According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 300,000 patients go to emergency rooms every year as a result of dog bites in the United States. Here in Denver, the Department of Public Health and Environment received more than 500 reports of dog bites in a single recent year.
If you were injured in a Denver dog bite attack, you may have the right to take legal action and pursue compensation for your losses. Colorado’s dog bite laws can help you hold dog owners responsible for injuries caused by their pets.
For the past decade, Sean Olson has been helping Colorado and Wyoming injury victims receive the justice and compensation they deserve and helped them move forward with their lives when their lives were turned upside down as a result of someone else’s negligence. Olson Law Firm puts clients first, every day. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more.
Severe Injuries from Dog Attacks
Every dog bite attack is different. Dog bites can leave victims with a range of possible injuries, many of which are quite serious. Some of the most common and severe injuries caused by dog attacks include:
- Abrasions – Scrapes and broken skin are common defensive wounds sustained by victims trying to fend off a dog attack.
- Avulsions – Injuries that involve ripping or tearing the skin away from a victim’s body, which are very serious and sometimes require reconstructive surgery.
- Crushing injuries – When larger dogs attack, victims are sometimes crushed and severely injured by the incredible power of the dog’s jaw.
- Bone fractures – The weight of a large dog or the force of a powerful dog bite can easily cause bones to splinter or break.
- Infections – Infections from dog bites commonly lead to serious conditions such as rabies or tetanus.
- Lacerations – Deep cuts or tears to the skin may be caused by dog bites or scratches and may require stitches to heal.
- Nerve damage – If a dog’s bite is deep enough to penetrate through to a victim’s nerves, victims may experience losses of sensation or even mobility.
- Puncture wounds – Skin punctures from a dog’s teeth may look small on the surface, but they often go deep and may cause infections.
- Scarring and disfigurement – Avulsions, lacerations, and even deep abrasions sometimes cause permanent scarring and disfigurement in dog bite victims.
Dog Bite Laws in Denver
Many municipalities throughout the Denver area have their own local ordinances that impose certain responsibilities on dog owners, but two types of Colorado state law determine how dog owners may be held responsible if their dogs bite other people.
The first is Colorado’s dog bite statute. In many states, there is a “one-bite” rule that says dog owners will not be held liable when their dogs bite so long as the owner had no way of knowing their dog would act aggressively or bite someone. However, Colorado repealed its own one-bite rule in 2005. Since then, dog owners have been held to a rule of strict liability whenever their dogs bite others and cause economic damages through serious bodily injuries or death.
This strict liability only applies to dog owners if seriously or fatally injured bite victims were on public property or lawfully visiting a private property when the bite occurred. Serious bodily injuries are defined under Colorado law as any injuries that carry a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or loss of bodily function.
If a dog causes a serious or fatal injury, Colorado law says the dog must receive a dangerous dog designation. Dangerous dogs are listed on a statewide registry, and if dogs cause serious bodily injuries or death after receiving such a designation, their owners may be charged with a misdemeanor or even felony violations.
In order to recover for non-economic damages (pain, suffering, and disfigurement), a victim of a dog bite must bring a claim for negligence or a violation of Colorado’s Premises Liability Act. Under each type of claim, a dog bite victim must prove that the dog owner failed to exercise reasonable care, and that failure led to the dog attack. While more difficult to prove than a strict liability claim, often the simple fact that a dog is unleashed and loose is evidence enough that the owner is negligent.
In some situations, dogs and their owners may be exempt from legal liability for non-serious bites if:
- Dogs bite victims were trespassing on the owner’s premises.
- Dog owners posted visible “dangerous dog” or “no trespassing” signage.
- The bite victim was working as a veterinarian, groomer, or dog show official.
- The dog was working as a police or military working dog.
- The dog was working as a hunting, herding, or livestock protection dog.
Who Is Responsible for a Dog Bite Attack in Denver?
Although dog ownership laws vary throughout Colorado, dog owners are generally required to maintain control of their dogs at all times. In most municipalities, dog owners must restrain their dogs with leashes, ropes, or chains in public areas. When dog owners are at home, they are required to keep their dogs within enclosed structures or fences on the owner’s property.
