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Dog Bite Liability Laws in Colorado

Dogs are commonly hailed as man’s best friend and are beloved pets across the United States. While most interactions with dogs are positive, dog attacks can occur unexpectedly. In some cases, certain dogs may exhibit aggressive behavior over time, with a history of unprovoked attacks. On the other hand, even seemingly non-aggressive dogs can inflict severe and sudden injuries without warning.

Given the prevalence of misconceptions and myths surrounding dog bite laws, consult an experienced  dog bite lawyer in Colorado before making any decisions regarding your dog bite case. This ensures you clearly understand the legal avenues available to you. With this understanding, you can protect your rights.

The “One-Bite Rule” Myth

Dog Bite Liability Laws in Colorado

Colorado dog bite lawyers often encounter a prevailing misconception: the one-bite rule. Many individuals believe that after a dog attack resulting in injury to themselves or their children, they can only take legal action and recover compensation if the dog had bitten someone previously.

The underlying notion is that you cannot hold a dog owner responsible if they didn’t know about a dog’s potential danger, which, according to this belief, they can only know after an initial bite.

This assumption paints an incomplete picture.

In fact, most states have moved beyond the strict adherence to the one-bite rule. Only Mississippi maintains this principle without modification. States like Colorado have updated dog bite laws to impose greater liability on dog owners.

In Colorado, evidence of a prior bite or a history of violence or aggression allows you to seek both economic and non-economic damages stemming from the attack. This ensures that you receive comprehensive and just compensation for the injuries sustained by you or your child, going beyond basic expense coverage.

However, even if you cannot substantiate a prior biting incident, you have legal options under Colorado law.

Dog owners bear strict liability for economic damages when their animals cause severe injuries or fatalities. If you or your child suffered significant harm from a dog not known for aggression, an attorney can obtain compensation for medical expenses and other financial losses.

Colorado Dog Bite Liability Laws

In Colorado, the dog bite statute, as outlined in Colorado Revised Statutes §13-21-124, establishes a doctrine of strict liability. It stipulates that any individual who sustains a severe bodily injury or experiences a fatality due to a dog bite while lawfully present on public or private property may seek economic damages from the dog owner.

Importantly, owners accept this liability irrespective of the dog’s perceived viciousness, its known dangerous tendencies, or the owner’s awareness thereof. Essentially, this law places automatic responsibility on the dog owner for any severe injuries or fatalities resulting from the actions of their dog.

The definition of serious bodily injuries includes scenarios involving:

  • A significant risk of mortality
  • A substantial risk of enduring severe and permanent disfigurement
  • A substantial risk of prolonged loss or impairment of the functionality of a body part or organ
  • Fractures or breaks
  • Second or third-degree burns

Therefore, if you or your child suffered broken bones, substantial lacerations that may result in scarring, soft tissue injuries with the potential for lasting physical restrictions, or organ damage due to a dog attack, seek assistance from a Colorado dog bite lawyer. You can hold the dog owner responsible for the financial repercussions stemming from the attack.

Furthermore, if you can provide evidence of the dog’s dangerous propensities, you may recover non-economic damages. This can include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring, and disfigurement, as well as disability.

However, Colorado’s dog bite statute describes six situations where you cannot hold a dog owner liable for injuries caused by their dog:

  • If the dog attacked a trespasser
  • If the attack occurred while the victim was on the dog owner’s property and the owner clearly marked the property with posted warning signs
  • If a police officer or military personnel used the dog for official duties;
  • If the victim knowingly provoked the dog
  • If the victim was a veterinarian, dog groomer, humane agency staff, professional dog trainer, or dog show judge performing their respective duties
  • If the dog was working, hunting, herding, farming, or doing other jobs while on its owner’s property

Determining the Viability of Your Colorado Dog Bite Case

A successful dog bite case typically hinges on:

  • Establishing owner liability
  • Ensuring insurance coverage
  • Demonstrating the presence of a serious injury necessitating costly medical attention

The second critical aspect revolves around the owner’s insurance coverage. This factor ensures sufficient funds can cover the victim’s medical expenses. Typically, the owner’s homeowners’ or renters insurance, along with insurance held by property landlords and business owners, pays compensation for injuries.

Finally, the severity of the injury must support a viable claim. The awarded compensation will depend on medical treatments, lost income due to absence from work, and other economic losses incurred.

In addition to quantifiable economic damages, individuals affected by a dog attack may also pursue compensation for non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include the pain endured during the incident and subsequent treatment, emotional distress stemming from encounters with other dogs as a consequence of the attack, enduring emotional scars, as well as disability and other elements contributing to a decline in one’s overall quality of life.

Different parties might estimate the total compensation potentially at stake in a dog attack claim, including:

Insurance companies typically undervalue claims to save money, so have an experienced injury attorney advocate for you.

What Are the Damages in a Dog Bite Case?

After a severe injury resulting from a dog bite, you may recover compensatory damages, which typically include:

Medical Bills

These expenses are the most evident after a dog bite injury. The costs associated with treating a dog-inflicted injury can often surpass initial estimates.

According to data from the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average cost per claim increased 31.7 percent over the last year. Recoverable medical bills might include emergency medical services, ambulance fees, hospital services, physician charges, and medication costs.

