Colorado’s Dog Bite Law
Dog bites in Colorado are governed by Colorado’s “Dog Bite Law,” C.R.S. 13-21-124. This statute imposes strict liability on dog owners for severe bites that occur when a victim is lawfully on public or private property. Strict liability means the owner is liable without qualification, even if they tried to intervene or did not know the dog was dangerous.
Colorado defines a severe dog bite as one that involves:
- Substantial risk of death
- Substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement
- Substantial risk of long-lasting impairment of function of any part of the body
- Broken bones
Unfortunately, the statute limits victim’s damages to economic losses only, which means victims can sue for damages that include medical bills (including future medical costs) psychological counseling, loss of income and loss of earning power, but not pain and suffering. However, victims can still sue for full damages under a regular negligence action. To win a negligence case, an attorney must prove the four elements of negligence: the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; the defendant breached that duty of care; the plaintiff sustained injuries; and the injuries were caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.
SUING FOR FULL DAMAGES AND LIABILITY
A victim can also sue for full damages if she can prove the dog owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous. A lesser-known Colorado statute, C.R.S. 18-9-202.5, makes it illegal to own a dangerous or vicious dog in Colorado. When a dangerous dog bites, owners are liable for full damages including criminal penalties.
Colorado defines a dangerous dog as one that has:
- Caused bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or the death of person or pet;
- Been trained for or participated in animal fighting;
- Demonstrated aggressive tendencies that would make a reasonable person believe it would cause bodily injury or death to a person or pet.
Fortunately, most dogs are not “dangerous” and more bites are not “severe.” Colorado applies negligence rules in these cases. These rules allow for shared fault. For example, imagine that a victim was found to be 10% liable because she waved her hands in the dog’s face. If the award were $10,000, the victim would receive $9000, which is 10% less the total award, for contributing to the circumstances that caused the bite. As long as a victim is not 50% liable or more, some recovery can be made.
WHEN INSURANCE COMPANIES EXCLUDE BREEDS
When a person receives compensation for a dog bite, that compensation usually comes from the dog owner’s home or rental insurance policy. These policies can carry some unpleasant surprises, such as exclusions for particular breeds. The most common exclusions are for Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chow Chows, and Akitas, but there are many others. Some policies even exclude common breeds like Boxers and Huskies. A skilled Denver personal injury lawyer’s help is essential in navigating the fine print of these policies and recovering damages for dog bites.
Bitten by a Dog Recently?
CALL A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
At Shafner Law, we have decades of experience recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for dog bite victims. Time after time, we have successfully recovered maximum compensation from insurance companies for victims of dog bites. We love dogs, but we love people too. And responsible pet owners? They’re the best.
For a free consultation, call Shafner Law at (303) 796-0555 or fill out the Case Form below.
Additional Dog Bite Injury Resources