Understanding Colorado Dog Bite Laws: Your Rights and Responsibilities

Dogs are often considered cherished members of our families, providing companionship and loyalty. However, even the most well-behaved dogs can sometimes behave unpredictably, leading to unfortunate situations like dog bites. In Colorado, understanding the laws surrounding dog bites is crucial for both dog owners and potential victims. This blog aims to shed light on Colorado’s dog bite laws, outlining the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved.

Colorado’s Dog Bite Statute – Colorado Revised Statutes §13-21-124

Colorado offers a few different avenues of recovery when it comes to Dog Bites.

Strict Liability:  Colorado allows recovery under a “strict liability” rule when it comes to dog bites. This means that dog owners are held responsible for their dogs’ actions, regardless of whether the dog has shown aggressive behavior in the past. Under Colorado Revised Statutes Section 13-21-124, the owner of a dog that injures a person, livestock, or property may be held liable for the damages caused by the dog.  However, this lability is limited to economic damages only, which includes medical bills and lost wages.  Under strict liability laws, however, dog bite victims cannot recover damages for pain, suffering, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment of life.

Negligence: In order to recover non-economic damages, the victim must prove the dog owner was negligent, which can be done by showing the owner acted unreasonably in regard to controlling the dog.  Negligence can be proven through a violation of a leash law or regulation requiring owners to maintain control over their dogs. Often times, a theory of negligence requires proving the dog had a history of biting or threatening behavior that the owner knew about but still failed to keep the dog away from the victim.

Defenses for Dog Owners

Defenses to strict liability claims. One defense is if the victim was trespassing on the owner’s property or committing a criminal offense at the time of the incident. Additionally, if the victim’s actions provoked the dog, the owner might argue that the victim’s behavior led to the attack.

To defend negligence claims, the owner can claim lack of notice. Basically, my dog has never acted like this before.  Another defense would be Comparative Negligence.  Colorado follows a modified comparative negligence rule when determining damages in personal injury cases, including dog bite cases. If a court finds that both the dog owner and the victim share some degree of fault for the incident, the compensation awarded to the victim may be reduced proportionally to their level of fault.

Steps to Take After a Dog Bite

If you’re bitten by a dog in Colorado, it’s essential to take certain steps to protect your rights:

Seek Medical Attention: Your health should be your top priority. Even seemingly minor bites can lead to infections, so it’s crucial to get medical treatment as soon as possible.

Identify the Dog Owner: If possible, obtain the owner’s contact information and the dog’s vaccination records. This information will be crucial when pursuing a claim.

Document the Incident: Take photographs of your injuries, the location of the incident, and any other relevant details. These visual records can provide valuable evidence.

Report the Incident: Inform local animal control or law enforcement about the dog bite incident. This helps create an official record of the incident.

Consult an Attorney: If you’re considering legal action, consult a personal injury attorney experienced in dog bite cases. They can guide you through the legal process and ensure your rights are protected.

Colorado’s dog bite laws place a significant responsibility on dog owners to prevent their pets from causing harm to others. While victims have rights to compensation for injuries sustained in dog attacks, it’s important to understand the complexities of the law and the available defenses. Whether you’re a dog owner or a potential victim, knowledge of Colorado’s dog bite laws empowers you to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions in the event of a dog bite incident.  Colorado’s dog bite statutes are codified at Colorado Revised Statutes §13-21-124

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