Many people wonder whether their dog bite claim will be defeated by the fact that they were on the dog owners property when they got bit by the dog? The short answer to this question is—absolutely not. Utah is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite law. That means that dog owners must pay for the harm caused by their dogs almost regardless of the fact situation surrounding the incident. The one obvious exception to that rule is police canines. If the police use their canines to track down a criminal, the criminal cannot sue the police force over the dog bite injury. Because Utah dog bite laws are so favorable to victims of dog bites, dog owners should make sure to take good care of their dogs and do everything they can to ensure safety for their friends and neighbors.
When it comes down to it, the path to recovery for injuries from a dog bite may be easier when one is bitten on the dog’s property as opposed to one’s own property. The reason for that is two fold: one, landowner liability is a well-established legal principle, and two; homeowners insurance is usually the end game. Landowner liability is the idea that an owner of property should be responsible for injuries that happen to others while they are on his or her property because the owner of the property is in the superior position to know and understand the dangers that may be present on that property and therefore they are in the position to more adequately protect against those dangers. The law seeks to place the burden of caution on the party who has the best ability to prevent the harm. The second reason is that the overwhelming majority of meritorious dog bite claims are settled and paid out by homeowners insurance companies as opposed to being paid out by the dog owner herself. No one wants their neighbor to have to pony up the cash for their medical expenses after a dog bite, but why should a victim have to bare the costs of expensive medical treatments that were not their fault? Homeowners insurance steps in to fill that gap. Most homeowners insurance policies cover the family dog. These policies typically follow the dog even when that dog leaves the property, but it is always an easier case if the injury occurred on the property that is directly covered under the terms of the policy.
It is of note that more than half of dog bite incidents in the U.S in 2012 occurred on the property of the dog owner. These situations are usually a fact scenario where a dog owner invites guests over, the dog is uncomfortable with the guests, and someone gets bit. Where the law becomes a bit more convoluted is when the victim was actually not ever invited over to the property but was instead a trespasser. In many states, a trespasser would not be able to bring a claim against the dog’s owner after being bitten by their dog. In Utah, a trespasser would still have a winning claim because Utah is a strict liability state with regard to dog bites. Unless the circumstances are particularly extreme, even an uninvited person has the right to not be bitten by an angry dog. The dog owner will receive sympathy from the courts if the dog was acting in self-defense of the owner against a dangerous intruder, but the dog owner will not receive much leniency if a child wanders into an unfenced yard and is attacked by a dog.
If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog while they were in the home of a friend or neighbor, contact a dog bite attorney today.