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Last Modified: March 1, 2023

Man v. Dog: Who is at Fault if You are Bitten?

Published on February 12, 2015 • Last updated March 1, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Dog Bites & Attacks

Angry Dog

In many states throughout the US, laws protect owners and dogs the first time that the dog bites a person. The practice of giving out “one free bite” doesn’t exist in the state of Utah. Under Utah State code, owners of dogs who attack another person are held responsible for the dog’s actions, even on the first offense.

The victim of the bite does not have to prove a history of aggression on the part of the dog. And the owner cannot use the same argument (lack of violent history) to protect them from liability.

The Rule of Comparative Fault

This still leaves the question of who is at fault when a dog bites the first time. To figure this out, we look at a the rule of Comparative Fault.

Comparative Fault decides who was ‘more responsible’ for the bite happening in the first place. It may seem odd that someone could be responsible for being bitten, but think of it this way. If you were taunting or provoking the dog before you were bitten, that could have contributed to the dog biting you. Along the same lines, if you were the original aggressor and the dog bit you out of self-defense, you could be found at fault. In that case, neither the dog nor its owner would be responsible.

How are Owners and Victims Protected?

There are special considerations for unique circumstances. For example, if the victim of the dog bite is a young child who was simply playing or was not trying to harm the dog, it would be hard to argue that the child was responsible for what happened. Because bites received by children are usually more severe, it is hard for insurance companies and owners to argue that what the child did to the dog was ‘more severe’ than the child’s injuries or the dog’s reaction.

Additionally, police dogs get special protection so long as they are acting lawfully. If they are following directions from a law enforcement officer working within the law, they can’t be punished for their actions.

What Happens if the Dog is at Fault

If you are bit and you were found to be responsible, it is rare that you will be able to argue any case before a judge. However, if you have been injured and are not at fault, you have options. You may be able to pursue damages to cover:

  • Medical expenses
  • Disfigurement
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

If you need to talk to an expert about your dog bite case or are unsure whether you should pursue a case, contact us at Christensen & Hymas. We have years of experience and firsthand knowledge of how these cases should be handled.


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