A 14-year-old teenager received an unwelcome greeting after ringing the doorbell of a Colorado Springs, Colorado home: dog bites. She was selling candy door to door to earn some cash as part of a summer youth program called Rocky Mountain Teens when her work was cut short by a boxer mix and an American bulldog bursting through a screened door and biting her arm and leg. Though signs were present saying "No Soliciting" and "Beware of the Dog," the young lady insists she never saw them.
This dog-bite incident has caused dog owners and legal teams alike to review Colorado's dog bite law. This law states that a dog's owner is liable only in cases of serious bodily injury, and the liability is limited to economic damages only. Further, there is no "free bite" rule; whether the dog is a known offender or if it was the first bite, owners can be held liable in unprovoked attacks.
Owner Liability for Serious Injury
There are specific circumstances that must be met in order for a violation of the dog bite law to occur. One of these is the definition of "serious bodily injury." To be considered serious, an injury must pose a strong risk of:
- Permanent disfigurement
- Broken or fractured bones
- Loss of organ or function
- Loss of body parts or function
If a dog's owner is deemed liable, criminal and civil penalties may apply. For criminal punishment, the penalty may be as harsh as a prison sentence and/or steep fines. Civil penalties may also be brought against dog owners, and judges may order euthanasia of the offending animal(s).
Owners cannot be held liable for dog bite injuries if the victim is bitten while ignoring "beware of dog" signs or "no trespassing" signs, or if the victim provoked the dog. Other conditions also apply, including whether the dog was in working capacity, or if the victim was bitten in the performance of his or her job working with the animal.
Help for Dog Bite Victims
If you or a family member have been bitten by a dog in Colorado, it is important to not only seek medical attention but also to contact a personal injury attorney experienced in representing dog bite victims. A personal injury lawyer will provide the answers you need to know if you have a case under Colorado's dog bite law, and he or she will guide you through the steps you must take to pursue compensation.