Each state has its own laws that apply to personal injury cases. In this article, we'll explore some key Utah laws that might come into play whether you are filing a personal injury lawsuit in court or just making an injury claim with an insurance company.
Deadlines for Filing Utah Personal Injury Lawsuits
Utah, like all other states, limits the amount of time you have to file a case in court after an injury or accident. In Utah, this rule -- known as a statute of limitations -- gives you four years to bring a personal injury case to court. If you don't file your case within four years of the accident or injury, the Utah court system may refuse to hear it at all.
It's very important to keep track of the statute of limitations and to file your Utah injury case before the four-year window closes. Title 78, Ch. 12, Sec. 78-12-25 of the Utah Code contains the full text of Utah's statute of limitations for injury cases.
Shared Fault in Utah Injury Cases
You may file an injury lawsuit or insurance claim in Utah, only to hear the person or company you filed against insist that you are partly at fault for your injuries. If you do share some of the liability for the injury, Utah's comparative fault rule may reduce the amount of damages you can recover from another at-fault party. If you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault, you may be barred from collecting any damages at all.
Here's an example. Suppose that you are injured when you trip on a broken floor tile in a grocery store and fall. You didn't see the tile because you were busy sending a text message at the time. In court, it's determined that you are 20 percent at fault for the accident and the grocery store is 80 percent at fault. It's also determined that your total damages equal $10,000.
Since you were found to share some of the fault, Utah's comparative fault rule applies to reduce your damages award by an amount that is equal to the percentage of fault assigned to you.
Here, since you were assigned 20 percent of the fault, your $10,000 damages award is reduced by 20 percent or $2,000, leaving you with $8,000. If you had been found to be 50 percent or more at fault in the accident, however, your damages award would have dropped to zero automatically, and you would lose your right to collect compensation from any other at-fault party.
Utah courts are required by state law to apply the comparative fault rule whenever an injured person is found to share fault in a court-based injury case, but insurance adjusters often bring up the rule during settlement negotiations as well.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Utah however, a specific statute (Utah Code Ann, § 18-1-1) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
"Every person owning or keeping a dog is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog, and it is not necessary in the action brought therefor to allege or prove that the dog was of a vicious or mischievous disposition or that the owner or keeper of the dog knew that it was vicious or mischievous."
Caps on Injury Damages in Utah
Utah, like many states, caps or limits some kinds of damages in personal injury cases. Specifically, Utah caps non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages in medical malpractice cases.
Utah Code Section 78B-3-410 caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $450,000 for cases that occurred on or after May 15, 2010. The Utah Courts website provides a sliding scale to determine the cap for cases that occurred before May 15, 2010. This cap does not include economic damages or punitive damages. And remember, the cap does not apply to all kinds of injury cases, only those stemming from medical malpractice.
Injury Cases Involving the Utah Government
If you've been injured due to the negligence of a government employee or agency in Utah, a different set of rules apply to your case. For instance, you have one year to file a claim after an injury involving the Utah state government, and one year to file an appeal if your initial claim is denied.
The Utah Governmental Immunity Act governs many injury claims involving the Utah government. More information about government-related claims in general is available in our Injury Claims Against the Government section.
Utah is a No-Fault Car Insurance State
In car accident cases, Utah follows a no-fault system, which means that after most traffic accidents, an injured person's own insurance company will provide coverage for medical expenses and lost income, no matter who was at fault for the accident.
You can't hold the other driver liable after a car accident in Utah unless your case meets a "serious injury" threshold. So most minor accidents will fall under the no-fault umbrella. But you may be able to step outside of the no-fault system and file a liability claim against the at-fault driver if you can demonstrate that your case involves "serious injuries." Obviously, that term is a little vague, so it will be a point of negotiation whether your injuries meet the threshold.
See this page on no fault car accident claims for more on how these types of cases work.
Check the References
Title 78B of the Utah Code contains many laws that apply to personal injury cases in Utah.