Dog Bite Injury in Utah – FAQs

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Dog Bite Injury in Utah – FAQs

By Steven Jensen
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January 12, 2022
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utah-dog-bite-statistics

If you or a loved one has a dog bite injury in Utah, you probably have questions. We have answers. This article answers the most frequently asked questions about dob bite injuries in Utah. If you have others, be sure to leave your questions in the comments section below.

Can you get compensated for a dog bite injury in Utah?

Yes, you can get compensated for a dog bite. Utah law allows you to bring a claim against the dog owner or keeper of a dog that bit you. Your damages might include incurring medical bills, scarring, disfigurement, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and wage loss.  

Dog owners should carry homeowners or renter’s insurance to cover against a dog bite. Coverage limits are usually between $100,000 and $300,000 for homeowners and renter’s insurance policies. However, Utah does not require dog owners to carry insurance for dog bites.

In Utah, we have a “strict liability” law. This means that the dog owner is automatically liable when his or her dog bites someone. It doesn’t matter that the dog has never bit someone before, or that the dog was well-trained, or that the dog was scared. None of these defenses will work. Utah lawmakers decided that if you own a dog, there’s always a risk it will bite someone. Therefore, you must be willing to accept responsibility when that happens.

How much is my dog bite injury worth?

Your dog bite case can range from $10,000 on the low end to $500,000 on the high end (or even higher) depending on the particular facts of your case.

The value of your dog bite claim can vary. It can depend on these several factors:

  • Amount of your medical bills;
  • Any infections or complications;
  • The length of the dog attack;
  • The number of dogs attacking you;
  • Size of your scarring;
  • Location of your scarring;
  • Nature of your scarring, such as discoloration, keloid scarring, sensitivity to touch;
  • Number of times you were bit;
  • The breed and size of dog that bit you;
  • Your age;
  • The need for counseling for emotional trauma;
  • Wage loss;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, activities, or hobbies

The location and size of scarring from a dog bite tend to be the biggest drivers behind the value of your case. Scars to the face are especially noticeable; most of your identity as a person is contained in the face. When scarring and deformity effect the face, the value of the case is usually higher.

What if the dog doesn’t bite me, but I still get injured?

You can still recover damages for your dog bite injury even if the dog never actually bites you. In fact, two of our recent “dog bite” cases did not involve the dog biting our client.

One client was walking into a grocery store. The owner of a bull mastiff was walking through the parking lot. As our client walked by the dog, the dog growled and lunged at him. Our client was about 6 feet away from the dog. In reaction to the dog, our client jumped backwards, tripping over store merchandise in front of the store. Our client broke his collarbone. Therefore, the dog “caused” his injuries and the dog owner is liable.

Another client was delivering meals on wheels to an person’s home. Our client began walking up to the front door to deliver the meal. At this time, a border collie dog came running around the back of the home barking and growling. The sudden appearance of the dog started our client, causing her to take a quick step backwards. As she did, she tripped over a curb. As she tried to catch herself on the ground, she fractured both wrist. The dog’s aggressive behavior “caused” our client’s injuries.

Where can I find Utah’s dog bite law?

Utah’s dog bite law is found in Utah Code Ann. § 18-1-1, Liability and damages for dog injury. To see the exact statute, click on this link.

Here are three key points from this statute:

  1. A dog owner or keeper of a dog is liable to another person for damages caused by his or her dog.
  2. Police officers are not liable for when a police dog bites someone while trying to find or arrest a suspect.
  3. A dog owner is not liable when his or her dog injures or kills another person’s dog if the attacking dog is on its property within a fence or enclosure.

Is the dog put down after a dog bite in Utah?

No, not necessarily. Some cities require that a dog be put down after its third bite. Others may require it after only one bite if the facts show the dog is especially vicious.

For example, the South Salt Lake Animal Code, entitled 6.20.060 – Destruction orders, says that a dog “may” be put down if:

  • the dog bites someone more than once within a twelve-month period;
  • the dog inflicted “substantial” injury to a person with a single attack;
  • bites multiple people and animals in one attack;
  • has bitten a person or animal once, and according to a vet, is likely to attack again.

So, as you can see, in South Salt Lake, a dog may be put down after only one bite in certain situations.

