Dog bites can disfigure a person for life. Young children are especially vulnerable to dog attacks and great precautions should be taken when your children are around dogs. This applies whether the dogs are in public or at your friend’s house.
Here is a guide to handling a Utah dog bite.
Use Caution Around Dogs. As mentioned above, use due diligence and precautions when around dogs, especially when children are around dogs. Sometimes it cannot be avoided because the dog owner is so careless and completely disregards the safety of others. Letting their dog loose, having vicious breeds, or maltreating the dog can create propensities to bite.
Call the Police. If you are bitten by a dog, you should immediately call the police to document the incident.
Immediately Seek Medical Care. Whether the dog bite is a smaller puncture wound, or a terrible mauling, you should immediately seek appropriate medical care. If you are bitten, it is not the time to “tough it out.” If the circumstances warrant, go to the emergency room, or if it is a less vicious attack, an InstaCare facility would be great. The key is that you did not ask for this dog attack and you should not gamble on your health. The gamble and risk of your injuries should be on the dog owner, not you. Immediately after a dog bite, your medical providers should be concerned about diseases or rabies if the dog was not well maintained.
Plastic Surgery. After your initial medical treatment you may need to follow-up with a plastic surgeon to remedy any scaring or other complications that may arise. Scarring is a serious issue for anyone, but can especially be terrible for younger people. A good dog bite personal injury attorney will immediately help you get into a plastic surgeon to remedy any scarring from the dog attack.
If you have private health insurance, you can run the plastic surgeon through your insurance. If you don’t have private health care insurance, then your personal injury attorney should direct you to a lien-based plastic surgeon who will perform these surgeries and get paid on the back end, out of your settlement or verdict proceeds. It is a great tragedy when a person is attacked by a dog. They are scarred and do not realize that there is medical help out there for them, even if they do not have private health care to pay for it. Injury validation and recognition is one huge way an experienced personal injury attorney can help injured people.
Physical Therapy. Again, a good referral to a Utah physical therapist is appropriate if there are other injuries affecting mobility of joints, fingers injuries from the fall and possible fight with the animal. Again, you did not sign up to gamble on your health. That risk should fall on the negligent dog owner. Utah law supports reasonable medical care that is related to the dog attack. You can run your physical therapy through you private health care insurance or place it on a lien basis if you don’t have private health care insurance.
Dog Bite Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”).
PTSD can be described as follows: A problem that occurs in some people who have experienced terrible, shocking, scary, or dangerous events.
Dog attacks can be terrifying and vicious. This can especially impact children. If you acquire Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the dog bite, you should seek professional care for the problem. Having struggles with mental disorders from a car collision is no different than having a cut to your forehead. Both require medical treatment and you should seek medical treatment if there are indicators of PTSD.
Just like physical therapy or plastic surgeries, this type of care can be covered through your insurance or on a lien basis.
Hire a Utah Dog Bite Lawyer.
You should hire a dog bite attorney sooner rather than later. It absolutely to free to meet with most personal injury attorneys who handle dog bite cases. Personal injury attorney Jake Gunter always meets with dog bite victims for free and takes the case on a contingency fee basis where if you do not receive compensation for your dog bite injuries, the attorney does not get paid.
Most importantly, hiring a dog bite personal injury attorney will help guide you through the insurance world. If this is your first rodeo in an insurance injury claim, there are a lot of pitfalls and mazes to wander through. There are statute of limitations to know, types of damages and how to captures these damages so that the insurance company will pay adequate and fair compensation. Injury validation and documentation is huge and that is one of the most important jobs a personal injury attorney can do for an injury client. Without injury validation the insurance adjusters’ supervisor will not authorize a fair settlement range. Insurance adjusters need paper in their claims files to justify to their supervisors that real value is needed on the injury claim.
A personal injury attorney will intervene between you and the insurance company. They will stop writing you, calling you and asking for premature, low ball offers to settle your case. Often, you will receive early offers in the mail with checks attached for $750 or $1,500, if you will only sign the release of claims. This is a big mistake and you generally will receive better results by hiring a personal injury attorney earlier in the process.
Utah Dog Bite Law.
Utah dog bite law is what we call strict liability law. This means Utah laws make a dog’s owner or keeper strictly liable for damages caused by the dog, thus making it unnecessary for the injured party to allege and prove negligence on the part of the dog owner or keeper. If your dog bites someone, you are liable, unless you can prove that the person who was bit sufficiently provoked the dog or acted in an otherwise careless way putting themselves in harm’s way. A difficult and unusual situation for sure for the dog owner to prove.
No Biting Required. The dog does not need to bite you for you to recover from your injuries. If you are running away and collide with a tree, or fall down, those injuries are covered. Now they may be an argument that the person running away from the dog may be a bit at fault also, but probably not 50% at fault which would bar that injured person’s recovery from the dog owner.
In 1996 this exact case happened in Sharp v. Williams. 915 P.2d 495, Supreme Court of Utah. In this case a mailman was running from a dog that he feared was going to attack him. In the process, he fell while escaping the attacking dog. The Utah Supreme Court indicated that the mailman had a cause of action for the jury to ultimately consider and was not barred for failure to state a cause of action.
People run from dogs and collide with stop signs, hit trees and cut themselves on door entries as they try to escape attacking dogs. Utah law supports this these individuals obtaining compensation in a Utah Court from the dog owner for their injuries.
Strict Liability. Utah’s dog bite law is a strict liability law. Meaning if your dog bites someone, you as the owner or the dog’s keeper are liable—period. You will pay for the injuries your dog causes, offset by any negligence of the injured person that may have caused the dog to bite. This is called comparative negligence or contributory negligence in other states. There is no need to prove that the dog was a “vicious breed,” or that the dog was raised in a manner causing biting tendencies. That is no longer a requirement.
Utah’s dog bite statute can be found at Utah Code Ann. 18-1-1.
Comparative Fault. Even though Utah is a strict liability dog bite state, there still can be a comparative fault analysis. Comparative fault is where the person who is attacked by the dog may have acted negligently, or carelessly. If so, then the percentage of that person’s fault reduces the amount of damages attributable to the dog owner or keeper. An example of comparative fault could be where an adult is purposely teasing a vicious breed dog and the dog attacks. The insurance defense attorneys would argue that the adult male who was eventually bite by the dog was careless and negligent and helped cause the dog to attack. If the jury’s compensation verdict was $33,000, but the jury also found the injured victim to be 10% at fault, the $33,000 verdict would be reduced by the judge by 10% and thus it would be a final verdict $30,000. If the jury found that the injured victim was 50% or more at fault, then the injured victim would be barred from recovering anything under Utah’s comparative fault system.
In conclusion, Utah is a strict liability dog bite state. But the principles of comparative fault apply, if applicable to the injured dog bite victim.
Insurance. Many people feel bad about making a stir, or they are worried about neighbor relations when a dog attack occurs. In reality, the dog attack is really just about home owners insurance. Most home owners insurance policies cover dog bites. Occasionally, home owners insurance will explicitly exclude certain dog breeds from coverage. Additionally home owners insurance policies also cover dog attacks that do not occur at the home. These insurance policies will cover incidents when a dog attack occurs at a park, or if the dog escapes and attacks.
Venue. If you are bit by a dog in Utah you can bring a lawsuit in the county where the dog bite occurred at, or in the county where the defendant dog owner or keeper resides in. See Utah Code Ann. 78B-3-307. A good personal injury attorney will select the best county for the lawsuit to be filed, depending on the circumstances.