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Dog Bites and Colorado Law

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mean dogFor many Americans their canine companion is practically a member of the family. Dogs are “man’s best friend,” after all. Even so, a wide variety of circumstances lead to dog bites in Colorado and across the US.

Mark Bello, founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation and regular contributor to The Injury Board Blog, shares some unsettling figures on the subject:

According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than one third of all homeowner claims in 2009 were filed and paid on dog bite cases.The Institute found that the average payout on a dog bite claim was $24, 840 which is, roughly, a $400 per claim increase over the year before. The number of claims over the past two years is also up, by almost a thousand claims (763, to be exact). The Institute also reports that payouts have increased by about 30% over the past 7 years. A sharp increase in medical costs is one big reason for this increase.

Bello goes on to provide a good deal of insight into the relationship between dog bites and homeowner policies, and offers some good tips for prevention. Of course, there are some differences when it comes to Colorado law, since Colorado adheres to the rule of “strict liability,” for dog owners.

Jim Flynn, a Colorado Springs attorney, explains what this means in a recent piece he penned for The Colorado Springs Gazette:

‘Strict’ liability refers to a legal rule that permits an injured party to recover damages without having to prove negligence (carelessness) on the part of the defendant. Under the Colorado dog owners civil liability statute, recovery for serious bodily injury is allowed ‘regardless of … the dog owner’s knowledge or lack of knowledge of the dog’s viciousness or dangerous propensities.’ So, if Fifi’s first bite causes a serious injury, Fifi’s owner can’t defend against a civil lawsuit for damages by arguing that Fifi is a loving household pet who has never before demonstrated aggressive behavior.

He also notes that the term “owner,” can be legally applied to anyone who is watching the dog at the time. If you are dog sitting and the dog bites someone you can be liable rather than actual owner. Go give his column a read, it has a lot of important info specific to Colorado accident law.

Image by Lucid Nightmare, used under its Creative Commons license


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