Additionally, you may recover future medical expenses, such as physical therapy and home modifications. This category extends to the maintenance and replacement of necessary medical devices.

Lost Wages or Income

A dog bite injury may result in a temporary inability to work. In such cases, you may recover compensation covering your entire recovery period. This provision applies even if you are self-employed. For an accurate estimation of your lost income, seek legal guidance.

Lost Earning Potential

Severe dog bite injuries can lead to disabling conditions that prevent a return to work. In such cases, you can seek compensation for the potential income loss due to these injuries.

Physical Pain and Suffering

Dog-inflicted injuries require profoundly painful and debilitating procedures, medications, and physical therapy. You can recover compensation for the physical pain and suffering resulting from the dog bite. In cases where the attack leads to permanent disfigurement, the damages for pain and suffering may significantly increase.

Emotional Trauma

Beyond physical injuries, a dog bite can inflict emotional harm. This can arise from the physical pain, aggressive medical treatment, or even the traumatic incident itself. Emotional effects may include an extreme fear of dogs, anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression, and, in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can recover damages for all these emotional traumas in a dog bite injury case.

Property Damage

Compensation should also cover any personal property or vehicle damage incurred during the incident. This covers items like torn clothing, damaged eyewear, footwear, or any valuable possessions you may have had with you during the attack. Additionally, it includes damage to a bicycle or motorcycle if you were riding at the time of the incident.

Loss of Consortium

If the dog-inflicted injuries have affected your relationship with your spouse, you may recover damages relating to the loss of consortium. These damages account for the inability to provide your spouse with the companionship, intimacy, or support you offered before the incident.

Recovering Punitive Damages After a Dog Bite

While punitive damages may apply in some cases, the dog owner’s conduct must have demonstrated exceptional recklessness or intentional wrongdoing—for example, intentionally releasing a dog to attack you. Courts grant punitive damages to penalize wrongdoers and deter others from engaging in similar misconduct.

Is There an Average Dog Bite Settlement Figure?

Given that confidentiality clauses typically form a crucial part of out-of-court settlement agreements, the specifics of most dog bite injury settlements remain undisclosed, including the compensation received by the injured party. Consequently, there is no readily available average data.

Instead, direct attention toward the factors most likely to affect the value of your dog bite injury claim.

The level of pain and suffering experienced by the injured party, along with the extent of medical treatment (and associated medical expenses) resulting from the injuries sustained, are typically the most influential factors in a dog bite settlement.

In addition to these considerations, you may recover more money if:

  • The dog owner’s responsibility for the claimant’s injuries is unequivocal.
  • There are no potential defenses that the dog owner can raise in response to the claim.
  • The dog bite victim bears no responsibility for causing or contributing to their own injuries.

In a dog bite injury case (much like any other type of personal injury claim), you can reach a settlement at any time. This means your claim might resolve shortly after initiating the insurance claim process (such as when filing with the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance company) or shortly after filing a personal injury lawsuit in court, signaling your commitment to pursuing the case seriously. Alternatively, a settlement can occur later, on the verge of a trial.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bite injuries can vary in type and severity and include:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Lacerations and cuts
  • Abrasions and scrapes
  • Bruises and contusions
  • Fractured or broken bones
  • Dislocations
  • Nerve damage
  • Tissue and muscle damage
  • Infections (e.g., cellulitis, rabies)
  • Avulsion injuries (tearing of skin or tissue)
  • Hematomas (collection of blood under the skin)
  • Crush injuries
  • Facial injuries (including damage to eyes, nose, and mouth)
  • Scalp injuries
  • Ear injuries (including torn earlobes)

The severity of these injuries can vary widely depending on the size and aggression of the dog, as well as the location and depth of the bites. In some cases, especially with severe or multiple bites, victims may experience a combination of these injuries.

Colorado’s Dog Bite Statute of Limitations

Colorado’s statute of limitations for dog bite claims is two years, with the clock starting from the date of the attack. While two years may seem like ample time to initiate a civil claim for damages, victims of severe dog bites often face a prolonged and arduous recovery process.

Given the complex nature of such cases, dog bite victims must meet the statute of limitations. After tending to immediate medical needs, seek assistance from an experienced attorney. A seasoned Colorado dog bite attorney not only ensures that you navigate the legal process effectively but also significantly bolsters your chances of success in your civil claim.

With their experience, you’re more likely to secure the fullest recovery possible under state law, addressing both immediate and long-term concerns arising from the dog attack. This includes not only medical expenses but also potential future costs, lost income, and compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

Additionally, a personal injury attorney can gather essential evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, represent you in court to pursue the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Lauren Varner, Personal Injury Attorney

Lauren is a Personal Injury Attorney. She is Colorado native who became involved with the field of personal injury long before she became an attorney. Lauren’s professional philosophy centers around good old fashioned hard work, producing quality work product, and treating others professionally, with dignity and respect at all times.

Awards and as featured on

National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 Included in TOP 40 Under 40 by The National TRIAL Lawyers in Centennial CO Varner Faddis Top Lawyers Denver Badge – 5280 Magazine American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorney Top 40 Under 40 5280 Denver Top Lawyers
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