The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported that 27 Salt Lake City mail carriers were bitten by dogs in 2013, placing Salt Lake City among the top 30 cities in the U.S. for dog bites to mail carriers. Of the 27 who were bitten last year, eight required medical attention beyond first aid and six of those were kept out of work for significant periods of time. Nationwide, 5,581 mail carriers were bitten by dogs in 2013. Houston ranked first, reporting 63 incidents, followed by Los Angeles with 61.
National Dog Bite Statistics
These statistics reported by the Salt Lake Tribune are just a snapshot of a much bigger picture:
- Each year, over one million dog bites are reported.
- This does not include the number of unreported dog bites, which is estimated to be another one million incidences.
- More than 60% of dog bites take place in the dog owner’s home.
- 77% of dog bite victims are members or friends of the dog owner’s family.
- Each year, roughly 800,000 people suffer injuries from dog bites that require medical attention.
- Twenty people a year die from injuries incurred from dog bite attacks.
- Children are often the victims of dog bites, with children under the age of 14 accounting for 14% of dog bites.
- Children younger than 4 are more susceptible to serious injuries, with 64.9% of this group suffering from attacks to the head and/or neck.
Dog Bites and Utah Law
In Utah, every person who owns a dog is liable for any injuries his/her dog inflicts on others, including mail carriers. It is unnecessary to prove that the dog had a prior streak of viciousness, or that the owner knew of its predispositions. This means that the owner is still considered liable even if the dog has not previously bitten or shown aggressive behavior. Furthermore, the dog owner’s renters or homeowners insurance almost always covers the cost of damages, even with regard to mail carriers bitten while on the job. A mail carrier bitten by a dog while delivering mail would probably have both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim. Dog bite victims can receive compensation for damages including:
- medical expenses
- loss of earnings
- loss of future earnings
While a victim of a dog bite has a legal right to full compensation as long as the dog owner is proven liable, the road to compensation is fraught with potential pitfalls. Here are eight common mistakes dog bite victims make:
- Failing to seek immediate medical treatment. If you suffer a serious injury from an attack, it is important to receive medical attention promptly. If you fail to seek medical treatment for your injury, the dog owner’s insurance company may refuse to believe that your injury is serious and may claim that you were not injured in the attack.
- Failing to obtain the name and address of witnesses and the dog owner. You should do this immediately, as it can be difficult to track down witnesses or the dog owner at a later time.
- Failing to notify the police or other proper authorities. If you have been bitten, immediately notify the police, the fire department, or the animal control agency in your city or county. In doing this, you are creating documentation of the event. An investigation by the proper authorities could also yield critical information and witness statements that will help establish liability against the dog’s owner.
- Failing to take photographs of your injuries immediately. The insurance company may dispute the severity of your injury if you do not have photographic evidence. Be sure to also take frequent photographs throughout the healing process to document any scarring or disfigurement.
- Providing the insurance company with a recorded statement. In most instances, a recorded statement will only help the insurance company.
- Failing to document everything. It is important to write a detailed account of the dog attack shortly after it happens while your memory of the events is still fresh.
- Accepting a quick settlement. Quick settlements often result in much lower pay-outs. Do not sign away your rights until you know the full extent of your injuries.
- Failing to hire an experienced lawyer if your injuries are serious. If your injuries are permanent or serious, you will likely need to hire a lawyer to help obtain the best possible outcome in you claim. Moreover, if you hire an inexperienced attorney or one who does not focus solely on personal injury claims, you could hurt your chances in receiving proper compensation.
Finding the Right Attorney
Fighting the insurance company alone can be challenging and result in an unfair settlement. But having superlative legal representation can easily make or break your dog bite claim. Therefore it is important to carefully consider the circumstances before hiring an attorney. We recommend consulting with an attorney if your injury is serious and requires several thousands of dollars in current and future medical expenses. Additionally, if you have suffered permanent scarring or disfigurement, a lawyer can help you obtain a settlement, even if the medical costs are low.
The top-rated attorneys and staff at Christensen & Hymas have handled the full spectrum of dog bite cases successfully, including bites to mail carriers. Their collective knowledge of Utah dog bite law is extensive. In fact, the founder of Christensen & Hymas, Kenneth L. Christensen, has even authored a book on the subject: The Utah Dog Bite & Attack Handbook. Mr. Christensen is an attorney at law duly sworn in the State of Utah and is authorized by the Supreme Court to practice law in all courts in the State of Utah. Mr. Christensen has gained extensive legal experience and specialization in personal injury law involving brain injuries, car, truck, and motorcycle accident claims, aviation accident claims, and dog bite and attack claims. In addition to authoring The Utah Dog Bite & Attack Handbook, Mr. Christensen has also authored the book Seven Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Utah Accident Case.
For a free copy of The Utah Dog Bite & Attack Handbook, and a free consultation with Mr. Christensen, call (801) 506-0800.