Dog Bite Lawyers in Denver
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Although dog bites may not seem to happen with regularity, when they do happen, they can have traumatic and devastating results for the victim.
Many are familiar with large dog breeds that have a reputation for aggressive behavior – pit bulls, Rottweilers, and German shepherds, for instance – but the truth is that any dog can bite a human and cause injury to that person. Additionally, a dog that you know is just as capable of biting you as a strange dog roaming your neighborhood.
If you have been the victim of an animal attack, call the Denver dog bite attorneys at Zinda Law Group today at 313-800-1501 for a free consultation.
Types of Dog Bite Lawsuits
In Colorado, there are two primary types of dog bite lawsuits: (1) a “strict liability” action; and (2) a negligence action. These two types of lawsuits differ with respect to the elements that must be proven and the types of monetary relief that can be awarded.
Strict Liability Action
When certain conditions are met, “strict liability” for a dog owner exists. Strict liability means that an injured person does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent or that the dog has a history of violence.
The conditions of a strict liability dog bite claim include:
- a person suffers serious bodily injury* or death;
- due to a bite by a dog;
- while lawfully on public or private property;
- and the person did not intentionally provoke the dog.
If each of these elements is met, a dog bite victim can sue the dog owner for economic damages. A person is not entitled to collect non-economic damages under the statute but can do so under a regular negligence action. For more information on economic and non-economic damages, see below.
If the Colorado statute covering strict liability for a dog bite does not apply, a dog bite victim may nonetheless sue the dog owner under a standard negligence action. In this case, the injured person must establish the elements of negligence and prove his or her case accordingly.
To prove negligence occurred, a person who is injured (the plaintiff) must prove:
- that the person being sued (the defendant) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- that the defendant breached that duty of care;
- that the defendant’s breach was the cause of the injury; and
- that the plaintiff sustained injuries that can be quantified in terms of monetary damages.
In contrast to a strict liability claim, a victim who sues under a standard negligence action may be able to collect non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are limited by caps, so their recovery is often limited, except in cases of permanent physical impairment.
A dog attack can occur for several reasons. Familiarizing yourself with the common causes of dog bite incidents may help prevent a future dog bite from occurring. Listed below are some of the common causes of dog bite accidents.
The dog was provoked
A significant amount of dog bite accidents occur because the animal was provoked. Examples of actions that may provoke a dog include: barking at a dog, chasing a dog, taunting a dog, and hitting a dog. A dog who is provoked is likely to feel threatened and will try to protect itself by attacking whoever is provoking it.
The dog is trying to protect someone or something
Many dog breeds are territorial. This means that the dog will do what it must to defend itself and its “belongings.” For instance, if someone tries to grab a dog’s toy or approach a dog’s puppies, the animal may instinctively react by biting the person.
Even the friendliest dogs can bite someone. For example, consider a child playing with his or her pet. It is important to realize that although small nibbles and bites during playtime may be fun for both the dog and the person, even a small bite can lead to a puncture or wound in the skin.
Unfortunately, a dog bite may occur even if all precautions are taken. A dog that is untrained, neglected/abused, or inherently dangerous may spontaneously attack an unsuspecting person. It is therefore very important to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to dogs who are loose or exhibiting signs of misbehavior.
The most common and obvious injury associated with a dog bite is the actual flesh wound that is caused by the dog’s teeth sinking into the victim’s skin. This injury can lead to immediate bleeding and bruising. If the wound is deep enough, stitches may be required.
A serious dog bite can pass the superficial skin layer and affect the underlying muscles and nerves. These types of injuries are especially common in larger, stronger breeds such as pit bulls, rottweilers, and Great Danes. Damage to the muscles and nerves may require stitches or rehabilitative treatment.
In addition to potential skin and muscle wounds, a dog bite may also lead to an infection. The risk of an infection increases if the wound is not promptly and properly treated. In order to decrease the risk of an infection, it is important to seek proper treatment from a medical professional as quickly as possible following a dog bite accident.
Rabies is caused by a virus that enters a person’s nervous system and causes inflammation to a person’s brain. A rabid dog who has rabies is able to transfer to the virus to humans via bites and scratches. The symptoms of rabies are flu-like and include things such as fever and muscle weakness. Although rabies may be treated, it is critical that a dog bite victim seek immediate medical attention after an incident in order to be properly evaluated.
What To Do After Being Bitten by a Dog
1. Seek Medical Attention
The first and most important step to take after being bitten by a dog is to seek immediate medical attention. Receiving prompt and proper medical treatment will increase your chances of a speedy recovery and can prevent you from suffering a further injury due to infection. It is important to remember that even bites from small dogs can lead to serious health concerns. Thus, you should not hesitate to contact medical professionals following a dog bite accident.
