing progression;
• Take pictures of the scene of the dog bite, including where the dog may have escaped from; and
• Save the clothes you were wearing that show bite marks or were bloodied from your dog bite wound.

Who will be held responsible for the dog’s actions?

According to Utah law, the dog owner is nearly always responsible for any injuries the dog causes. The only exception applies to those dogs used by police officers. However, police dogs can only avoid liability under two conditions. First, those dogs must be trained. Second, the injury must happen while helping officers arrest a suspect or maintain public order. Utah law also specifies that the injured person does not need to prove that the dog was vicious or that the owner knew this. While some states do not hold owner’s responsible until the dog’s second bite, Utah starts punishing owners from the very first bite. However, just because a dog bite someone does not mean the owner must automatically pay for the injuries. Utah compares the fault of the owner to the fault of the injured person. A person cannot intentionally provoke a dog and then blame the owner for the injury. Usually, little children will not be held responsible since they do not know any better. Sometimes an injury can come from multiple dogs owned by different people. In this case, Utah law holds all of the owners responsible as joint defendants. If found responsible, the court will require each owner to pay a certain portion of the total damages caused by the attack.

What can I receive compensation for?

If the owner is found responsible, then he or she will need to pay for the injuries and any other damages caused by the bite. Typically, a dog owner’s home or rental insurance will cover these costs. The owner may need to pay for:
• medical expenses,
• surgery for scars or disfigurement,
• lost earnings (current and future), and
• pain and suffering.
When should I seek help?
After a dog bite, you should do several things to ensure that someone will be held responsible for the attack. Further, Utah law only allows an injured person four years to file a claim against the dog’s owner. If the dog injured a child, then this four year time limit does not start until the child reaches the age of 18. However, this statute of limitation can vary based on individual circumstances, so please do not wait to act.

What else should I know about Utah’s laws on Dog bites?

If you are a dog owner, you need to realize your responsibility for your dog. You can also take certain steps to avoid creating aggression in your dog. If a dog attacks another animal, a person can injure or kill that dog without legally getting in trouble.

Dog Bite Injuries to the Face

When a dog wants to bite a human, it will likely call back to its animal instincts and attack a person’s head and neck area. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest report in 2012, nearly 900 thousand people were hospitalized for dog bite injuries and half were small children.

Statistics of Facial Dog Bite Injuries

In a study done on facial repair of dog injuries to the head and neck, 45% of the cases were from pit bull attacks, in two cases that had multiple dogs involved, all were pit bulls. Injuries to the lip made up 21.7% of cases followed closely by dog bite injuries to the cheek and nose. Those who needed surgical repair and had to go to the operating room were all children. The cost of dog bite injuries to the face result in staggering hospital costs. On average, homeowner’s claims for dog bites in 2012 paid out nearly $30,000; however, considering some facial surgery costs can go into the millions, it’s easy to see why medical debt causes many to go bankrupt. Not only can the medical costs rise, but psychological pain and suffering from suffering large facial injuries and the resulting scarring can be devastating. Dog bite injuries can be serious, especially if the bites are on the head or neck. Your medical bills will climb if you have to get surgery for the dog bite wound. These mounting medical bills, accompanied by pain and suffering can wear you down and even make you bankrupt! However, you don’t have to go into debt.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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