We have all heard the saying, “dogs are a man’s best friend.” This is resoundingly true throughout the United States and in Utah. However, when a person’s best friend attacks, who is responsible? Most dogs, unless trained to be, do not have vicious tendencies and, in general, are unlikely to cause serious damage when properly restrained.
However, due to the growing number of dogs and dog owners, dogs bite. In these cases, most states have strict liability laws that state the owner is always liable for the injuries their dog inflicted, regardless of the situation. If you have been bitten by a dog and sustained injury, you need to hold the owner responsible. The Utah dog bite lawyers at Injury Smart Law are here to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
What to Do After a Dog Bite?
As with any accident, the health and safety of the victim are the priority. If attacked by a dog, you should seek medical attention immediately. Dog bites can be extreme and cause a great loss of blood, especially if an artery or vein is damaged by the bite.
If the bite does not seem serious, it is still important to go to the hospital or doctor because dogs’ mouths have bacteria, and if left untreated, the wound may develop a serious infection.
When seeking medical attention for a dog bite, you should know the last date of your tetanus immunization shot because the doctor will likely ask. If the shot was over five years ago, it is likely they will want to administer a booster. Most shots are good for ten years, but with a dog bite, it is best to play it safe.
When seeking medical attention, the dog bite victim should keep a record of all bills and medical treatment. You can be reimbursed form medical expenses and compensated for pain, suffering, scarring and hassle you went through while recovering from the dog attack.
Utah Dog Bite Laws
Under Utah Code 18-1-1, all owners are strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dog to people, regardless of past behavior or whether the owner has knowledge of vicious or mischievous tendencies of their dog.
Generally, dog owners are also responsible for damages caused to other animals as well unless the attack falls into one of three categories. The three exceptions under 18-1-1(3) only apply to injury to other animals, they are:
- The injury or death was to another animal.
- The injury was sustained on the owner’s private property and that the dog was reasonably secured on that property through a fence or other enclosure.
- The injury or death was sustained by another dog that entered the private property without consent.
Utah law under 18-1-3 allows people to injure or kill a dog that is “attacking, chasing, or worrying” a person, service animal, or other protected species.
Utah law will apply even if the dog is restrained on a leash while walking or in other public spaces. The only time the law will not apply is if the dog is restrained on private property and someone enters that property. Otherwise, restraints do not matter.
Understanding Strict Liability
The Utah strict liability law for dog bites means that owners will always be responsible for the injuries their dogs caused unless the scenario meets an exception under 18-1-3. It stems from the idea that when a dog injures someone, the owner of the dog may not have been negligent or have acted irresponsibly. Yet, as a society we place more value of people than animals, thus as a social cost of owning a dog, the owner or keeper of the dog is responsible for all damage caused by the dog.
Not all states have strict liability laws for dogs. However, because Utah does, that means if someone chooses to own a dog and that dog causes any amount of harm, the owner will be liable for all damages. Even if the owner did nothing wrong or there were no signs that the animal had a propensity to attack, the owner will still be liable.
Some people may see strict liability laws for dog bites as too extreme, especially because the defendant (owner) had nothing to do with the injury. However, the purpose of the law is to make sure that dog owners are responsibly handling their animals and keeping them restrained when necessary.
If the Victim Provokes the Dog, Who is Liable?
In most jurisdictions, regardless of provocation, the owner is responsible and liable for their dog’s behavior. However, if the provocation is extreme and persistent then the injured may be comparatively at fault and may not collect all of their damages. Call us and set up a free consultation and we will answer your questions.
Possible Injuries from Dog Bites
The majority of the time, dog bites are more than just a surface wound or scratch and require serious medical attention. Most dogs have 42 teeth with an estimated combined force of 220-560 psi. Some dogs, like the Kangals or English Mastiffs, can have a bit force of up to 743 psi. For comparison, the average human bit is 120 psi.