2. File a Report & Document the Accident
The next step you should take after being bitten by a dog is to file a report with the appropriate local animal control agency, particularly if the dog is not yours. By filing a report, you will be provided with important documentation which may be helpful when it comes to seeking compensation for your injuries. Filing a report may also help prevent others from being attacked in the future. This is because a dog owner is more likely to take extra precautions with his animal if the animal has a history of causing trouble.
3. Contact a Dog Bite Attorney
Finally, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. This is the next step toward filing and resolving a dog bite claim. A lawyer will listen to the facts of your case and will be able to guide you through the ensuing lawsuit and settlement process.
The elements that must be established to prove liability depend on whether the action pursued is strict liability or negligence.
As mentioned above, a plaintiff in a strict liability action will succeed if he can establish certain elements. If those elements are established, the dog bite victim will have successfully proven liability. Those elements include:
- a person suffers serious bodily injury or death;
- due to a bite by a dog;
- while lawfully on public or private property;
- and the person did not intentionally provoke the dog.
In contrast, under a negligence action, a plaintiff must prove four essential elements:
Duty of Care
The first part of proving a negligence suit is establishing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured person. A duty of care typically refers to a duty to keep someone safe or to refrain from engaging in an activity that could potentially cause someone harm. In the case of a dog bite, the plaintiff will have to show that the defendant had a duty to take the necessary precautions to ensure that the dog could not harm anyone.
Breach of Duty
The second part of proving a negligence suit is establishing that the defendant breached the applicable duty of care owed to the injured individual. In the case of a dog bite, the plaintiff can establish a breach of duty by showing that the defendant failed to have his dog on a leash or that the defendant did not otherwise prevent the dog from approaching the plaintiff.
Proving this element typically requires evidence such as witness statements, expert testimony. Surveillance footage, and formal documents (e.g., filed reports, medical records, etc.). Such evidence can be collected by an attorney throughout the discovery phase of litigation and will serve as a crucial component of your claim.
The third part of proving a negligence claim is establishing a link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the harm sustained by the injured person. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions directly caused the injuries of the individual.
Generally, proving damages means proving that the injured party suffered some type of harm, either physically or financially. In cases of dog bites, if the elements of duty, breach, and causation are established, damages may ordinarily be presumed, particularly if the wound is severe.
Dog Owner Responsibility
In general, a dog owner is expected to act reasonably and with ordinary care with respect to the care and handling of his dog. This means that a dog owner must take the necessary precautions to ensure that the dog does not harm another person. Such measures may include:
- Using a leash;
- Keeping the dog in a fenced yard
- Updating the dog’s vaccinations
- Keeping the dog away from strangers
- Treating aggression early
- Properly training the dog; and
- Posting warning signs
However, a “dangerous dog” has a special definition. Colorado law defines a dangerous dog as one that meets one or more of the following criteria:
- Inflicts bodily or serious bodily injury on, or causes the death of a person or domestic animal (meaning any dog, cat or other animal kept as a household pet or livestock);
- Demonstrates tendencies that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the dog may inflict bodily or serious bodily injury on, causes the death of a person or domestic animal;
- Engages in or is trained for animal fighting
Under the Colorado statute, it is a crime to own a dangerous dog. Punishment can range from a fine to jail time, depending on the nature of the accident and the number of previous violations. Further, the owner of a dangerous dog will be ordered to pay restitution if the dog causes someone physical harm or damages a person’s property. If a person who owns a dangerous dog is found to have violated the statute and the dog is not confiscated, the dog owner is still required to take certain precautions to both confine the dog and to register it with the state.
Who Can I Sue?
If you have been involved in a dog bite attack, you may be able to seek compensation from the dog bite owner. This is because dog owners are typically held liable when their dog causes harm or injury to another person. Keep in mind that this may be true even if the dog did not bite you, but rather caused damage to your property or belongings.
Deciding whether you should pursue legal action requires you to consider many important factors such as the severity of your injuries and whether the prospective legal battle will be worth your time, money, and effort. Speaking with a dog bite attorney may be an opportunity to gain helpful legal advice concerning your options moving forward.
Filing a Dog Bite Claim
To pursue compensation for your injuries following a dog bite accident, you may need to file a dog bite lawsuit against the dog owner. Listed below are several important critical steps that comprise the process of filing a lawsuit after a dog bite accident.
1. File a Report
The first step to filing a dog bite claim is to file a formal report as soon as possible following the accident. The report should be filed with the appropriate local animal control agency. As mentioned above, filing a report can be helpful to you for several reasons. Importantly, a formal report will allow you to provide your recollection of the events that led to and caused the accident. The report itself may also serve as evidence with respect to your injuries and damages.
