Dog Bite Laws in Utah & What to do if you get Bit
Dog bites can have a serious impact on your health and finances, because of this it’s important to understand dog bite laws in Utah and be aware of what steps should be taken after a dog bite incident.
In Utah, it’s a little-known fact that dog bites are considered strict liability, meaning that a dog owner is considered at fault regardless of the circumstances surrounding the bite. Specifically, U.C.A. 1953 § 18-1-1 explicitly states that “every person owning or keeping a dog is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog.” Even if an owner wasn’t aware or had no reason to believe their dog would bite another person, they are still held liable for the bite.
Utah also has a four-year statute of limitation on dog bites, meaning that if you are bitten by a dog in the state of Utah, you have four years from the date of the incident to file your case in court. There is no guarantee that your case will be considered if it’s filed more than four years after the bite occurred.
A dog bit me, what do I do next?
1. Medical care:
The first step is to seek immediate medical attention and get the care you need. Dog bites are serious injuries and carry a high risk of infection.
2. Identify the dog owner:
The next thing you need to focus on is identifying the dog and its owner. Obtain the name and address of the dog owner and request a copy of the dog’s rabies vaccination and check with animal control to see if the dog has a history of biting or aggressive behavior.
It is also essential to identify and record the name and telephone number of any potential witnesses when you were bitten..
3. File a claim
Once you have identified who the owner is, a claim can be made against their homeowners insurance. Most people are not aware that dog bites are covered under this type of insurance. In Utah, a dog bite claims success is based on a few factors, such as the bite area and the severity of scarring, etc. So, if a dog has bitten you or someone you know, it’s important to take regular pictures of the wound, the healing process, and the scaring (or lack thereof) to ensure that you receive necessary compensation for your injury.
If the bite occurred somewhere that is largely visible, the insurance company will ask for photos that show proof of the scar’s severity before considering your claim, or making an offer.
4. Document and record everything:
Keep records of everything that occurs due to the dog bite, from the time of the incident through the entire healing process. Taking pictures of the injury and recording all the steps of healing, both mental and physical, are very important as they can affect your case’s success and value.
For example, if the dog bite occurred in a particularly traumatic fashion and the victim is mentally affected by the experience, their case would be valued higher than someone who was bitten and doesn’t deal with anxiety, PTSD, or nervousness around animals. This is why it’s so important to allow your injury time to heal and give it some time to see if there will be emotional impacts on you when you’re around dogs in the future.
Dog bite injuries can take months or years to heal from, so plan to document your progress regularly.
5. Hire an attorney:
It’s not well known that you can hire a personal injury attorney for your dog bite case, but you can and should do so. Personal injury attorneys who specialize in dog bite cases will be more familiar with the specific laws surrounding dog bites than a generalized attorney.
Additionally, because the statute of limitation in Utah for dog bites is four years from the time of the bite, it’s crucial to have a personal injury attorney on hand who understands dog bite law in Utah; is familiar will all the necessary filing deadline; and will help you receive the proper care and compensation for your dog bite injuries. You never want to be without representation when dealing with insurance companies.
What Will Happen to the Dog?
One of the most frequently asked questions we get is: What will happen to the dog? Those who are bitten are often animal lovers and don’t want to see the dog get in trouble; others are not and want to have the dog put down.
Ultimately, the decision is up to the authorities. Animal control keeps a record of dogs, and if they have an aggressive history, the consequences could be more severe for the animal. However, in most cases we have seen here at Johnson | Livingston, the animal is reported, quarantined for 10 days, and then returned to its owner.
Nothing can prepare you for the traumatic experience that comes from being bitten by a dog. This type of incident has the potential to be devastating to your health and finances, and at Johnson | Livingston we want to make sure both you and your dog bite case are handled correctly and with your best interests in mind.
Contact us today for your free case consultation and speak with one of Johnson | Livingston’s experienced personal injury attorneys.