Vicious Animal Attack? Know Your Rights

canine otherAbout 4.7 million dog bites are reported each year in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), millions more go unreported, driving the total up even further. Although rarely fatal, dog bites can have a deep impact on a victim’s well-being. Effects of dog-bites extend not only to physical pain, disfigurement, and even loss of limbs, but also to long-term psychological trauma.

Dog Bite Statistics

Of the nearly 5 million people who report being bitten by a dog, only 800,000 end up seeking medical attention. Several thousand bite victims remain hospitalized for an extended period of time (longer than just a checkup). Most serious medical emergencies result not from the physical bite but from bacteria transferred to the victim by the bite.

Over a billion dollars are spent each year on medical, insurance, and legal fees connected with dog bites. Even though the dog population has increased by only 2% in 20 years, dog bite cases are on the rise, however, only about 10–20 of the 4.7 million bites result in fatalities.

Which Demographic is Most Affected by Dog Bites?

Over half of the 800,000 victims who seek medical attention are children, by far the most vulnerable group. In fact, dog bites are the second biggest reason for taking children to the ER. Young children are most vulnerable to dog bites and boys age 5–9 receive the highest percentage of injuries. Two-thirds of children who have been attacked by dogs receive injuries around the neck or head, also, young boys are more likely to be bitten than girls are

Contrary to a common misconception, mixed-breed dogs are the most likely to bite. Pit-bulls are far and away the most prevalent culprits, but there are many more factors behind dog attacks. The database Legal Info states:

Data shows that past abuse and neglect greatly affect the incidents of dog bites and attacks. Dogs that are restrained with a chain are three times more likely to bite than dogs that are not restrained in this way.

Thus, the treatment of a dog, in addition to the breed, are the most likely indicators of whether a dog will attack or bite. In Utah, a listing of specific breeds and their county restrictions can be found here.

Different Dog Bite Laws in the US

There are three main types of Dog Bite Laws in the United States, relating to who is liable for a dog attack, and who is eligible for compensation.

  1. Standard Rule of Negligence: If the owner is at all aware of the danger of their dog (prior incidents, bites, even tendencies and dispositions) they are liable for any infraction caused by the dog. In some states, even the breed of the dog automatically warrants responsibility. This awareness or proven track record by the dog must be shown in court in order for a victim to receive compensation. If proven, the victim is eligible to receive funds for different types of pain, scarring, mental anxiety, and even punitive damages. Punitive fees against the responsible owner reinforces the necessity to properly contain dangerous dogs.
  2. “One Bite Laws.” Dog owners are held liable after a dog attack has already taken place, and reoccurs. Even if there was previous suspicion, a dog owner is only responsible to repay medical expenses/pay punitive damages if the dog is a repeat offender. This is the minimum requirement for dog bite laws for all states in the US.
  3. Strict Liability Statute: As the most stringent of the three dog bite laws, the only proof that the strict liability statue requires to show liability for a dog attack is the connection between the dog and its owner. Even if the dog has had no prior bad behavior, the dog owner, or his or her insurance company, is required to pay all medical and punitive bills related to the incident.

Utah Dog Bite Laws

Utah Animal Laws favor the victim and fall in line most with the Strict Liability Statute. Utah dog owners are responsible for any attack or bite caused by their dogs. If you are bitten, make sure to receive medical help immediately. It is also crucial to document when and where the attack occurred and locate the dog’s owner. Then, contact an experienced dog bite or personal injury lawyer who can help you receive the compensation you need.

New Dog Bite Legislation in Utah

Kenneth Christensen was pleased to help author a new bill on Dog Bite injury compensation which was recently passed by the Utah State Legislature.

[H.B. 287] authorizes a person injured from a dog attack to use arbitration to resolve a third party claim under certain requirements; [and] provides procedures for resolving the third party claim through arbitration;

The Law also sets limits and regulations on arbitration amounts and timetables for trial procedure.

How to Prevent Future Dog Bite Incidents

The following are some excellent tips on how to prevent future dog bites, especially among children:

  1. Slowly introduce a child to a dog (or vice versa) over time. They should be allowed to gradually get used to each other until they are comfortable playing together, etc.
  2. Instruct a child on how to behave around a dog. A focus should be placed on avoiding rough-playing, hitting, or chasing.
  3. Have your dog neutered or spayed—it makes them far less aggressive.
  4. Dog obedience school can be a great way to teach your dog to be tamer.
  5. Be cautious around new dogs. Don’t approach one unless you are reassured by the owner of the dog’s good nature.

At Christensen & Hymas, we advocate for the prevention of injuries from dog bites. When it comes to interacting with dogs and other animals, everyone should take precautions to avoid being bitten.

If you or someone who you know have suffered an injury due to an animal bite, we invite you to give us a call at 801-506-0800 for a free initial consultation. Oftentimes, medical bills, facial scarring, and even trauma can take a large toll on an animal bite victim, and compensation can go a long way to pay back the expenses and help the healing process. Our experienced lawyers are very knowledgeable when it comes to dog bite injury law and personal injury law in Utah and would be honored to fight for your cause.

To learn more about Animal Bite Injury Law in Utah, you can order a free book from Christensen & Hymas.

Picture courtesy of Ellsworth.

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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