Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Dog Bite
There are many different kinds of tort or injury lawsuits. For instance, there is medical malpractice, product liability, traffic accident liability, and premises liability, just to name a few.
While there are rules that govern all tort lawsuits, each category has distinct rules governing that category.
Dog bite liability is no different. It has its own rules in regard to aspects such as negligence, liability, and the conditions under which an owner can be held responsible by the law. If you’ve been bit by a dog, you should contact an experienced dog bite attorney today.
Colorado State Laws Concerning Dog Bite Liability
Each state has specific rules governing dog bite liability. For instance, in some states, owners may only be liable after the dog has bit someone. In other states, the owners may be liable even on the first bite. Some states require that the plaintiff prove negligence. Other states go by the rule of strict liability, which holds the owner responsible regardless of whether or not they are negligent.
In Colorado, dog bite liability is a combination of both strict liability and negligence laws. The rules of strict liability apply in cases where there is a serious bodily injury or death. In cases where the injury is relatively minor, the injured party must show negligence. The question then becomes: When does an injury rise to the standard of “serious”?
Under the law, a “serious” injury has a substantial risk of:
- Permanent disfigurement;
- Causing a permanent impairment; or
- Causes a break or fracture to bones.
In the case of a permanent impairment, the plaintiff can sue under strict liability if they can show that they suffered permanent nerve damage. Some muscle tears may also qualify depending on whether a doctor is willing to say under the oath that the damage might be permanent.
Understanding Strict Liability in Dog Bite Lawsuits
Strict liability assumes that the owner is negligent under certain circumstances. This might be contrary to basic sense because, in this case, strict liability is only triggered when the injuries are severe enough. Nonetheless, that’s how the law works in Colorado. The law states that owners that have dogs which are capable of inflicting a great deal of harm to others, need to be more careful than owners of toy poodles and miniature dachshunds, for instance.
However, there are limitations to strict liability. For example, say someone provokes or irritates the dog and then gets bit. The owner will likely not be liable for their injuries. Also, a trespasser can generally not sue a dog owner for their injuries.
Understanding Negligence in Dog Bite Lawsuits
If a dog only inflicts a minor amount of damage, then the plaintiff must prove that the owner is negligent. For instance, an owner might be negligent if they did not properly secure their dog on their property. Additionally, a dog who has a history of biting others may require a proverbial shorter leash. Negligence presupposes that the owner failed to responsibly ensure another person’s safety, and that failure resulted in their injuries. These cases are usually more difficult to prove.
Dog Bite Personal Injury Claims
There are two scenarios here that are important to understand. If a dog bites another person on or around the owner’s property, a claim can be filed against the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance. In all other cases, the owner must be sued directly. Dog bite claims made against homeowners’ insurance are litigated against the insurance company. Other claims must be litigated directly against the at-fault owner.
If you file a claim against the owner’s homeowners’ insurance, then you must deal directly with their insurance company. The insurance company’s job is not to pay out claims on behalf of the owner, but to figure out a way to deny those claims. In other words, they will likely claim that you provoked the dog, or their policyholder is otherwise not liable. Because of this, you must prove that the dog is responsible for your injuries and that their owner is responsible for the dog.
If the dog owner does not have homeowners’ insurance, or the dog bite did not happen at their home, they will not have an insurance policy protecting them from liability. In that case, you will have to determine if the dog’s owner has enough assets to make the case worth pursuing.
For negligent owners who do have assets, suing will definitely be worth your while. In cases where the dog owner has few assets, you will have to make a choice.
If the owner has no assets, you can still sue them and they will owe you that money. You become akin to a creditor and they a debtor. However, if the dog’s owner turns around and files bankruptcy, that debt will be automatically discharged. In other words, you’re not going to see any money. On the other hand, you may take solace in the fact that you’ve driven them into bankruptcy. Some want to punish the owner for their negligence.
What to Do after a Dog Bite
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, your best course of action is to take pictures of the property to ensure that you can tell a complete story in court, or when you file your claim. It will be much easier to remember with visual cues than without. In addition, you should take pictures of your injury and make sure you follow up with any treatment that your doctor recommends.
Lastly, it is important to seek treatment right away, even if you think the injury is minor. Dog bites can easily become infected, so you will want the wound treated and a course of antibiotics.
Talk to a Colorado Dog Bite Injury Attorney
Were you injured by an aggressive dog? The attorneys at the Law Office of Steve Roberts can help you litigate your claim against the insurance company or the dog’s owner. Give us a call to set up a free consultation today.