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As man’s furry best friend, dogs are great companions for many people while also serving as guard dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs, police canine officers, and numerous other roles. While laws in Colorado seek to make sure dog owners’ rights are protected, they must also ensure that people do not fail to properly care for their dog and restrain them, allowing them to become a public nuisance or a threat to others.
If you, your child, or your loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, and you should contact an experienced dog bite lawyer in Westminster from Zinda Law Group as soon as possible by calling (800) 863-5312. If we are not able to win your case, you will not owe us anything.
dog bites in westminster
According to a 2019 study made available by the National Institutes of Health, there are an average of over 337,000 emergency room visits for dog bites each year; the average age of dog bite victims was almost 29 years old, with about 1.1 dog bites per 1,000 people. The estimated cost of these dog bites per year was at least $400 million per year. Significantly, dog bite injuries were a more common cause of emergency room visits than motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, or firearm gunshot injuries over the period of nine years between 2005 and 2013.
Depending on the size and strength of a dog, dog bites may cause a range of injuries; a victim may receive only small puncture wounds with minor bleeding from a bite by a small dog, while larger dogs such as pit bulls could potentially cause severe or even life-threatening or fatal injuries, particularly if the attack is not interrupted or the victim is especially frail or vulnerable. Importantly, regardless of the size or breed of the dog, any dog bite injuries could potentially result in expensive medical bills from treating the victim’s injuries, especially for more severe injuries or if the wounds become infected.
do different laws apply if I suffered serious bodily injury?
Under Colorado law, different legal standards may apply if you have been bit by a dog in Colorado and suffered serious bodily injury as a result. Section 18-1-901(3)(p) of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) defines “serious bodily harm” as bodily injury which results in at least one of the following conditions being caused:
- A substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement
- A substantial risk of death
- A substantial risk of impairment of or protracted loss of the function of any part or organ of the body
- Any burns, breaks, or fractures of the second or third degree
Meanwhile, Colorado Revised Statutes Section 13-21-124 subsection (2) provides that for victims who did suffer such serious bodily injury or death from the dog bite, the dog’s owner will be held strictly liable for the injuries that the dog caused. If the victim suffered serious bodily harm as defined in C.R.S. Section 18-1-901(3)(p), strict liability would apply regardless of whether the dog had bitten anyone prior to the current attack or whether the dog’s owner knew about the viciousness of the dog or any known dangerous propensities. As a result, your injury lawyer may have much more leverage in negotiating with the dog owner or the insurance company, as you will not be required to prove that the owner was actually negligent in failing to prevent the dog attack.
Exceptions to Strict Liability
It must be noted that strict liability may not apply even if the victim suffered serious bodily injury in some cases, largely depending on where the attack occurred. Factors that may determine whether strict liability applies in your case include:
- First, this strict liability rule only applies if the person’s injuries were caused by a dog bite or attack.
- Second, the injured victim must have been lawfully present on private property or have been on public property such as a public park when the dog attacked the victim.
- The victim’s injuries must also meet Colorado’s definition of “serious bodily injury” as defined in C.R.S. Section 18-1-903(3)(p) or have resulted in the victim’s death for strict liability to apply.
- If the dog attack did not result in serious injury or death, Colorado’s negligence rules will generally apply, similar to other personal injury cases.
Finally, C.R.S. Section 13-21-124 subsection (3) also provides that the victim who suffered serious bodily injury in the dog attack may also ask the court to enter an order requiring the dog to be euthanized at the owner’s expense, if the victim is able to prove that the dog owner had knowledge of the dog’s viciousness or dangerous propensities, or if the dog owner had notice of such dangers. A skilled dog bite attorney in Westminster can help you determine whether the dog owner may be strictly liable for your injuries after you have been bitten by their dog.
When a dog owner may not be liable for a dog bite
While the owner of the dog that bit or attacked someone is often held liable for any injuries or damages that the victim suffered, there are some exceptions under Colorado law where the victim may not be able to pursue compensation from the owner. While most states across the country generally use either a “negligence” or “strict liability” rule for dog bite cases, Colorado actually uses a combination of both rules, depending on the circumstances of the attack and the severity of the resulting injuries. Based on whether your Westminster dog bite lawyer brings your lawsuit based on Colorado’s strict liability statute or instead as a negligence claim based on common law, a dog owner may have various defenses to avoid liability; some of the most common defenses that a dog owner may use include:
In a strict liability case, the dog owner may argue that he or she is not liable at all, or that negligence should apply instead of strict liability. The dog owner may claim one of various defenses, such as:
- The injured victim was trespassing on private property when they were bitten.
- The dog was performing military or law enforcement duties at the time, such as when an officer is accompanied by a K-9 unit that ultimately bites a suspect.
- The injured victim provoked the dog before the attack.
- The injured victim was working as a groomer, veterinary health care worker, professional dog handler, dog show judge, or humane agency staff member performing his or her duties when they were bitten.
- The property where the attack took place contained signs that were “clearly and conspicuously” posted and which warned “No Trespassing” or “Beware of Dog.”
- The dog was working as a herding, ranch, farm, or hunting dog at the time it bit or attacked the victim.
Meanwhile, in a dog bite case based on negligence, the dog owner may argue a number of defenses in their attempt to avoid liability, such as:
1. The Victim was Trespassing
The dog owner may claim that the victim was on private property without permission or a legitimate reason for being on the property, as Colorado law generally will not hold the dog owner or homeowner liable for dog bites or other injuries suffered by a trespasser.
2. The Owner’s Comparative Fault is Too Low
The dog owner may also argue that the injured victim was wholly or partly at fault for their own injuries, such as if the victim provoked the dog into attacking. Under Colorado’s “modified” comparative fault rule, such a showing could reduce or eliminate damages owed by the dog owner in the amount equal to the percentage of fault assigned to the victim, so long as the percentage is under 50 percent. However, if the jury or court determines that the victim was at least 50 percent or more at fault for the dog bite or the injuries suffered from the dog bite, the injured victim will not be able to pursue any compensation from the dog owner.
tips for protecting your child from dog bites
In some situations, it may not be possible for you to completely prevent the possibility of your child being bitten by a dog or injured in a dog attack, as you may not be able to always prevent the negligence of the dog’s owner from leading to your child being injured. However, there are still preventative steps that you can take to best minimize the possibility of your child being bitten by a dog, including:
- Educate your child on how to safely interact with a dog.
- Never leave your child alone with a dog, especially with a strange dog the child does not know.
- Always pay close attention to a dog’s behavior while it is interacting with your child.
- Make sure your child knows to never go up to a strange dog or attempt to pet a dog they do not know.
- When your child is interacting with a dog, always attempt to make sure your child is in a space they can quickly escape if the dog suddenly becomes aggressive or violent.
CONTACT a Colorado DOG BITE ATTORNEY near you TODAY
Many people love dogs and often treat them as part of their families or even think of them as their own children. However, dogs can also cause serious harm to people, especially if the dog’s owner fails to take adequate protections or precautions to prevent any potential dog bites by their dog. If you, your child, or a loved one has been attacked by a dog, the skilled team at Zinda Law Group may be able to help you pursue the maximum compensation you may be entitled to.
At Zinda Law Group, an experienced injury attorney can help you better understand your legal options if you have been bitten by a dog in Colorado. We can also help you determine whether the dog owner may be held strictly liable for your injuries or liable under a negligence claim.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.