Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer
Serving Denver & the Greater Colorado Area for Three Decades
Every day, 1,000 Americans require emergency care for a dog bite injury, and in many cases the victim may have a legal right to recover civil damages from the dog’s owner.
If you’ve been injured by a dog bite or dog attack in Denver or anywhere in Colorado, contact me today for a free consultation at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911. I’ve handled thousands of dog bite cases. I’ve seen a case just like yours, and I can help you through it.
Resources On Colorado Dog Bite Cases
Get the facts you need to know…
If you have been the victim of a dog bite in Colorado, you need answers to some common questions about the law and how to be compensated for your injury.
Dog Bite Statistics
According to DogsBite.org, the dog breeds whose attacks are most often responsible for serious injuries and deaths include:
- Pit bull and pit bull mixes
- German shepherd
Molosser breeds, which make up over 9% of the total dog population, account for 81% of all dog attacks on children and 76% of all attacks that result in fatalities. From 2005 to 2015, pit bulls killed 213 Americans and accounted for 64% of the total recorded deaths from dog attacks.
Does Colorado Have a Specific Dog Bite Law?
There is no federal law pertaining to liability for dog bites. Dog bite law is a combination of city, county, and state law. Colorado’s dog bite law imposes strict liability upon a dog owner when the victim sustains a serious bodily injury, in which case the owner may well have to pay full damages. The owner may also be liable for a lesser injury. In the case of either a serious bodily injury or a lesser injury, a dog owner can be held liable under the one bite rule, for negligence, or for violating an animal control law.
The one bite rule pertains to whether the owner had any prior knowledge of how dangerous his dog could be. “Under this common law doctrine, a dog owner or handler is not liable for injuries caused by their dog unless he or she was aware that the dog had dangerous or vicious propensities. Thus, the plaintiff must prove that (a) the dog previously bit someone, and (b) the defendant was aware of the dog’s previous conduct.”
Bitten by a Dog? What You Should Do Next
If you’ve been bitten by a dog and the attack resulted in injury, there are two things you should do as soon as possible:
- Seek medical attention. When untreated, dog bites can cause serious injury, infection, and possibly death if the animal was diseased.
- Get legal advice. After receiving medical treatment, you should consult with an attorney who handles dog bite cases. An experienced injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and tell you whether or not you might have a legal claim against the dog’s owner. But don’t wait too long — 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.
What If I’m Not Sure Who Owns the Dog That Bit Me?
If you are bitten by a stray dog or are unsure about who the owner is, you should report the incident to animal control as soon as possible so that they can locate the dog and potentially its owner. If they are unable to find the dog, you may have to get rabies shots.
Determining Liability in a Colorado Dog Bite Case
When deciding who is at fault for a dog bite injury, one thing must be determined: who owns the dog? Colorado, like many states, imposes what is known as strict liability upon owners whose dogs injure others. According to the legal theory of strict liability, an owner is liable for an animal bite even if he or she had no knowledge of the animal’s propensity to 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 relies upon restrictive definitions of bodily injury and serious bodily injuries. If someone is relying solely on Colorado’s dog bite statute, they can only recover for economic damages, meaning they cannot recover for:
- Emotional distress not resulting from actual physical injury
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
To receive full compensation for a dog bite in Colorado, or to receive any compensation at all in the case of non-qualifying injury, the victim must prove that the incident resulted from one of the following:
- Negligent or intentional conduct on the part of the dog owner
- Violation of a dangerous dog law, a leash law or any law prohibiting dogs from running at large
- Ownership of a dog knowing that the animal has a history of dangerous or vicious propensities, meaning biting or threatening to bite people
Can the Landlord Be Held Liable If a Dog Bit Me on His Property?
In some circumstances, the landlord may be liable; for example, if he has leased property to a dog owner and reasonably could have known that the presence of the dog creates a “clear potential for injury.”
How Does Colorado Law Distinguish "Bodily Injury" from “Serious Bodily Injury?”
Colorado law defines bodily injury as “any physical injury that results in severe bruising, muscle tears, or skin lacerations requiring professional medical treatment or any physical injury that requires corrective or cosmetic surgery.” Emotional distress, for example, would not be covered under the statute if it does not result from actual physical injury.
The law defines a serious bodily injury as an injury which “either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.”
Are There Any Circumstances in Which I Will Be Unable to Recover at All?
You cannot recover damages in Colorado if you trespassed, provoked the dog, ignored a warning sign, were a judge at a dog show, or were performing a service for the dog. You also cannot recover if the dog was doing military or police work, or if it was working as a hunting, herding, farming, ranching or predator control dog. Under some circumstances, you must prove the dog owner’s prior knowledge of a dangerous propensity in order to recover damages for a dog bite.
In Colorado, Are the Damages I Can Recover Limited?
In Colorado, noneconomic damages are limited in most cases. Section 13-21-102.5 limits to $250,000 the amount of “noneconomic loss or injury” that an injured person can recover. The monetary amount of the cap may differ in a given year. However, the cap does not apply if you have suffered physical impairment or disfigurement from the bite.
What Will Happen to the Dog That Attacked Me? Will It Be Put Down?
Most likely no. But every physician who administers medical care to a person bitten by a dog, cat or other animal is required to report the incident to the Colorado State Board of Health. The health department or health officer will then serve notice upon the owner that the animal must be confined for a designated period of time to determine whether the animal shows symptoms of rabies.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Pursue a Dog Bite Claim in Colorado?
Although dogs bite some 5 million or more people in the U.S. every year, insurance companies pay an average of only 14,000 to 16,000 dog bite claims a year. No law requires you to retain a lawyer to pursue a dog bite claim in Colorado. But a good lawyer will know how to present the case to the insurance company so that you can get your claim resolved without ever having to go to court.
If you’ve sustained injuries due to a dog bite in Colorado, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen online or call 303-454-8000 to schedule your free initial consultation today.