Many Coloradans are devoted to their dogs whether the animals are family pets, hunting dogs or working dogs on ranches or farms. But any dog can be a liability if the animal has a propensity to bite. Colorado has strict laws regarding liability for dog bites causing serious injuries. The owner of a dog that bites anyone lawfully visiting the property or in a public place may be held legally liable for dog bite injuries.
But posting “Beware of Dog” signs in conspicuous locations on a property can limit a dog owner’s liability for a bite in Colorado, if a visitor disregards the warning sign.
Strict Liability and Negligence Rules in Colorado
Generally speaking, a Colorado dog owner may be held legally liable if a dog attack results in a severe injury or death, even if the dog owner was not aware that the dog was aggressive. Dog owners are strictly liable in cases involving severe injuries including impairment of bodily functions, disfigurement, or injuries resulting in death.
The injured party must be on public or private property legally when the attack happened for this rule to apply.
If the injury is not serious or deadly, a victim may still have a claim based on owner negligence. The person who is injured must prove that the dog owner failed to control the dog when the attack happened. This rule is used in cases where a dog causes an injury due to its behavior and not because of a bite. For instance, if a dog lunges and knocks someone down and it results in an injury, the person may be entitled to file a negligence claim.
Denver Dangerous Dog Ordinance
The city of Denver defines a dangerous dog as any dog that is known to attack without provocation or endanger the safety of others. The dog ordinance requires the dog owner to keep a dangerous dog confined in a secure enclosure, keep the dog muzzled and keep the dog on a leash if taken out.
Breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers used to be banned in Denver. However, voters overturned the ban in 2020.
What If I’ve Been Bitten by a Dog?
Dog owners in Colorado must take reasonable steps to make sure that their dog does not attack guests and visitors. This includes keeping the dog properly restrained in a kennel or on a leash when guests are present. According to the Insurance Information Institute, one-third of homeowners’ insurance claims that were paid out in 2016 were for dog bite claims.
A dog bite victim may be entitled to file a negligence-based claim against a dog owner asserting that the owner failed to use reasonable care to manage or restrain the dog from attacking.
In these cases, an attorney will seek evidence that the dog had a history of biting people and the owner was aware that the dog was dangerous. This would show negligence on the owner’s part in controlling the animal.
“Beware of Dog” Signs and Liability
In Colorado, a dog owner may not be held responsible for serious injuries or death due to a dog attack if one or more “Beware of Dog” signs are posted on the property and the victim disregarded the signs and came on the property anyway.
To overcome the defense, an attorney for a dog bite victim will need to show the Beware of Dog sign was not visible or was not in a conspicuous location and therefore the dog owner did not give an adequate warning.
Do Dog Owners Have Defenses Against Dog Bite Claims?
If a claim is brought under a strict liability or negligence rule, the dog owner could use a number of legal defenses in court including introducing evidence of the presence of clearly posted Beware of Dog signs that should have prevented the injury, if the warning had been heeded.
In a strict liability case, a dog owner may not be held responsible for a person’s injuries if:
- The dog was working for law enforcement or the military.
- The injured person was a professional that works with dogs, such as a vet, dog groomer, or show judge.
- The dog is a herding, hunting, or ranch dog.
- The dog owner posted “Beware of Dog” or “No Trespassing” signs around the property.
- The person provoked the dog on purpose.
- The person was trespassing on the dog owner’s property.
Colorado follows a comparative fault doctrine in assigning fault in injury cases. This rule requires a determination of how much fault should be assigned to each party in a dog bite case, including the dog owner and the victim. As long as the dog bite victim is less than 50 percent at fault, the injured person may seek damages. If the victim is more than 50 percent at fault (likely meaning they abused or provoked the dog), they will not be able to collect any damages.
Time Limits on Colorado Dog Bite Lawsuits
Colorado allows two years from the date of an injury to file a lawsuit in the state’s civil court system. If the lawsuit is filed after this two-year deadline has expired, the court will dismiss the case without a hearing.
Contact a Colorado Dog Bite Attorney
The attorneys at The Sawaya Law Firm are committed to helping dog bite victims in Denver and across Colorado. The attorneys at our law firm will listen to your story and will investigate your case, if we believe you have a valid claim. Dog bite victims may recover compensation for economic damages such as emergency medical bills, reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation, and lost income by filing an injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner. Often, the damages will be paid by the dog owner’s homeowners insurance policy.
Our attorneys, investigators, and medical experts will work with you to build the strongest case possible. We want to understand how the dog attack occurred and the extent of your injuries. We work with clients in Denver, Colorado Springs, and throughout the state of Colorado.
We work on a contingency-fee basis, so we won’t collect a legal fee unless we secure compensation on your behalf. Contact us at 720-709-2855 to schedule your free, confidential consultation now.