How to Measure the Emotional Distress Caused by a Dog Bite

Posted on May 22, 2023

A dog attack is one of the most frightening ways to sustain painful injuries with lasting physical and emotional damage. The sense of terror and helplessness when “man’s best friend” suddenly attacks, can have lasting negative impacts on physical health and emotional well-being. While it’s a straightforward matter to calculate medical costs after painful dog bite injuries, it can be much more challenging to measure the costs of emotional distress after a dog attack.

Both adults and children can suffer serious emotional after-effects following a serious dog bite, including impacts on daily routines, work, and relationships, but how do you prove emotional distress after a dog bite in Utah?

Signs of Emotional Trauma After a Dog Bite

When a dog-bite victim finds themselves at the mercy of an attacking animal with sharp teeth and claws, it’s a traumatizing experience that goes beyond physical pain. Signs of emotional distress after a dog attack include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fear/avoidance
  • PTSD
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeplessness
  • Feelings of shame/embarrassment 
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Loss of pleasure in life

While these scars aren’t visible to the naked eye, they sometimes have greater impacts on a victim’s life than their physical scars after a dog bite.

Utah’s Dog Laws and Liability

When a dog bites in Utah, the owners are liable for damages to the victim, typically paid through an insurance policy. Unlike the few states that have a “one-bite rule,” allowing a dog to bite one time before holding owners liable for subsequent attacks, Utah’s courts hold owners accountable for their dog’s actions even if the dog has no prior history of biting.

Dog bites can cause infections and leave jagged scars that may require reconstructive surgery. In some cases, dog bites can leave victims with disfiguring scars. Though the emotional scars from a dog attack aren’t visible to the eye, they can still have negative impacts on the victim’s life.

Measuring Emotional Damages After a Dog Bite

Because insurance companies never happily write out checks, they may dispute a self-reported claim of emotional damages after a dog bite. Often insurance companies argue against paying damages on intangible claims like emotional distress, even when your suffering is completely real, valid, and deserving of compensation. Dog attack victims can help support a claim for emotional damages by doing the following:

  • Seeing a therapist or counselor for help managing symptoms and overcoming emotional distress
  • Saving all records related to your emotional healthcare
  • Keeping a journal of your feelings and daily struggles in the aftermath of your attack, including impacts on your life, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and feelings about your scars
  • Gathering testimony from family members and close friends about the impact of the attack on your life such as any avoidance tactics you’ve displayed and your feelings about your wounds and scars

By hiring an experienced Salt Lake City personal injury attorney, you can maximize your compensation for non-economic damages after a dog bite, including intangible damages like pain and suffering and emotional distress. Attorneys in Salt Lake City who focus on dog bites use special formulas to calculate these damages so you don’t undervalue your claim.