On the other hand, St. George, Utah, requires that a dog be put down or “destroyed” after 3 bites. This is stated in the St. George City Code.

Do I have to go to trial to get compensated for my dog bite injury?

No. In fact, most dog bite cases settle before even filing a lawsuit. We negotiate with the dog owner’s or keeper’s insurance company before filing a lawsuit. If the insurance company is reasonable and fair, we can get your case settled in the early stages of the claim.

Utah allows dog bite victims to arbitrate their case against the dog owner if the injuries are $50,000 or less. Arbitration is less formal and less expensive than going to trial. The arbitrator, usually a retired judge, reviews all the evidence and decides what to award you for your dog bite. This process is also much quicker than going to trial.

Can I be blamed for causing the dog to bite or injure me?

Yes, but it is rare. Utah dog bite law states that you can share some fault for a dog biting you. If there’s evidence that you provoked the dog to bite you, then a jury can put some fault on you. As you can imagine, this is extremely rare. Most people don’t go around angering dogs to bite them.

The amount of compensation you receive is reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if a jury awards you $100,000, and you are considered 30% at fault for the dog biting you, then your award is reduced to $70,000. If you are considered to be 50% or more at fault for the dog biting you, then you receive nothing.

If you are considered to be 50% or more at fault for the dog biting you, then you receive nothing.

Can I still sue for a dog bite injury if it was the dog’s first bite?

Yes. You don’t need to show that the dog had has a history of biting. You don’t even need to show that the dog is vicious or mean.

How long do I have to recover for my dog bite injury in Utah?

In Utah, you have 4 years to file a lawsuit from the day of the dog attack. If you do not file a lawsuit within the 4 year deadline, your claim is barred.

Are there criminal charges against the dog owner?

Yes, animal control authorities in Utah can cite and fine the owner or keeper of a dog that bites someone.

Most of the time, it’s a Class B misdemeanor. Other penalties might include impounding the dog, destroying the dog, muzzling the dog, or revocation of a dog license.

Here are a few examples of city and county criminal penalties for dog bites:

Can I get punitive damages for a dog bite injury?

Yes. Utah allows a jury to award general damages. It’s not easy to get awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded if you show the dog owner was more than just negligent. According to this Utah law for punitive damages, you must show “by clear and convincing evidence that the acts or omissions of the [dog owner] are the result of willful and malicious or intentionally fraudulent conduct, or conduct that manifests a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of, the rights of others.”

Can you sue another dog owner for his dog biting your dog?

Yes, you can sue another dog owner when the attacking dog injures or kills your dog.

There is one exception: if your dog goes onto the dog owner’s property uninvited, and the attacking dog is within a fence or enclosure, then the attacking dog is not liable for injury or death to your dog.

Can I recover damages for a minor dog bite injury in Utah?

Yes. There is no minimum requirement for dog bites. You might have minor scratches from a dog bite. You can still bring a claim to recover damages for your injuries.

Do I have to report a dog bite to the Utah government?

Yes, you are required to report a dog bite. Failing to report can lead to a citation and fine.

Many cities have specific laws on reporting requirements. For example, Salt Lake City’s law requires all of the following to report a dog bite:

  • The owner or keeper of the dog that bit a person;
  • The person that is bit by the dog;
  • Any person with personal knowledge that the dog bit a person;
  • Any doctor or medical professional that treats a person bit by a dog.

Here’s a list of county phone numbers you can call to report a dog bite.

Cache County, Sheriff’s Office:435-716-9400
Davis County:801-444-2200
Duchesnes County:435-738-2424
Roosevelt County:435-781-7297
Salt Lake County:801-743-7045
Summit County:435-615-3985
Utah County, Sheriff’s Office:801-851-4000
Washington County:435-627-4350
Weber County:801-399-8244

Can I recover damages if a police dog bites me?

It depends.

If the law enforcement officer is pursuing a suspect, and the officer’s dog bites you, then the law enforcement agency is not liable for damages. Utah’s dog bite statute gives immunity to law enforcement when attempting find or arrest a suspect.

If the law enforcement dog bites someone while not on official police business, then the law enforcement agency is liable for a dog bite.

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