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Colorado Dog Bite Laws

You are enjoying a beautiful sunny day in the park when a frisbee is thrown in your direction. You catch it. Unbeknownst to you, that frisbee was intended for a dog that proceeds to take it away from you, biting your arm in the process. You are going to need medical attention for the dog bite. Can you make a claim against the dog owner to recover medical expenses?

Your dog bite incident may have happened differently, but the laws and the liability will be the same. Below is a summary of Colorado's dog bite laws that explain how liability is established.

Liability for a Dog Bite in Colorado

Colorado uses both strict liability and negligence to determine liability and damages for dog bites. A strict liability standard means that the dog owner is liable for dog bite injuries regardless of whether the owner knew the dog would bite or not. Colorado saves the use of strict liability for bites that cause serious injuries. A serious injury is one that results in, or where there is a substantial risk of:

  • Death; or
  • Serious permanent disfigurement; or
  • Protracted loss or impairment of function.

Breaks, fractures, and second and third-degree burns are also considered serious injuries.

If the injury does not meet the standard for a serious injury, you may still be able to recover under a negligence standard. You will have to prove that the dog owner failed to take reasonable care and necessary precautions to protect others.

Colorado Dog Bite Laws: The Basics

It can be confusing to try to decipher complex legal statutes. So, we have done that for you with the following "plain English" summary of Colorado's dog bite laws.

Statutes

Colorado Revised Statutes: 13-21-124

Strict Liability

A dog owner can be held strictly liable for a dog bite if:

  • Serious bodily injury or death occurred; and
  • The person was lawfully on public or private property.
Negligence

To prove a negligence claim, the person bitten must prove:

  1. The dog owner owed a legal duty of care;
  2. The dog owner failed to take precautions to prevent a bite;
  3. An injury occurred; and
  4. The dog owner's actions or inactions caused the injury.
Damages

Economic Damages

Colorado's dog bite statute allows for the recovery of economic damages, that is for damages that take money out of your pocket, such as:

  • Medical bills (past and future)
  • Psychological counseling
  • Lost wages (past and future)
  • Loss of earning power

Non-Economic Damages

You may be able to recover for non-economic damages, that is pain and suffering, but in order to do so, it would have to be under the negligence standard.

Comparative Fault

Colorado uses a modified comparative fault rule to determine damages under statute 13-21-406. What this means is that the person bitten may not receive 100% of the damages if they were partly responsible for the event that led up to the bite. A judge or jury will determine the percentage of fault for each of the parties.

Defenses

The dog owner may not be liable for a dog bite (even one that causes serious injury or death) if:

  1. The person was trespassing;
  2. There were clear "no trespassing" or "beware of dog" signs posted;
  3. The dog was being used by a peace officer in the performance of their duties;
  4. The person knowingly provoked the dog;
  5. The person works in the capacity that handles dogs, i.e. veterinary, dog groomer, etc.; or
  6. The dog is a working dog such as a hunting or ranching dog.
Statute of Limitations

You have two years to file a lawsuit from the day of the dog bite.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources

Seek Professional Legal Help With Your Colorado Dog Bite Claim

If you are seriously injured by a dog bite, you should seek legal help as soon as possible. You will need to gather and retain as much information about what happened and the damages you sustained to protect your strict liability and/or negligence claim. A Colorado injury attorney who specializes in animal bites can help you do that. Seek advice today.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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