Seven Things You Must Do After a Dog Bites You in Utah

Almost every city in Utah has a law that requires dog owners to put a leash on their dog to prevent injury – and sometimes even death – to others.

[Rottweiler takes the life of a young Salt Lake boy]

Because under Utah law, if a dog gets out and bites you, dog owners become “strictly liable.” What this means is that the dog owner will held responsible, except in those cases where the victim may have provoked the dog. Even where the dog may have been as peaceful as could be before the bite, with no history of even nipping at someone, the dog owner will be accountable.

The Utah dog bite rules says:  “Every person owning or keeping a dog shall be liable in damages for injury committed by such dog, and it shall not be necessary in any action brought therefor to allege or prove that such dog was of a vicious or mischievous disposition or that the owner or keeper thereof knew that it was vicious or mischievous.” (Utah Code 18-1-1.) Thus, while some states have a “one free bite rule,” Utah law puts the responsibility on the dog owner for the dog’s very first bite, even if that bite was unexpected. And it doesn’t even have to be a bite. A young child or jogger who is trying to get away from a dog off its leash and injures him or herself, is one of the people who is meant to be protected under this rule.

Damages from dog bites can include the cost of medical treatment, shots, plastic surgeries to help reduce scars, visible scars, scar tissue, muscle and ligament damages, lost time from work, future time off work, emotional distress, etc. These claims are usually made against the home owner’s insurance policy of the dog owner. If the dog owner is a renter, however, they will typically not have this type of coverage. (Check with an attorney regarding other options that might be available.)

I you or a friend or loved one has been bitten by a dog, you want to act quickly to preserve your claim. I therefore recommend you do the following seven things:

  1.  Get the contact information for the dog owner or person in charge of the dog, including their name, phone number and address;
  2.  Notify animal control as the dog could have rabies or some other disease and may need to be quarantined to see if they have a disease;
  3.  Get the names and contact information of witnesses who saw the bite happen;
  4.  Find out the type of dog that bit you and the breed;
  5.  Take pictures of your wound after the bite and as you heal to show the healing progression;
  6.  Take pictures of the scene of the dog bite, including where the dog may have escaped from; and
  7.  Save the clothes you were wearing that show bite marks or were bloodied from your dog bite wound.

Ron Kramer is a personal injury attorney handling dog bite cases and other personal injury cases throughout Utah.