2. Contact an Attorney
Your next step should be to contact a personal injury lawyer. Filing a lawsuit is an intensive process that requires diligence and knowledge of important timelines and procedures. A lawyer will be able to work on your behalf by timely filing a claim.
Part of the process may also require you to engage in communications with the dog owner’s insurance company. The insurance company may try to encourage you into accepting a settlement offer instead of pursuing legal action. It is important to discuss the facts of your case with an experienced attorney before making any decisions or accepting any claim settlements.
The investigation phase of filing a dog bite lawsuit involves the attorney gathering facts and evidence which will establish that the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries. One component of this process involves accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damages. This step may also involve interviewing witnesses who may have seen the dog bite when it occurred. The investigation phase also involves gathering important documentation such as a dog bite report, medical records, and photographs of your injuries. A personal injury lawyer will work on your behalf to accomplish each of these important steps.
4. Settlement and Lawsuit
Finally, your case is ready to be litigated. Prior to litigation, you may have the option of accepting a settlement from the dog owner or from the dog owner’s insurance company. If it is not in your best interest to accept the settlement offer, your case will go to court. At the trial stage, the personal injury lawyer will fight on your behalf to help you seek fair and just compensation.
Dog Bite Compensation
If a lawsuit is brought against the dog owner, the dog owner or their insurance company will face the possibility of having to compensate the victim for the harm suffered. In legal terms, this harm is referred to as “damages.” In general, the types of damages that may be awarded to a victim of a dog bite can be separated into two primary categories: Economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are harms that can be calculated or quantified. The primary economic damages at issue in a dog bite lawsuit are:
- Medical and pharmacy bills;
- Future medical costs;
- Psychological counseling costs;
- Lost income and wages;
- Future lost income; and
- Loss of earning capacity
Non-economic damages are intangible losses that are subjectively evaluated by the jury in a dog bite lawsuit. Although typically harder to calculate than economic damages, non-economic damages may be equal to or greater in value than economic damages. Types of non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Disability; and
- Loss of consortium
Whether non-economic damages can be pursued and awarded in a dog bite claim depends on whether the claim is a “strict liability” claim or a negligence claim, as described above.
Statute of Limitations
A “statute of limitations” is a legal time-limit on which a person must initiate a lawsuit. If a person fails to bring a claim within the prescribed statute of limitations, that person is effectively barred from litigating the claim in court.
In Colorado, there is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. A claim following a dog bite is considered a type of personal injury claim. This means that a party that is injured following a dog bite must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident.
Because filing a timely lawsuit is critical, and because certain circumstances may pause or “toll” a statute of limitations, it is important to consider discussing your case with a personal injury attorney.
Why Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer?
Hiring a dog bite lawyer after being involved in an attack or incident can be beneficial for several reasons.
The Colorado statutes covering dog bites and negligence are complex and difficult to digest. Further, there are many moving parts that factor into a dog bite claim, such as contributory negligence and the statute of limitations. A dog bite lawyer will be able to listen to the facts of your case and provide valuable legal guidance, taking into consideration these complex legal aspects.
A dog bite lawyer will be able to strengthen your claim by utilizing resources that you simply may not have. For instance, a dog bite lawyer may be able to interview witnesses and obtain access to important records. A dog bite lawyer will also be able to look up the relevant Colorado statutes and determine what the next best step to take is.
Negotiation and Trial Advocacy
A dog bite lawyer will also fight on your behalf to help seek fair and just compensation. This means that a lawyer will fiercely negotiate with insurance companies and opposing counsel. If the case is litigated in court, a dog bite attorney will advocate for you, always keeping your situation and best interests in mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
1.) Can I get compensation for a dog bite?
Yes, compensation may be available to you if you have been involved in a dog bite incident. If you pursue a cause of action and succeed under the strict liability standard, economic damages in the form of medical bills and lost income will be available. If you pursue a cause of action and succeed under the normal negligence standard, economic and non-economic damages may be available to you. Additionally, a settlement between you and the dog owner or the dog owner’s insurance company is also possible.
2.) How long after a dog bite can you sue?
In Colorado, there is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This means that a party that is injured following a dog bite must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident.
3.) How long does it take for a dog bite settlement?
The settlement process varies depending on important factors such as the severity of the injury and the willingness of the parties to settle. A dog bite settlement can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. In general, the more severe the injuries, the longer it will take for the parties to reach a settlement agreement.
GET HELP FROM DENVER DOG BITE LAWYERS TODAY
At Zinda Law Group, our dedicated Denver dog bite attorneys are here to help you with your claim. We can help you seek the maximum compensation that you may be entitled to as a victim of an animal attack.
Call 303-647-4248 today for a free consultation with one of our injury attorneys. As one of our clients, you will pay nothing unless we can win your dog bite case.
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