People may wonder, “What is dog bite law?” It seems obscure enough an issue that it is puzzling that it could be itemized as its own body of law. How would a dog biting someone have anything to do with the law? Those are all reasonable questions, and they have simple answers. The law in the United States seeks to allow us individual freedoms while preventing us from using those freedoms to harm each other. In the U.S, if one party harms another in an unreasonable way, the victim may potentially be entitled to recover damages against the party who caused the harm. That is just a fancy lawyer way of saying that if you hurt someone, you should pay for it. The laws that dictate that principle are referred to as the “tort system.” Obviously you cannot sue a dog for biting you. Even if you could, what would you win– a bone? The tort system allows a victim of a dog bite to recover damages from the dog’s owner under a variety of legal theories. These theories each have their own variety of factual issues that one must be able to prove in order to win their lawsuit. Winning a lawsuit is almost never an easy thing to do. In the State of Utah, there are three different paths to winning your legal claim and thereby forcing the dog’s owner to pay for the injuries that their dog caused you.
The first legal path that could be utilized after a dog bite is under the theory of an intentional tort. These cases are extremely rare because they are what they sound like they are. A victim would need to be able to prove that the owner deliberately and purposefully had their dog bite you. If you went to your friends house, and the two of you had a disagreement, and your friend let his Pit Bull out and yelled, “Get em’ boy!” That would be an example of an intentional dog bite. Obviously the law should hold the dog owner accountable for his actions after an incident like that.
The second legal path to recovery after being bitten by a dog is the standard theory of negligence. Negligence theory requires a showing that the dog owner owed you a duty to be careful, the owner was not careful, their not being careful caused their dog to bite you, and the bite injured you in some way. This is the most common theory used in dog bite cases in most states. This theory is not necessary in Utah. Negligence can be difficult to prove because if a dog has never bitten anyone before, how will the owner know how careful he or she should be? To simplify this calculation, many states use a “One Bite Rule.” This rule says that if it was the dog’s first time ever biting anyone, then the owner was not negligent. However, if the dog has bitten before, then the owner should know that it bites and they should be extra careful to ensure that it does not happen again. That theory is good because it forces owners of vicious dogs to be careful, but it gives every dog one free bite out of a human.
For that reason, Utah uses the third route, strict liability. Strict liability means that a victim does not have to show that the dog was known to be vicious. Under strict liability, if your dog bites someone, you must pay for his or her injuries. Period. This rule is favored in Utah because it requires all of those who own animals to make sure to take special care to prevent their animals from hurting other human beings. If your dog bites and injures someone, you may as well be neighborly and offer to help pay for their necessary medical bills because the law is likely not on your side. If you have been the victim of a dog bite incident, call a Dog Bite Lawyer immediately.