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what damages are recoverable from a dog bite injury

What Damages Are Recoverable from a Dog Bite?

Dogs aren’t just pets. Many people consider dogs to be members of their family. So, it’s hard to think they can ever cause harm. But unfortunately, they do. Dog bite injuries can be horrific and leave you maimed or scarred. It’s hard not to lose hope when bills are mounting and you’re in extreme pain. You want to hold the dog owner accountable. But, you may wonder about the following: 

If a dog bites you or a loved one, you can recover damages from the dog owner. Contact an experienced Colorado dog bite lawyer at Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C., and let us help you.

Damages for Dog Bite Personal Injury Cases

Damages for a dog bite claim depend on the facts of the case, but you may be able to receive economic and non-economic damages. In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded. A dog bite lawyer can review your case to calculate the appropriate value of your damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are direct, quantifiable losses. They include the following:

  • Medical bills. These bills include medical expenses such as hospital stays, doctor visits, diagnostic tests, surgeries, prescriptions, therapy, and rehabilitation.
  • Loss of income. You can recover lost income if you had to take off work after a dog bite incident.
  • Loss of future earning capacity. After a dog bite, you can recover the loss of future income if you take a long time off or work fewer hours. If you can no longer perform the same job, you can recover the income you would have received.

You may be able to recover economic damages based on strict liability. Under the Colorado dog bite statute, if a person suffers serious bodily injury from a dog bite, they can recover economic damages from the dog owner. Strict liability means that you can recover economic losses without having to prove that the owner was negligent. Non-economic losses are not available under the theory of strict liability. In other words, the owner has to pay your direct expenses related to the bite whether or not they knew their dog was dangerous or had the predisposition to bite someone. 

However, you can get economic damages and non-economic damages if you successfully sue the dog owner for negligence. This requires proving the owner was negligent—which usually means proving that the owner knew or should have known that their dog could be violent and did not take steps to protect you. Usually, you prove this by showing that the dog exhibited a propensity for violence in the past.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic losses are more complex to assess than economic damages because there are no receipts or invoices to tally up. A dog bite attorney can help paint a picture of your pain and suffering. To do this, they will compare your daily life after the dog attack to before the attack. They will also help describe your psychological state of mind, your outlook on life, and any changes that have transpired since the bite. As stated, non-economic damages are not recoverable under strict liability. You can only recover non-economic damages under a negligence claim.

Examples of pain and suffering include the following:

  • Pain,
  • Emotional distress,
  •  Loss of consortium,
  • Disfigurement,
  • Physical impairment, and
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

Colorado law sets the limit for pain and suffering damages at $642,180 unless there is clear and convincing evidence of negligence, whereby the limit would be $1,284,370. This limit applies to injuries occurring from 2022 to 2024. If the dog bite happened before 2022, then the cap is lower. There is no cap for physical impairment or disfigurement. A dog bite attorney can help you calculate these subjective losses.

Punitive Damages in a Dog Bite Case

Courts award punitive damages to personal injury victims to punish the responsible party. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are not meant to make victims whole again. Instead, punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter particularly wrongful behavior. Judges rarely award punitive damages, as they are reserved for cases where the defendant’s actions are shocking or horrific. Your lawyer will fight to get punitive damages if your case seems particularly grievous.

What Factors Affect Dog Bite Damages?

Different factors can influence the amount of damages you can get. Common factors include the following:

  • The severity of the injuries,
  • Medical bills, and
  • The effect injury has on your ability to work.

Also, the distribution of fault will affect damages in a dog bite negligence case. Colorado is a modified comparative negligence state. That means a plaintiff can still recover damages in a negligence claim as long as their percentage of fault does not exceed the other party’s fault. However, their compensation will be diminished based on their percentage of fault.

For example, a plaintiff who is 49% at fault for the dog bite incident can still recover for their injuries. However, they can only recover 51% of their damages. If a plaintiff was 50% or more at fault, they cannot recover compensation.

Contact Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C.

At Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C., our compassionate and zealous personal injury attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience fighting for their clients’ rights and justice. Never try to handle a dog bite case alone. Let us help so you can focus on your recovery. We have devoted our entire legal practice to helping injured individuals by holding negligent parties responsible for their actions. Contact us now for a free case evaluation by one of our seasoned dog bite lawyers.

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