This force behind a dog’s bite can cause a number of injuries, including:
- Open wounds
- Tissue loss
- Bacterial infections
- Broken bones from the force
- Extreme puncture wounds causing excessive bleeding
- Facial wounds and injuries
- Internal and external bleeding
- Nerve damage
- Psychological and emotional suffering
- Vision damage or eye injuries
These injuries can require medical attention, from a simple wound wrap to surgery. Sometimes the wounds may severe enough to require a skin graft. Injury Smart Law takes dog bites seriously.
What to do after being injured from a Dog Bite
Dog bite insurance claims and lawsuits are similar to other injury lawsuits. When an injury is sustained, the victim should always ensure their own health and safety. Next, call animal control, even if you do not believe the bite is serious. Animal control will obtain the ownership information for the dog and note that the dog has bitten or injured someone. You will be provided a copy of the animal control report which will have the contact information for the owner. Animal control will report a description of the attack and often pictures of the dog involved. Seek medical help.
It is a good idea to take picture of your wounds. Take pictures as the wounds heal and of any permanent scars. Your photographs can be used as evidence of damages when filing a claim or lawsuit. Reports and pictures will help strengthen the plaintiff’s claim and allow them to check for other records of past aggressions involving the same dog or owner.
Also, it is important to keep all medical records and medical bills, including any therapist notes one would like to enter into the record for a showing of emotional damage. These documents will show the impact that the dog bite had on the victim’s life.
Call Injury Smart Law and let us help. Our team will help make the process less difficult for you. When we are hired to help early in the process, we help with every step.
Types of Damages to Claim After a Dog Bite
The legal damages that a plaintiff claims in a dog bite recovery lawsuit are to make the plaintiff whole again and compensate them for all injuries and losses caused by the dog bite. The cost of medical bills for a dog bite can reach tens of thousands of dollars, particularly if the victim requires surgery or any post-wound care or rehabilitation.
Dog bites can leave a person disfigured or with permanent damage, which can also be claimed in the damage section of a complaint. These permanent injuries will likely carry emotional and psychological trauma with them, which can also be claimed under pain and suffering damages. These types of damages are referred to as non-economic damages and are more difficult to show because there are no records or receipts to monetize the exact amount.
Can a Court Order a Dog to Be Put Down After a Bite?
Most states across the United States have “dangerous dog” laws that, in some areas, require owners to register the dog as dangerous or vicious. If the dog is recorded as being dangerous the dog may be euthanized after an attack. Utah does not have a dangerous dog law and operates solely under strict liability with minimal leeway.
In most cases, the court will only order euthanasia if the dog causes serious injury or death. If the dog has no prior history and caused non-serious injuries, the court will typically not order euthanasia, but the owner will still be liable. When the dog causes a serious injury or death, regardless of the dog’s history, it is very likely that the court will order the dog to be euthanized.
Dog Bite Statistics
According to the CDC and AVMA, each year, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States. Almost one in every five or 20% of dog bites becomes infected. A recent publication has reported that every day, nearly 1,000 Americans require emergency care for serious dog bite injuries. According to research by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, every year, approximately 12,480 citizens are hospitalized as a result of dog bite injuries.
In the most recently reported year, nearly 27,000 people had reconstructive surgery after being bitten by a dog. Moreover, according to a study, the average cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay was $18,200, which was roughly 50% higher than the average hospital stay for an injury.
The increase in medical costs directly correlates to the average cost per claim in the United States for dog bite injuries (as reported by the Insurance Information Institute), which increased by 134% between 2003 and 2019, owing to rising medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards given to plaintiffs.
Hiring a Lawyer to File a Personal Injury Suit
Personal injury law is complicated. The Injury Smart Law tam will help to reduce the stress and help you understand the claims process. We help to navigate through insurance claims and file a lawsuit if the insurance company is unreasonable.
If you or a loved one has sustained a dog bite injury that required medical attention, contact our Utah dog bite lawyers today. Call us at 866-934-1237 or complete our online form.