Boulder is known as one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country. Unfortunately, pets can sometimes be hard to control—and even a man’s best friend is not always friendly. If you were bitten or attacked by someone else’s dog, you may have a legal right to compensation for your injuries.
An experienced dog bite lawyer can help you hold the pet owner legally responsible and recover losses, including medical expenses and pain and suffering. Contact the experienced Boulder dog bite attorneys at Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C., today.
Serious Dog Attack Injuries
Serious dog attacks can result in thousands of dollars in medical bills, including treatment, medications, surgeries, physical therapy, and even psychotherapy for coping with the event and aftermath. You should not have to pay these costs out of pocket.
The most commonly injured parts of the body in a dog attack are the face, hands, arms, and neck. Such injuries often result in scarring, disfigurement, and infection. Broken bones, nerve damage, and internal organ damage are also possible.
Colorado Dog Bite Law
There are two avenues to pursue a dog owner if their dog bites or causes injuries to someone, Colorado’s dog bite statute and a common-law negligence claim. An experienced Colorado dog bite lawyer can help you evaluate the circumstances of the attack and determine what is the best approach to recovering from your injuries.
Colorado’s Dog Bite Statute
Colorado’s dog bite statute imposes strict liability when it comes to dog bites. A dog owner is liable for any economic losses resulting from a dog bite that has caused serious bodily injury regardless of whether their dog has ever bitten someone or previously displayed violent tendencies.
This means that the owner isn’t shielded from liability just because they were unaware of the dog’s dangerous propensities. They are liable whether their dog has ever bitten anyone before or not.
Colorado law applies only if you were lawfully on the premises where the bite occurred. If you were trespassing, or if you knowingly provoked the dog—even under strict liability, you will not be able to recover damages. In most cases, the dog owner is likely to argue that the pet was provoked, so hiring an experienced dog bite injury attorney can help determine and prove the truth.
What is Serious Bodily Injury Under the Colorado Dog Bite Statute?
To collect damages under Colorado’s dog bite statute, a person must have suffered a “serious bodily injury.” Serious bodily injuries are defined as
- A substantial risk of death;
- A substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement;
- A substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or:
- Breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.
What Can I Recover Under the Colorado Dog Bite Statute?
It’s important to note that under Colorado’s statutory strict liability dog bite statute, you can only recover your economic losses without having to show any fault on the part of the dog owner. Economic losses include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost income/earnings
- Loss of earning capacity
- Other out-of-pocket costs.
Non-economic damages, like pain and suffering and emotional distress, are not covered under Colorado’s strict liability dog bite statute. That being said, individuals injured by a dog bite can still pursue a claim for these damages by a negligence claim if it can be shown that the dog owner knew or should have known the dog had dangerous tendencies and failed to take reasonable precautions to protect others from the dog.
Dog Bite Negligence Claims
When a person is bitten by a dog and their injuries do not meet the statutory definition of “serious bodily injury” they may still be able to seek damages by filing a negligence claim. A claim for injuries from a dog bite under a negligence theory allows for the recovery of both economic and non-economic losses.
Colorado’s negligence law requires that a plaintiff prove the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous tendencies and failed to properly control or restrain their dog. In order to prove this, a plaintiff must prove:
- That the defendant dog owner owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- That the defendant dog owner breached that duty of care;
- That the defendant dog owner’s breach of that duty was the cause of the injury; and
- That the plaintiff sustained injuries and damages.
For example, a dog owner may know that their dog has dangerous tendencies even if the dog has never bitten anyone. The dog may snarl and bark at passers-by, but cannot attack because it is on a leash or behind a fence. The dog owner has knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness regardless of whether the dog had ever bitten someone, and can be liable if the dog gets off leash or escapes from a fenced yard and bites someone.
Typically, bodily injuries that are not considered “serious bodily injuries” as defined in the dog bite statute include any injury that:
- Results in muscle tears, severe bruising or skin lacerations that require professional treatment;
- Injuries that require cosmetic or corrective surgery; and
- Sprains, strains and other bodily harm.
Also, unlike the dog bite statute, a claim against a negligent dog owner may be used in cases where a dog injures someone without biting them. For example, if a dog jumps on a person on a sidewalk and causes that person to fall and sustain injuries, that person may seek compensation via a negligence claim.
What Can I Recover for a Dog Bite Injury in a Negligence Claim?
If an injured person can prove that a dog owner was negligent in controlling their dog, they can collect compensation for both economic losses and non-economic losses.
Economic losses in a negligence dog bite claim include:
- Past and future medical bills;
- Past and future lost income;
- Impaired earning capacity
Non-economic losses in a negligent dog bite claim include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Grief and sorrow
- Loss of consortium
- Psychological harm/emotional distress.
When Is The Owner Not Liable For a Dog Bite?
Colorado Revised Statutes §13-21-124 details the rules for civil actions against dog owners, including situations when an owner is not liable for injuries from a dog bite. These include:
- When the victim is trespassing on public or private property;
- The property is clearly marked with “no trespassing” or “beware of dog” signs;
- The dog is being used by a peace officer or military personnel in the performance of duties;
- The victim knowingly provokes the dog;
- The victim is performing their duties as a veterinary healthcare worker, dog groomer, humane agency staff person, professional dog handler, trainer, or dog show judge; or
- The dog is working as a hunting dog, herding dog, farm or ranch dog, or predator control dog on the property of or under the control of the dog’s owner.
In these situations, either the victim was doing something inappropriate, they assumed the risk associated with employment, or the dog was performing its duties as per its training.
Additional State and Local Dog Laws
Colorado has a number of state laws regarding dogs. Some of these include:
- Dog interactions with law enforcement officers;
- Unlawful ownership of dangerous dogs;
- Use of court facility dogs;
- Dog breeding regulations;
- Dangerous dog registration;
- Cruelty to animals;
- Animal sterilization; and
- Service dogs.
There are also county, city, or municipal ordinances that govern dog owners.
Boulder’s municipal dog ordinance, Boulder Municipal Code, Title 6, Health, Safety, and Sanitation § 6-1-16, mandates that all dog owners keep their dogs on a leash when out in public and specifies restrictions. These include waste disposal, noise restrictions, and the prohibition of aggressive pets. An experienced dog bite lawyer understands how state and local laws intersect and apply to dog bite cases.
Boulder Dog Bite Attorney
Dog bites can be incredibly painful and potentially life-changing. As more businesses become pet-friendly and the number of service dogs increases, the chance of interactions with other people’s pets also increases. Your Boulder dog bite attorney can help determine the value of your injuries to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. According to dogbite.org, approximately 1,000 U.S. citizens require emergency care treatment for serious dog bite injuries each day. An estimated 14,025 citizens are hospitalized due to dog bite injuries each year. The Colorado dog bite attorneys at Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C., have more than 90 years of combined experience serving injury victims in the Boulder community.
We understand how difficult it can be to prove the circumstances of your dog bite to get the recovery you deserve. Our team has obtained more than one hundred million dollars in verdicts or settlements for our clients, and we want to help you. Contact us to schedule your free no-obligation initial case consultation.