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Who is liable if a dog bites?

Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” so most people assume every canine is friendly. However, some dogs are scared due to previous abuse or feel threatened even when one doesn’t exist, and it can cause them to lash out in the only way they know how: biting.

A dog bite can cause serious injuries, which can be expensive in terms of medical bills and lost work. If this happens, who is liable for the injury?

Who “owns or keeps” the dog?

Utah law says that a person who “owns or keeps a dog” is liable for any injury that dog may cause. It does not matter whether or not the dog was vicious or mischievous, and it does not matter if the dog’s owner knew or not.

If for some reason an injury occurs due to two or more dogs who all have different owners, each owner can be sued for damages in the same injury.

Comparative negligence in dog bite cases

Dog bite cases follow the same principle of comparative negligence as other injury cases in Utah. Courts will look at the whole incident to determine how each party contributed to the injury.

As long as the court determines the dog’s owner was more at fault, dog bit victims can recover damages. However, whatever percentage of fault the court decides the victim is responsible for will be reduced from the damages.

For instance, if a dog bites someone and the court determines the injury victim was 20% at fault and the dog owner was 80% at fault, the victim can recover 80% of the damages. 

There are ways to determine the owner is 100% at fault. Dog bite victims can review their legal options for receiving their deserved compensation.  

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