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German shepherd dog biting a trainer's arm

I Was Attacked by A Dog. Now What?

Richard Gama Dec. 11, 2020

The City of Denver is one of the few areas in Colorado that tallies and releases data on dog bite incidents. The latest statistics show that there were 704 dog bite incidents in 2017, 495 dog bite incidents in 2018, and 518 dog bite incidents in 2019, culminating in a three year total of over 1,700 dog bite incidents.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a dog bite incident in Denver or Aurora, Colorado, what are your legal rights? Do you have the option to pursue compensation? Is the owner not liable because of the state’s “one-bite” rule?

These and other answers can be explored and put to use for legal remedy by contacting the Gama Law Firm. With a combined 60 years of experience in investigating and resolving personal injury claims, our attorneys know the law and can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, or even take your claim to court when necessary to help you get the compensation you need and deserve.

Premises Liability and the Colorado Dog Bite Law

In 1990, Colorado enacted its Premises Liability Law, which held property owners liable for injuries suffered on their premises. The act stipulated that owners would be responsible for injuries occurring on their property if they exhibited an “unreasonable failure” to warn those on their property of any and all potential dangers.

The law further narrowed landowners’ liability by classifying persons on their premises as invitees, licensees, or trespassers.

  • Invitees - Those specifically invited on to the premises. Anyone classified as an invitee will receive the most protection under the law.

  • Licensees - Licensees are any individuals who are there to perform a certain task, such as a repairperson or contractor. These individuals receive limited protections that can vary depending on the nature of their work or business on the property.

  • Trespassers - Anyone who has no permission or authority to be on the property is considered a trespasser. Trespassers are excluded from any protections unless it can be proven that the landowner intentionally inflicted harm on them or willfully allowed them to be injured.

Colorado’s Dog Bite Statute

The state’s dog bite statute (C.R.S 13-21-124) is a strict liability statute that governs incidents on both private and public property. Strict liability means that the owner can be found liable if a “serious bodily injury” occurs from the dog incident.

Serious bodily injury is defined as “any injury that involves a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a bodily function or organ, or a break, fracture, or second- or third-degree burn.

However, the law also provides for claims — and owner liability — arising from other types of bodily injury, defined as “any physical injury that results in severe bruising, muscle tears or skin lacerations requiring professional medical treatment or any physical injury that requires corrective or cosmetic surgery.

If any incident with the dog does not result in any of the injuries listed above, then a lawsuit claiming negligence can sometimes be pursued.

Colorado’s One-Bite Rule and Owner Liability

Colorado recognizes a modified version of the “one-bite” rule, which in its strictest application exempts a dog owner from a dog’s first biting incident. Due to the strict liability provision of our state’s dog bite law, however, the one-bite rule comes into play mainly in an owner’s liability for negligence. This is because the state’s dog bite statute allows only for “economic compensation.” Economic compensation includes covering the following costs:

  • Medical bills

  • Future medical expenses

  • Psychological counseling costs

  • Loss of income, both present, and future

  • Loss of earning power

Note that any compensation for “pain and suffering” is not included. However, compensation for pain and suffering can be pursued if it can be proven that the dog owner acted negligently — generally meaning that he or she knew, or should have known, that their dog had been involved in a previous incident or incidents.

Here is where the one bite rule takes clear effect: If the incident truly represents the first incidence of a bite, then negligence might be hard to prove, and no damages outside the enumerated ones above can be claimed or won.

Exemptions from Liability

Colorado Revised Statute 13-21-124 covering dog bites identifies six unique circumstances in which a dog owner will not be held liable for a bite or attack:

  • When the victim is attacked while trespassing on public or private property

  • When the attack occurs on private property that is clearly marked with posted warning signs

  • When the dog is being used by police or military personnel for official duties

  • When the victim knowingly provokes the dog

  • When the victim is a veterinarian, dog groomer, humane agency staff, dog trainer, or judge at a dog show

Additionally, it’s important to note that Colorado has no statewide leash laws. However, most cities and counties do. Also, several cities and counties have banned the ownership of pit bulls.

What to Do After a Dog Bite Incident

The most important action to take following a dog bite or attack is to seek immediate medical help. Once your injuries have been treated, it is imperative that you identify the owner of the dog as quickly as possible. If you are able to, contact the police and request an investigation into the incident. Other important steps to take include obtaining contact information from any witnesses, take photos of your injuries and the scene of the incident, and document any other relevant details.

Remember that dog walkers are not liable for a bite or attack, the owner is. That is why it is so important that you obtain information about the dog’s owner, as well as any information about the property or location that the incident occurred. Did the attack occur on the dog owner’s property or in a public space?

Seek the Guidance of An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog, you don’t want to go it alone against an insurance company. The main objective for most insurance agents is to get matters over with as quickly – and cheaply – as possible. With over 60 years of combined legal experience, the attorneys at Gama Law Firm stand ready to help you seek the justice you deserve for your injuries.

If you live in Aurora or Denver, Colorado, or nearby in Parker, Centennial, or Castle Pines, Colorado, and wish to learn more about how we can help you, reach out to our firm today. We’ll listen to your story, investigate the details of the incident, negotiate with insurers, and work hard to develop a strong legal strategy that can help you pursue the just compensation you need to recover from your injuries and move forward with your life.