The Process of Suing for Dog Bites in Colorado
Every year dogs bite or attack thousands of people, many of them children. Injuries inflicted in these kinds of attacks tend to be particularly painful and dangerous. A large percentage of them become infected or result in severe scarring. Fortunately, in Colorado, dog bite victims can collect damages from the animal’s owner to cover the cost of their injuries. They do so by filing a personal injury lawsuit in court. For help suing for dog bites, please contact an experienced Colorado dog bite lawyer who can explain your legal options.
Filing a Strict Liability Claim
There are a number of legal theories under which dog bite victims in Colorado can collect damages. For example, a dog bite may result in a serious injury or death. The victim or his or her surviving family members can hold the owner strictly liable for damages. This is the simplest method for filing a claim. Plaintiffs do not have to provide evidence that the owner’s negligence or recklessness caused or contributed to the accident. However, victims do need to demonstrate that their injuries satisfy the state’s definition of serious bodily injury. This includes breaks, fractures, or severe burns. Also, injuries that involve a substantial risk of:
- Permanent disfigurement; or
- Protracted loss or impairment of a body part function.
In dog bite cases, most bodily injuries involve muscle tears, skin lacerations, and physical injuries. Sometimes these injuries require cosmetic surgery. Unfortunately, even if a dog attack victim sustains a serious bodily injury, he or she will be barred from collecting compensation under a strict liability theory if he or she:
- Sustained an injury other than a bite;
- Was trespassing at the time of the attack;
- Was on the dog owner’s property, which was clearly marked with “Beware of Dog” or other warning signs;
- Purposely provoked the animal;
- The incident occurred while performing his or her duties as a veterinarian, dog handler, dog show judge, trainer, or groomer;
- Is facing injuries from a dog that was performing military or law enforcement duties; or
- A dog that was working on a farm or ranch or was being used for hunting or herding is responsible for the attack.
Otherwise, dog bite victims will be eligible to collect economic damages. Of course, the injuries must have caused serious injuries. The damages compensate them for monetary losses, such as treatment-related medical bills and lost wages.
Most states use either negligence or strict liability rules when it comes to prosecuting dog bite cases. Colorado is unique in that it uses a combination of both legal theories. Sometimes a dog bite victim sustains an injury that is not severe enough to satisfy the definition of a serious bodily injury. The victim still has the option of filing a negligence-based claim against the animal’s owner. The injured party must prove that he or she sustained an injury because the owner failed to use reasonable care to restrain his or her animal.
However, dog owners can still be liable even if they were not negligent. There must be evidence that they knew or should have known that the animal had a tendency to bite. Unlike the one bite rule, this does not mean that a dog must have bitten someone on a prior occasion. There are other indicators of a dog being dangerous. For this reason, the injured party must only prove that the animal had a tendency to bite. One can demonstrate this tenacity through evidence of the animal’s generally violent nature.
Those who sustain injuries other than those caused by dog bites can also use this theory. For example, suppose a dog knocked a person and broke his or her arm. That individual could seek compensation by filing a negligence-based claim.
Unlike strict liability claims, injured parties can collect non-economic damages. Collecting these damage requires proving negligence. These damages include emotional distress and pain and suffering. There is, however, a limit to the amount of non-economic damages that a person can collect. This is because Colorado law caps the amount of non-economic damages that an injured party can collect at $250,000. If the victim can provide evidence of physical impairment or disfigurement, the Court can lift the cap.
Fortunately, even when a dog bite victim was partially at fault for an attack, he or she can still collect compensation. Colorado is a modified comparative fault state. This means that injured parties can recover damages even if they contributed in some way to their accident. Their degree of fault must be under 50 percent. However, the Court reduces the amount of damages by an amount that is equal to their percentage of fault.
In Colorado, dog bite victims only have two years from the date of their injury to file a claim against the animal’s owner. Once this deadline expires, courts will usually prohibit the claim from going forward. This could mean that the injured party loses out on the opportunity to collect compensation for medical bills, lost wages, loss of future income, property damage, and pain and suffering. You don’t want to miss this deadline and you need to comply with all other procedural requirements. For help, please contact a member of our legal team who can walk you through the claim filing process.
Call Today to Schedulbites are Case Review with a Colorado Dog Bite Lawyer
Dog bites are physically painful. But they also leave victims with traumatic memories. In some cases, bites even cause severe scarring or disfigurement. Collecting compensation from the animal’s owner is often the only way that dog bite victims can pay off resulting medical bills. So, if someone else’s dog bit or attacked you, please contact the Law Office of Steve Roberts, LLC. Call (720) 515-7058 to speak with an experienced dog bite attorney who can evaluate your case and explain your legal options.