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Are Dog Owners Always Liable for Dog Bites in Colorado?

Dog owners have a responsibility to protect others from bites under Colorado’s statutes. However, that doesn’t mean owners are always liable when their dog attacks. Colorado uses a combination of strict liability and negligence rules in regard to dog bites. This means that there are limited circumstances where a bite is considered justified.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites

When a dog causes serious bodily injury or death, the statutes apply a strict liability rule that holds owners liable for the dog’s actions. The law defines “serious injury” as one that carries a substantial risk of death or permanent disfigurement. It includes any injury that causes physical impairment or long-term disability. It also includes broken bones and fractures.

For strict liability to apply, the attack must take place on public property, or on private property where the victim had a legal presence. This would include dog parks, lakes, recreational areas, a family member or friend’s home, the victim’s own home, etc. In a strict liability case, there is no requirement for the dog bite attorney to establish negligence.

Exceptions to Strict Liability

There are limited instances where dog owners can argue they are not liable for the injuries their dog causes. These include instances when a law enforcement or military dog causes a bite in performance of their duties, or when a veterinarian, dog groomer, trainer, etc. suffers a bite. It also includes dogs who are on private property marked with “no trespassing” or “beware of dog” signs. When an individual trespasses on private property, or provokes a dog in public, the dog owner is not liable for the injuries caused by the dog.

The Negligence Rule

Most dog bite cases in Colorado fall under the negligence rules. These rules require the plaintiff to establish that the owner failed to properly control or restrain their dog. In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must establish that the dog owner owed a reasonable duty of care to the plaintiff that they breached, and that this breach resulted in the dog bite.

When you have questions about a dog bite injury, contact a dog bite attorney at Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C. by calling (303) 447-1144. It is our pleasure to help you understand how Colorado’s strict liability and negligence rules apply to your case.

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