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Determining Liability in Utah Dog Bite Attack Cases

There are a number of situations where determining liability for an injury or accident is important, and one good example is any case where you or a loved one has been attacked or bitten by someone else's dog. While most would naturally assume that the owner of the other dog will usually be liable in such cases, it's important to know the actual law when proceeding in any such situation. 

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we're proud to offer quality attorney services for a variety of personal injury cases throughout Utah, including dog bite and animal attack attorney solutions. Luckily, Utah's liability laws in such cases are fairly straightforward -- and they're some of the most beneficial in the country to the victims of such attacks, ensuring they get the proper compensation for their injuries and hardship. Let's go over how these laws work and how liability is considered for any dog or animal attack, plus what you should be doing to ensure you get the right compensation if you're a victim in one of these.

liability dog bite cases

Utah's Liability Laws for Dog Bites

Unlike some other states, which have a "One Bite Rule" that only holds the dog's owner liable for an attack if the dog has previously attacked someone or shown aggression, Utah operates on a strict liability standard, which means that the owner of the dog is held liable for an attack regardless of what their pet has done in the past. This makes it easier to hold owners accountable and get compensation for your injuries if you or someone you care about gets bit by another person's dog or other animal.

It's important to note that several forms of protection dog owners may try to use in such cases are not actually viable. For instance, a "Beware of Dog" sign is not a guarantee of protection from liability, and an owner cannot claim that you were trespassing on their property (or even in their yard) if it comes to a legal case.

Furthermore, your burden of proof is generally fairly low in these cases. You do not have to prove any negligence on the part of the dog owner, and you do not have to show that they were aware their dog was a danger to others. You simply need to prove that you or your loved one has been bitten by the other person's dog.

Comparative Negligence

Now, it should be noted that there are some protections in place for dog owners here as well, especially in cases where attacks were specifically provoked. The key term here is "comparative negligence," which states that if the victim of the attack was more than 50% at fault for the attack and subsequent injuries, then they will not be eligible for any compensation.

Provocation here may include things like hitting, teasing or otherwise interfering with the dog. Petting a dog typically will not qualify, unless the dog's owner specifically warned the victim not to do so. Finally, in cases where the victim is a child, comparative negligence typically is not considered, as children often are not old enough to understand this concept.

Criminal Damages

They're somewhat rare, but Utah law does allow for criminal penalties (and fines) to be applied against a dog owner who is found liable for an attack or bite. The state also allows any victim of such an incident to file a civil lawsuit and seek damages from the other party in that situation as well.

In extreme cases, there may also be an order to put the dog down if it's shown extreme aggression in multiple situations. However, courts will typically only use this option as a last resort.

Statute of Limitations

Now, these cases do come with limitations on how long after the incident a case can be filed. In Utah, you have four years from the date of the attack to file a civil lawsuit, meaning the courts will not consider any case after that. There are also statutory caps on non-economic damages (pain and suffering) in these cases as well.

This is one area where working with a quality personal injury attorney will be key, as they will know exactly how to build a strong case for you and help you understand your rights.

Kinds of Compensation You May Be Eligible For

If you've been the victim of a dog bite attack and someone else is found liable, you may be eligible for several different kinds of compensation:

  • Medical expenses: This includes any costs associated with emergency care, treatment and follow-ups related to the attack. It may also cover compensation for mental health support services if needed as well.
  • Lost wages: If you must take time off of work due to your injuries, this can be a key form of compensation in these cases as it will help you recover lost income.
  • Pain and suffering: This is meant to compensate you for the physical pain and emotional trauma associated with such an attack, as well as any costs related to that.
  • Lost income opportunity: If the attack causes you to be unable to do the same kind of work or perform at your previous level, this is a form of compensation that can help get you back on track.

In any case involving a dog bite or an injury from one, getting the help of a personal injury attorney is a vital step in ensuring you get the right representation. For more on this, or to learn about any of our dog bite or other personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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