Some states are friendlier to dog bite victims than others. Colorado’s dog bite law puts it at about the middle of the pack by imposing no-fault liability on a dog owner under certain circumstances but not others. In some cases it is best to sue under Colorado’s specific dog bite statutes, while in other cases it is best to sue under general principles of personal injury law.
Strict Liability Dog Bite Law in Colorado
Colorado courts apply strict liability to dog bite owners if their dog causes “serious bodily injury” or death. This means that the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove that the dog owner was at fault in order to win. As a dog bite victim, it is your responsibility to prove that your bodily injury was “serious”, and it is here that opposing lawyers are likely to fight it out in court.
If you win under a strict liability theory, you will only be entitled to economic damages such as:
- Past present and future medical expenses, including psychological counseling
- Lost work time/lost earnings (including future lost earnings) if your ability to work was affected
- Child care expenses
- Travel/transportation expenses
- In rare cases, legal fees
You will not be able to recover for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering unless you sue under another theory of liability such as negligence. Keep in mind that in cases of serious injury, you might be eligible for non-economic damages far in excess of your economic damages. Keep in mind also that close relatives of the victim of a fatal dog attack can sue under Colorado’s wrongful death law.
The victim of a dog bite can win a lawsuit against the dog owner if he can show that the dog exhibited a “dangerous propensity” before the attack, such that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous. The dog doesn’t have to have bitten someone before, but it must have acted in a dangerous or aggressive fashion sufficient to put the owner on notice. Fighting with other dogs might not be enough to prove a dangerous propensity.
You don’t have to prove serious bodily injury under a “dangerous propensity” theory of liability, and you don’t have to prove that the owner was negligent, except in the mere act of keeping a dangerous dog. If you win, you can be awarded non-economic damages along with economic damages.
Under a negligence theory of liability, you can win by proving that the owner acted negligently by doing or failing to do something a reasonably careful person would do, and that this negligence caused your injury. One way to do this is to prove that the owner violated a local animal control law, such as failing to leash the dog when it was outside its owner’s property.
Generally speaking, it is very difficult for a trespasser to win a dog bite lawsuit in Colorado. One major exception exists, however. Colorado’s “attractive nuisance” doctrine allows young children who are injured while trespassing to recover damages under certain circumstances if an “attractive nuisance” lured them onto the property. An “attractive nuisance” is something manmade that might attract the interest of children too young to appreciate its danger – a swimming pool, for example. A child who is injured by a dog while trespassing in this manner might be able to win a lawsuit against the property owner.
Statute of Limitations
Colorado generally applies a two-year time limit to file a lawsuit over a dog bite claim. If you miss the deadline, your claim will most likely be lost.
Browse our Colorado dog bite lawyers to find help in your area.