What do you do after a dog bites you? Of course, you should sue the owner to cover your medical expenses and any other damage done. But can you always do that?
Maybe you’ve heard of something called the “one-bite” rule: the idea that a dog owner can’t be held liable the first time his or her dog bites someone. It’s often talked about as a dog getting a “free bite,” because up until that point it had never been a threat to anyone.
Is the “one bite” rule a real legal principle? If so, does it apply in Utah? And what recourse does someone have if they’re the victim of a dog’s first bite?
The bad news is that there really is such a thing as the one-bite rule. Fourteen states use a one-bite rule to shield owners when their animals first cause harm. Six other states and DC have laws that mostly follow the one-bite rule, with exceptions.
That’s not good for people harmed by animals in those states because they face an uphill climb proving that the owner is still liable. On the other hand, the one-bite rule works for victims in one way: It’s easier to go after owners when an animal bites a second time.
But Utah is not a one-bite state. The law here follows the more rational concept of strict liability. If an animal causes harm, it’s the owner’s responsibility.
That’s how all other liability situations work. You’re not allowed one free car crash before you have to reimburse the victims for damages, and you’re not allowed one free shot into a crowd before you’ll be held accountable for your reckless behavior.
You’re not allowed one free bite by your dog, either. Utah’s statute goes so far as to explicitly note that a dog need not have been previously shown to be vicious.
Dog owners are strictly liable in Utah for any damage or injury caused by their dogs. This isn’t restricted to bites, and it can include scratching, trampling, and knocking people down, as well as property damage done by an animal.
Utah’s laws are unusual in that they provide an option for arbitration in dog attack cases, which has the potential to speed up a settlement. It’s not well known, but most dog bite claims are resolved through homeowner’s insurance (they are actually the largest category of claim made against those policies).
Dog attacks are a serious matter. In a typical year, more than thirty Americans die from them. Precise numbers are hard to come by, but it’s estimated that at least 4.5 million others are bitten each year, with close to 100,000 victims needing emergency treatment. About half a million bites likely become infected every year.
When you or someone close to you has been the victim of a dog attack, turn to the team at Craig Swapp & Associates. Our experienced attorneys understand how to approach the details of dog bite cases, and we can help you every step of the way, whether your case leads to a formal law suit, an informal settlement, or arbitration. Give us a call today at Cor contact us online through the form below to schedule a free appointment to discuss your case.