A dog’s bark might be worse than his bite, but most of us would rather not find out the hard way.
Thousands of Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and in many cases, the victim may have a legal right to recover civil damages from the dog’s owner. If you’re bitten by a dog and suffer injuries, there are two things you should do as soon as possible:
- Seek medical attention. If gone untreated, dog bites can cause serious injury, infection and sometimes even death if the animal is diseased.
- Get legal advice. After you’ve received medical treatment for your injuries, you should consider speaking with a lawyer who handles dog bite cases. An experienced injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and tell you whether or not you have a legal claim against the dog owner or some other responsible party.
When determining who is liable for a dog bite injury, the first thing that must be determined is who owns the dog. Many states, including Colorado, impose what is known as strict liability upon dog owners whose animals attack and injure others. According to the legal theory of strict liability, an owner is liable for an animal bite even if he had no way of knowing that the animal might be dangerous or that it had a tendency to attack.
Colorado’s dog bite statute provides for strict liability but applies only to serious bodily injuries and contains restrictive definitions of bodily injury and serious bodily injuries. A person relying solely on Colorado’s dog bite statute can only recover for economic damages, meaning he or she cannot be compensated for pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional distress or reduced quality of life if it did not result from actual physical injury.
To receive full compensation for a dog bite injury in Colorado, or to obtain any compensation at all in cases of non-serious bodily injuries, the victim must prove that the injury resulted from one of the following:
- Negligent or intentional conduct on the part of the dog owner
- Violation of a dangerous-dog law, leash law or law prohibiting dogs from running at large
- Ownership of a dog with the knowledge that the dog has a history of dangerous or vicious propensities (i.e., biting or threatening to bite people)
Is a Dog Owner Always Liable?
Colorado’s dog bite law provides that a dog owner is not liable in certain circumstances, such as the following:
- The victim is trespassing on public or private property.
- The dog owner’s property is clearly marked with warning signs such as “beware of dog” and the victim chooses to ignore them.
- The victim provokes the dog.
- The victim is a veterinary health care worker, dog groomer, humane agency staff member, professional dog handler, trainer or dog show judge performing his duties at the time of the incident.
- The dog is a working dog on a farm or ranch or is performing hunting, herding or predator-control duties on the property of or under the control of the dog’s owner.
In Colorado, recovery for non-economic damages is limited to $250,000 in most instances, a cap that changes from year to year. However, if the victim suffered physical impairment or disfigurement as a result of the dog bite, there is no cap on recovery. And don’t wait too long to make your claim — the statute of limitations to file a claim for injuries sustained from a dog bite in Colorado is two years from the date of the attack.
Image by State Farm.