If dog owners fail to maintain control of their dogs at home or in public and their dogs bite other people, owners may be liable for resulting injuries.
So, what does this mean in terms of financial responsibility for a dog bite attack in Denver? Many dog bite victims are bitten by a dog belonging to a family member, a friend, or a neighbor. That can make a victim uncomfortable with the idea of suing the dog owner for compensation. The important thing to understand and remember in any dog bite case is that bite victims typically file claims to recover compensation from owners’ insurance provider rather than from the dog owners themselves.
Homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies typically have special provisions for injuries and damages caused by dog bites. While individual insurance policies will vary in terms of the amount of coverage they offer, many policies provide several thousands of dollars in liability coverage. If the cost of a dog bite injury claim exceeds the limits of a particular insurance policy, however, the owner may be responsible for any expenses above the policy’s liability limit.
Compensation Available for a Denver Dog Bite
Depending on the circumstances of a dog bite attack and subsequent injuries, you could be entitled to recover compensation for the harm you suffered. Some types of compensation that may be available after a Denver dog bite include reimbursement for:
- Past medical bills – Any medical expenses you incurred for the treatment of your injuries
- Potential future medical costs – Any medical expenses you are likely to incur in the future as a result of ongoing treatment
- Lost current or future income – Wage losses you suffered or are likely to suffer as a result of missed time at work
- Property damage – Repair or replacement costs for damaged property such as eyeglasses, cell phones, or clothing
- Pain and suffering – The subjective costs of the physical, mental, and emotional pain you suffered as a result of the dog bite attack
- Loss of quality of life – Losses in your overall quality or enjoyment of life that result from bite-related injuries or disability
- Punitive damages – Financial compensation awarded to victims when dog owners’ conduct was egregiously negligent
It’s worth noting that the state of Colorado imposes a limit on the amount of “non-economic” compensation victims can recover. That amount is currently $468,010.00. Non-economic compensation includes financial awards for losses without an exact dollar amount, like pain and suffering or loss of quality of life.
What to Do After a Dog Bite in Denver
Knowing what you should do after a dog bite in Denver can be critical in protecting your health, your legal rights, and your ability to pursue compensation for your losses. Some of the most important steps you can take after a dog bite attack include:
- Seeking immediate medical attention – Whether or not your injuries seem serious at first, seek immediate medical care to avoid the risk of infection and create a permanent record of your physical health
- Following through on your doctor’s advice – Follow any medication or treatment plans prescribed by your doctor to give yourself the best chance at recovery and demonstrate that you are taking your injuries seriously
- Exchanging information with the dog’s owner – If you can identify the dog’s owner, ask for their contact details and homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy information
- Requesting statements and contact information from witnesses – If any eyewitnesses were present, ask them for statements regarding the attack and request contact details in case you need to follow up with them later
- Documenting the attack and injuries you suffered – Take photographs of your injuries and any damage that resulted from the dog bite attack, and write down as many details about the incident as you can remember
- Gathering receipts and records – Keep copies of all your receipts for office calls, prescriptions, medical devices, or any other medical expenses you incur. Also keep copies of the records of your office visits to your doctor and any other hospital, physical therapy, or other caregiver from whom you receive treatment.
- Staying off social media – Post nothing about your dog bite injury. Anything you post may be discovered by an insurance company or attorney for the other side and used against you to diminish any compensation you may receive.
- Contacting an experienced Denver dog bite attorney – A dog bite attorney can help you file an insurance claim and identify valuable evidence to support your case
Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer in Denver Today
The Denver attorneys of Olson Law Firm have the experience and resources to handle even the most complex dog bite attack case. Our team understands that you may be too injured to spend the time and energy needed to pursue a successful dog bite claim. Let us handle the details and complexities of your case while you focus on your health and recovery.
To learn more about dog bite claims in Denver and how our Olson Law Firm team can help you, call our office at 303-586-7297 or visit our contact page for a free consultation and case review. Our clients are our number one priority. We have set up our processes so that you can conduct all calls, consultations and sign all necessary documentation remotely and virtually from the safety of your own home. Let us help you.
And if you’d simply like more information about what a dog bite lawsuit might look like, please download a complimentary digital copy of Sean Olson’s book, Results Matter.