Man’s best friend can cause a lot of damage in addition to the love they can provide. Each year, more than 350,000 dog bite victims are seen in emergency rooms, and dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year. If you are bitten by someone else’s dog in Utah and seek recovery, there are a few different claims that may be applicable:
- Statutory Strict Liability
- “Zone of Danger”
Statutory Strict Liability
Unlike many states that abide by the “one-bite rule” which basically allows each dog and dog owner to get off scot-free for the dog’s first bite, Utah is classified as a statutory strict liability state. Utah’s dog bite statute makes the dog owner liable whenever his or her dog bites another person, even if it is the first time. The statute does have one notable exception: dogs in law enforcement. Overall, the statute in place is favorable to victims and holds dog owners accountable for injuries caused by their canine companions.
A dog bite victim can also recover under the doctrine of negligence. Negligence is a lack of ordinary care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in a similar situation. If a person’s conduct falls short of that standard, the person can be labeled as negligent. In terms of dog bite attacks, a victim can recover under a theory of negligence if he or she can prove the dog owner had a duty to keep society safe from the dog, the dog owner breached that duty, and because of that breach injuries occurred. Even the best-intentioned dog owners can be negligent, and if so, they may be held accountable for damages caused and injuries sustained.
Damages can be reduced, but not altogether eliminated, in certain circumstances. For example, if the victim provoked the dog and then the dog attacked him, damages will be reduced based on the victim’s fault in the incident. A victim can still recover from a dog owner so long as the dog owner’s fault exceeds his own.
“Zone of Danger”
Utah also permits a relative of the dog bite victim to recover damages for emotional distress that physically manifests itself, if that person was within the “zone of danger.” The “zone of danger” applies if the relative was present at the attack and because of the attack he or she suffered emotional distress. The person trying to recover under this theory must be a relative of the victim, within the “zone of danger” created by the dog attack, and the dog owner should have realized the conduct may result in unreasonable risk of causing the relative distress (that manifests into physical harm).
If you or a loved one has been injured, talk to a Utah dog bite lawyer.