In Colorado, dog bite victims can collect compensation for their injuries by filing one of three types of claims: negligence, negligence per se, or strict liability. The type of claim filed by an injured party will depend on the specific circumstances of his or her case, so if you were injured by someone else’s dog, it is critical to speak with an experienced dog bite attorney who can evaluate your case and explain your legal options.
Strict Liability Claims
In situations where a dog bite results in serious injury or death, the injured party or his or her relatives can file a strict liability claim against the animal’s owner. This means that victims whose injuries meet the standard of serious bodily injury do not have to prove that the owner’s negligence caused the injury or that the owner’s violation of an animal control law led to the injury. Furthermore, an injured party is not required to demonstrate that the dog’s owner knew, or should have known that the animal was dangerous in order to recover damages.
However, plaintiffs who file strict liability dog bite claims will need to provide evidence demonstrating that their injury satisfies the definition of serious bodily injury. Injuries that fall under this category are those that involve a substantial risk of:
- Permanent disfigurement; or
- Protracted loss or impairment of a body part’s function.
Broken and fractured bones, as well as third degree burns are also considered serious bodily injuries under the terms of Colorado’s strict liability dog bite law.
Strict Liability Exceptions
Even when a plaintiff can prove that an injury satisfies the criterion of a severe bodily injury, he or she can be barred from collecting damages under the legal theory of strict liability if:
- He or she was not lawfully on public or private property at the time of the incident;
- He or she was on the dog owner’s property, which had clearly been marked with “no trespassing” or “beware of dog” signs;
- He or she intentionally provoked the animal;
- The dog in question was being used by a peace officer or military personnel in the performance of official duties;
- He or she was a veterinarian, dog groomer, humane agency staff member, professional dog handler, trainer, or dog show judge acting in the performance of his or her official duties; or
- The animal was working as a hunting, herding, farm, or predator control dog while on the owner’s property or while under the owner’s control.
Furthermore, dog bite victims who file a strict liability claim are only permitted to collect economic damages, which includes compensation for medical bills related to treating the injury, property damage, and lost wages. However, the injured party will be unable to recover damages for the pain and suffering he or she endured as a result of the bite.
When a person is bitten by a dog and sustains a bodily injury that does not reach the level of “serious” according to the terms of the statute, he or she may still be eligible to collect compensation by filing a standard negligence claim. Generally, bodily injuries include any physical injury that:
- Results in muscle tears, severe bruising, or skin lacerations that require professional treatment; or
- Requires cosmetic or corrective surgery.
Injuries that are not considered serious can still be painful and expensive to treat. However, even these types of injuries are not automatically compensable if the plaintiff is unable to demonstrate that the animal’s owner or keeper failed to use reasonable care to control the dog. However, if an injured party can provide evidence that an owner was negligent in supervising or controlling the animal, he or she can collect compensation for both economic and non-economic losses.
Furthermore, unlike the legal theory of strict liability, plaintiffs can collect compensation for injuries other than dog bites. For example, if a dog knocked a person down on the sidewalk and he or she suffered a broken arm, that person would still be eligible to collect damages.
Negligence Per Se Claims
When a person was injured by someone else’s dog and, at the time of the incident, the owner had violated a city law specifically put in place to prevent animal attacks, the injured party may have grounds to file a negligence per se claim. Unlike a regular negligence claim, where the plaintiff would be required to demonstrate that the owner did not use reasonable care to control the animal at the time of the injury, negligence per se claims only require that the injured party provide evidence that the defendant violated a statute or ordinance.
For instance, if a city law required all owners to keep their dogs leashed when out of their yard, and an owner chose not to leash his or her animal and the dog then injured another person, the plaintiff could bring a negligence per se claim. In these types of cases, the violation of the law itself is considered equivalent to a breach of duty and establishes that the defendant was negligent.
Call us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation With a Dedicated Dog Bite Attorney
Being attacked by a dog can take a substantial physical, emotional, and financial toll on victims and their families. For instance, dog bite injuries tend to be especially severe and often require multiple reconstructive surgeries. Furthermore, being attacked can cause victims to struggle with serious anxiety, which can make it difficult to go to work or perform day-to-day duties.
Fortunately, those who are injured by someone else’s animal can collect compensation to help cover medical expenses, lost wages, and in some cases, pain and suffering, so if you were recently injured by a dog, please contact McCormick & Murphy, P.C. by calling 888-668-1182, by sending us a quick email, or by initiating a live chat with a member of our legal team. We have offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo and will be happy to help you schedule a free case evaluation in any of these locations.June 7, 2017 | Personal Injury FAQs