Compensation for Dog Attack Injuries
Coloradans love their dogs. Walk down the street in any of our shopping districts, and you’ll likely find water dishes outside the storefronts. Many businesses welcome dogs, and we even have salons and bakeries devoted exclusively to canine pampering. But not all dogs are friendly, and when the careless owner of a vicious dog doesn’t properly restrain his or her pet, it’s the victim who pays.
It’s estimated that dog bites cost Americans more than one billion dollars each and every year and that dog bites account for a third or more of homeowner insurance liability claims, averaging nearly $30,000 per incident. More than half of all bites occur on the property of the dog’s owner. Rules vary from state to state, but Colorado has some specific statutes you should be aware of.
If an aggressive dog has harmed you or a loved one, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your damages. You can learn about your rights and options by speaking to Todd Tenge in person. Please call the Tenge Law Firm, LLC at (303) 502-5587 today to schedule a consultation. Our offices serve clients in Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins.
Dangers of a Dog Bite
While we all want to think that dogs are safe and non-threatening, the truth is that these animals can cause significant injuries. Even domesticated animals, like dogs, still have a certain amount of instinct left from their wild ancestors. Whether it is out of fear or poor behavior, a dog attack can lead to:
- Deep lacerations, scars, and amputations
- Infected wounds
- Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord damage if a victim is knocked over
- Soft-tissue injuries from bites, nails, or falling over
- Broken bones from a strong enough bite
- Nerve damage from deep bites
- Eye injuries and facial scars
- Emotional trauma, especially for young adults and children
Children, in particular, can suffer catastrophic injuries as a result of a dog bite, as well as the elderly and disabled. That is why dog attacks and bites should be taken seriously, and victims should not be afraid to go to a doctor. Dog bites can include a wide variety of infectious diseases that can negatively affect a victim’s life if not properly treated. After seeking medical attention, you should also reach out to a Denver dog bite attorney to review the types of damages you can seek in a personal injury claim.
Damages in an Attack
Dog bites fall under personal injury laws, meaning that there is a range of damages you can pursue in a claim. Insurance companies and courts often divide these types of damages into two camps: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages will cover all of your financial costs related to the dog attack. In simple terms, this means you can seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses, past, present, and future
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Changes to your home if you are disabled
With regards to economic damages, your attorney will factor in every cent you lost to this attack. That goes beyond your medical bills to include any wages you lost as a result of taking time or work to receive treatment or because your injuries made it difficult to work. This also includes any future wages you have potentially lost due to being left disabled from the attack and if you have to change jobs or careers. Disabilities can also be included with your long-term medical treatment, especially if you require additional equipment to go about your daily life.
Non-economic damages, in contrast, account for the non-financial damages you have suffered. Under Colorado dog bite laws, victims normally cannot receive compensation for non-economic damages, but you can seek these damages under negligence laws if the owner was negligent. Non-economic damages are often intangible and harder to pin down, but victims can pursue compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
But to seek damages in a dog bite attack, you must first have a party to file a claim against.
Who is Liable?
Dog bite claims are typically filed against the dog’s owner. This can either be against their homeowners’ insurance policy, renter’s policy, or even animal insurance, depending on what policy they have. In instances where the owner does not have these types of insurance, you may be able to file a lawsuit directly against them as well.
However, this leaves out stray dogs who attack people. In these instances, it is significantly harder to place liability on one particular person, but there are a few options. First, if the dog was known to frequent a particular property, such as a parking lot, apartment building, or outdoor mall, then responsibility may fall on the property owner. To file a premises liability claim against a negligent property owner, you must demonstrate that the owner knew about the dog or had received reports about the dog, had failed to contact animal control or warn patrons or guests, and that failure to have the dog removed from the premises led to an attack and your injuries.
In addition to private property owners, government agencies may also be found liable for dog attacks. Denver County Animal Control Services has a duty to capture stray dogs and move them to shelters, otherwise, residents can become victims of dangerous dog attacks. If the agency fails to respond accordingly to reports of stray dogs or reports of previous attacks, you may be able to file a tort claim against the agency for damages. These cases are the most difficult and require strict adherence to government regulations, so you should not hesitate to contact an attorney to discuss your case.
There are also specific laws you will need to understand to determine if your claim is legitimate or not in Colorado.
The One Bite Rule
Colorado is one of 18 states with a so-called One Bite Rule. This means that defendants are only liable for damages if it can be proven that they had reasons to believe or know that their dog was dangerous. So, at first glance, it sounds like a defendant gets one “warning” bite and is only liable for bites that happen afterward. This, however, is patently false.
In reality, an experienced dog bite lawyer can often demonstrate that the owner knew well ahead of time that his or her dog was capable of aggressive behavior. Some of the kinds of behavior that may indicate a potentially dangerous dog include the following:
- Threatening behavior
- Frightening others
- Barking at strangers
- Jumping on others
- Fighting with other dogs
- Previous complaints about the dog
- Previous dog bite attacks
For these reasons, Mr. Tenge can help you recover damages even if the dog in question hadn’t harmed anyone before.
Dangerous Dog Laws
Colorado counts itself among the 39 states with dangerous dog laws. These laws can require that a dog be labeled as dangerous and that restrictions be put into place. All it usually takes is a complaint by someone who has been threatened, and then a hearing is held in which a judge decides whether sufficient evidence exists to label the dog as dangerous.
The owner of a dog that has been labeled as dangerous must then take certain precautions to prevent the dog from causing personal injuries to others. The owner may be required to keep the dog confined. Other potential restrictions include:
- Requiring “Beware of Dog” signs
- Purchasing liability insurance
- Identifying the dog with a microchip
- Requiring that the dog wear a special brightly colored collar when outside
Violation of any of these restrictions can be considered grounds for gross negligence on the part of the dog owner and can allow a victim to pursue economic and non-economic damages in a claim.
Dog bite law is complex, but if you have an experienced dog bite attorney on your side, you have the potential to recover everything available to you under the law. If you’ve been disfigured or otherwise injured by a vicious dog, you have the right to seek damages from its owner. Mr. Tenge will fight aggressively to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Please contact the Tenge Law Firm, LLC using the form at the bottom of the page or call (303) 502-5587 today schedule a free dog bite consultation.