A dog bite lawyer works in his Salt Lake City law office.

Dog bites can result in serious injuries, including deep lacerations that require stitches, significant scarring, infection, and in some cases, even broken bones. If you have suffered a dog bite or other injuries from a dog, you may have medical bills, lost income, and other damages. Yet the dog’s owner may blame you or even deny it was their dog who bit you. For these reasons, it’s important to seek help from a dog bite accident lawyer to protect your legal rights.

How Can a Salt Lake City Dog Bite Accident Attorney Help?

Seeking compensation for your dog bite can be complicated. Although Utah law generally holds dog owners responsible for bites caused by their pets, it also allows for shared fault in Salt Lake City personal injury cases, including dog bite situations. As a result, the dog’s owner may claim that you provoked the dog in some way and should be responsible for some percentage of your damages. In other cases, the dog may run off, leaving the injured person wondering who owns it and how they can get their medical and other bills paid. An experienced dog bite attorney can help you navigate these issues and fight for your right to compensation.

What is Strict Liability and How Does It Apply to Dog Bites in Utah?

Utah uses strict liability statutes in dog bite cases, which means that in most situations, a dog owner is liable if their dog bites or otherwise injures someone. In other words, if you own a dog, you should be aware that it might bite someone and be prepared to pay for the damage it causes. Dog owners can mitigate this risk by making sure their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers dog bites.

Does Utah Have a One-Bite Rule for Dog Bites?

No. Some states use a “one-bite” rule, under which dog owners are not strictly liable unless their dog has bitten someone before. (The owner may still be liable if the injured person can show the owner’s behavior was negligent.) But Utah doesn’t use a one-bite rule, so the owner is still liable even if their dog has never bitten anyone or behaved aggressively before. Arguing that the dog is well-trained and would never attack anyone is also not a viable defense.

What Defenses Can the Dog Owner Use?

As discussed earlier, the dog owner can argue that the injured person is partly responsible for provoking the dog. This will not completely eliminate their culpability but may reduce the amount of damages they or their insurance carrier owe.

Under modified comparative negligence laws, each party is assigned a degree of fault. The party that is at least 50 percent responsible is considered liable for the injured person’s damages, but the injured person’s percentage of fault is subtracted from those damages. Because of Utah’s strict liability laws, we generally start by assuming the dog owner is 100 percent liable, but in a few cases, they may be able to argue the injured party acted aggressively or otherwise provoked the dog. If the bite victim is found to be 10 or 20 percent at fault, this will be deducted from their damages. However, the dog’s owner has the challenge of proving that the injured person contributed to the attack through their actions.

If the owner claims that you provoked the dog by taunting, hitting, yelling, or otherwise abusing it, please speak with a lawyer immediately. We will work to find evidence that you did nothing to provoke the animal. In some cases, we can even find a video of the attack or witnesses who can speak to what happened.

What If the Dog Doesn’t Bite or Act Aggressively, But Still Causes Injuries?

Not all of our cases involve aggression or dog bites. Surprisingly, we often see cases of “the overly friendly dog.” This dog loves people and would not intentionally hurt anyone. Unfortunately, the dog gets so excited that it jumps on people and, in some cases, knocks them down. The owner chalks it up to friendly overexuberance and makes little or no effort to discipline the canine. One day, the dog’s enthusiasm leads to a serious injury – for instance, the dog might knock over someone who breaks a bone. Now, the owner insists that it was just an accident and they shouldn’t be responsible.

Under Utah law, the owner is still liable because of strict liability, and because the dog didn’t aggressively attack anyone, it will be hard for the owner to claim the dog was “provoked.” Their dog caused an injury, and we can seek compensation for the injured person’s damages.

Strict liability also applies in cases where a dog lunges or growls at a person, who is startled and tries to move away from the dog, then trips and suffers an injury.

What If the Dog Was Alone and Can’t Be Found?

We will help you try to find the dog and its owner. You should report a dog attack to your local animal control office as soon as possible after the attack, and they will try to locate the dog, but these efforts aren’t always successful. Try to write down a description of the canine, where you last saw it, and what direction you believe it was headed in. Our investigators will canvas the area where you were attacked, speak with people who live and work there, and try to determine if the dog and its owner live nearby. If we can find the dog and have enough evidence to demonstrate that it bit you, we may still be able to bring a case against the owner.

What Should You Do After a Dog Bite?

Your first instinct will probably be to get away from the dog. As you’re doing this, try to look around and see if anyone appears to be with the dog. If so, hopefully, they can get the animal under control, and you can ask for their contact and insurance information from a reasonable distance.

However, that doesn’t always happen. If the dog appears to be alone and no one is trying to stop it, you may need to leave the scene to keep yourself safe from further attacks. Make note of where you were at the time and where you last saw the dog. Be sure to report it to Animal Control as quickly as possible to improve their chances of finding the animal.

Always get prompt medical care for your injuries, even if they seem superficial. Dog’s mouths can carry many bacteria and other germs that may cause infection. If the dog can’t be located or its vaccination status can’t be verified, you may need a vaccine to prevent rabies, which has the highest mortality rate of any known virus – 99.9 percent. Fortunately, rabies can be prevented after a potential exposure with a series of inoculations.

A healthcare provider can also treat your wounds and may be able to reduce the risk of infection, scarring, and other issues. You might need an X-ray to determine if you have a broken bone.

After you’ve had your injuries treated, please talk to a dog bite accident lawyer so we can calculate and work to recover your damages.

What Damages Can You Seek in a Dog Bite Case?

Many people come to us because they asked the dog’s owner to pay their medical bills, and the owner refused. In these cases, we often find that the injured person was underestimating their damages and should actually have been seeking a larger amount. Here are some potential damages in a dog bite case:

  • Medical bills. Aside from the bills you already have for your initial treatment, you may also need follow-up care. In more severe cases, a dog bite victim might need rehabilitation for a broken bone, a plastic surgery consultation for scarring, or other future expenses related to their injuries.
  • Lost income. If your dog bite forced you to miss work, you could seek damages for the time you lost, even if you had paid time off, because you were forced to use up that PTO.
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement. If you suffered significant permanent scarring, nerve damage, or any permanent disability or disfigurement, we can seek additional damages.
  • Emotional distress or mental trauma. Dog bites can be terrifying, and it’s not unusual for a dog bite victim to develop anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, or other mental health difficulties. These are damages as much as physical injuries, and we can seek compensation for them.
  • Quality of life issues. If your quality of life has decreased due to your dog bite, we can pursue damages.

Where Can You Find a Salt Lake City Dog Bite Accident Law Firm?

If you or a loved one have been bitten or injured by a dog, please contact Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at 801-810-9999. We’ll review your case, check on the dog owner’s insurance coverage, answer your questions, and advise you of your options. If the dog’s owner refuses to pay or tries to blame you for your own injuries, we can assemble evidence to support your case and pursue the matter in court. In many of these situations, the owner or their insurance company is willing to negotiate for a fair settlement, and we can ultimately resolve the matter out of court.

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