If you are bit by a dog in Utah, Utah’s dog bite statute will govern.
Utah Code Ann. 18-1-1 et seq (2020) is the controlling statute and lays out a strict liability standard for when dogs attack, bite or otherwise cause injury. See this deeper article on dog bites in general.
Strict Liability for Dog Attacks.
Utah law allows for strict liability for dog bites. The owner is strictly liable for the actions of their dog, for the most part. The injury doctrine of comparative fault still applies to Utah dog bite claims. The dog owner can defend the case and state you provoked the dog, or that your own dog provoked the attack. Other comparative fault points could be that your dog was not on its leash, or that you approached the biting dog and tried to pet it without permission, causing the dog to bite you.
Liable dog owners asserting comparative fault against you as the dog bite victim can be creative in attempts to decrease the money compensation that you deserve.
Utah Code Ann. 18-1-1(1) (2020) states:
Except as provided in Subsection (2), a person who owns or keeps a dog is liable for an injury caused by the dog, regardless of whether:
(i) the dog is vicious or mischievous; or
(ii) the owner knows the dog is vicious or mischievous.
(b) Damages for an injury described in Subsection (1)(a) shall be determined in accordance with Section 78B-5-818. [This is Utah’s comparative fault statute]
K-9 Police Dogs are not Liable for Injuries.
The exception to strict liability for dog owners is that government dogs are not liable for the injuries they cause if they are trained and the police handler reasonably uses the dog to apprehend criminals.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MULTIPLE DOGS ATTACK? WHO AND WHICH DOG IS LIABLE?
When multiple dogs attack you, or your dog, you can sue each of them in the same lawsuit. Then the jury or judge will apportion how much each dog owner is liable and enter judgment accordingly.
Example: Three dogs attack your child. The insurance companies for each dog owner are refusing to fairly and adequately compensate your child for the scarring, emotional trauma and physical injuries that they deserve.
You can sue each of the dog owners in one lawsuit and ask the jury to assess a money amount against each dog owner. Dog owner 1 could be assessed 25 percent fault because that dog was on a leash when the attack occurred. Dog owner 2 could be assessed 50 percent because the jury found that dog 2 did not have a leash, was an untrained pitbull and was found to have caused most of the biting. While dog owner 3 could be assessed 25 percent fault because it was a smaller dog and caused much less damage than dog 2.
Ultimately, it’s the jury that determines which dog owner bears the most responsibility for your child’s injuries. Hiring an experienced Utah dog bite attorney who can talk to the jury, let them live and understand your child’s trauma matters. Experienced, trial hardened Utah personal injury attorneys are rare. Most Utah personal injury attorneys have little, if no jury trial experience in civil personal injury jury trials.
Who Pays When a Dog Attacks or Injures You in Utah?
First, the dog owner is generally responsible for the damages and injuries that their dog causes. If the pitbull kills your dog, or bites a young child’s face, it’s ultimately the financial responsibility of the dog owner to pay the medical bills, costs of the dog and pain and suffering.
Homeowners Insurance Pays.
If the dog owner has homeowners insurance, that insurance company will generally step and pay for the damages and injuries caused by the dog. Not everyone has homeowners insurance because they are renters, or let their homeowners insurance lapse. When the dog owner owns the home and still owes a mortgage, the mortgage company will normally always require that the homeowner have insurance to protect their loan on the house.
Vicious Breed Exclusions in Homeowners Policies.
Sometimes, not often, there can be a dog exclusion or vicious breed exclusion in the homeowners policy. Meaning, there will be no insurance coverage if you have a certain type of dog in your possession at the house. There can be Pitbulls or bulldog exclusions in the homeowners policy. The way to find out is to request the actual policy from the dog owner’s insurance company. In Utah, the homeowners, dog owner’s insurance company will generally turn over the policy under Utah’s insurance commission administrative regulations.
Even if the homeowners insurance policy excludes certain breeds from coverage, it may still be disputed if the dog is not a full breed. How the dog breed exclusion is written in the insurance policy will control. Under Utah law, insurance policies are strictly construed against the insurance company and favors coverage, rather then excluding coverage.
Utah cities or municipalities can’t adopt a dog breed restriction in their city and county ordinances. See Utah Code Ann. 18-2-1 (2020).
Renter’s Insurance Can Pay.
Depending on what type of renter’s insurance the dog owner has, it can be a possible payment source for your injuries caused by the dog. But, most renters don’t have renter’s insurance and then the ultimate responsibility reverts back to the dog owner to pay from their personal finances for the injuries caused by their dog. As luck often has it. The renters own a pitbull, have no insurance and recklessly allow their dog to hurt people and have no way to pay for their negligent conduct.
RIGHT TO SELF-DEFENSE AND TO KILL OR INJURE THE ATTACKED DOG:
Under Utah law you have the right to kill or injure a dog that is harassing, attacking or injuring you, another person or your own dog. Utah Code Ann. 18-1-3 (2020) gives you authority to protect yourself and your dog against other attacking dogs.
UTAH DOG BITE ARBITRATION:
Just like car accidents, you can use arbitration to resolve your Utah dog bite. As the injured party you can choose arbitration and force the dog owner into arbitration. Utah Code Ann. 18-1-4 (2020) allows Utah dog bite cases to be heard by a mutually selected arbiter. The defendant dog owner has the right to appeal the arbiter’s dog bite decision to a jury trial. This is called a “De Novo” appeal. You have to file your appeal within 20 days. You have to select a dog bite arbitration within 14 days of the answer being filed to your dog bite complaint. You can rescind your arbitration election within 90 days after you elect arbitration.
If the appealing party doesn’t do better than they did in the underlying dog bite arbitration by 30 percent, the appealing party is liable for increase costs and expert witness fees up to $6,000. This penalty is an incentive to let arbitration verdicts stand.]
As the injured person, if you select dog bite arbitration, you are limited to $50,000 and you waived your ability to attach personal assets of the dog owner should the verdict be greater than $50,000.
Technically, the Utah Uniform Arbitration Act rules apply to dog bite arbitration proceedings. Yet, many dog bite arbitrations are conducted very informally with attorneys and arbiters who have known each other years and understand the customs of Utah arbitration. In arbitration you will probably not have to bring your expert witness live to the arbitration and can rely upon their written report. Not calling your medical expert live at the arbitration will save you a few thousand dollars and speed up the process. Utah dog bite arbitration, like other Utah injury arbitration generally moves much faster than a traditional jury trial track personal injury case.
CALL UTAH DOG BITE ATTORNEY JAKE GUNTER FOR A FREE CONSULTATION at (801) 373-6345.