Denver Dog Bite Attorney

AVVO Top Dog Bite Attorney BadgeRightly laying claim to the title of “man’s best friend,” canines across Colorado provide large segments of the population with a great deal of companionship and fun. With the region’s endless supply of outdoor venues and stunning natural scenery in which to run freely with dogs, it should come as no surprise that a state is a wonderful place for these pets and those who love them. Unfortunately, there are times when dogs act in a manner which causes serious injury to innocent individuals, and attacks of this nature can lead to very real premise liability on the part of owners. If you or a loved one has suffered a severe dog bite and are experiencing the painful consequences of a handler’s negligence or an animal’s unchecked aggression, Denver dog bite attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is ready to explore the facts of your case and pursue the compensation to which you are entitled.

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What to do After an Attack Occurs

In order to stand the best chance at securing compensation following a dog attack, it is crucial for victims to take action as soon as possible. First, it is necessary to identify the dog’s owner and any insurance carriers potentially responsible for covering losses. Victims must immediately seek and receive all required medical treatment so that the extent of injury can be fully ascertained. Photographic evidence and witness statements should collect whenever possible, and it makes good sense to file a report with local authorities in order to begin developing an official record of what occurred. However, perhaps the most critical action to take following an attack of this nature is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Denver who can delve into the facts and explain your rights.

Typical Injuries in Dog Bite Cases

While it is certainly true that dog attacks have the potential to impact people of all ages, children tend to sustain the lion’s share of injuries related to them. The harm suffered as a result of dog bites can affect a child for years to come, as it often combines both physical as well as psychological manifestations that may include anxiety disorders. Common injuries seen in dog attack victims include:

  • puncture damage
  • crush injuries
  • deep lacerations
  • nerve and tissue damage
  • lasting disfigurement and scars
  • dangerous infections
  • serious sprains
  • fractures
  • emotional disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety-related conditions

Compensation Available for Dog Bite Victims

There can be no doubt that a vicious dog attack can have long-lasting ramifications for victims as well as those who love them. If any silver lining is to be found it is that the law offers those harmed by dog bites the opportunity to pursue significant financial compensation from responsible parties, which may include:

  • past, present and anticipated future medical expenses
  • costs of physical and emotional therapy and rehabilitation
  • physical pain and suffering
  • lost employment wages and reduced earning capacity
  • loss of martial and other relationships
  • costs of ongoing care and support services
  • punitive damages in extreme cases

Colorado Dog Bite Laws

When assigning liability to an owner for a dog bite injury, each state has the option of adhering to a system of strict liability or negligence in civil cases. Colorado legislation is unique in the sense that it conflates these two approaches, making strict liability applicable in some cases and negligence applicable in others.

Colorado Liability Statute

There are numerous fact patterns which could easily result a finding of negligence on the part of a dog owner following a serious attack, and it is equally important for everyone to realize that Colorado’s strict liability dog bite statute outlines only a very small number of circumstances in which an owner would not be held responsible for injuries produced by their animal. Under state law, owners are considered liable for most dog bites, even in situations when he or she was not aware of the dog’s aggressive nature or was not present to witness the incident. According to Colorado Revised Statute section 13-21-14, a dog owner is strictly liable in personal injury cases in the event that:

  • situations in which the victim was lawfully on public or private property
  • situations in which the victim was a trespasser
  • situations in which the dog bite occurred on the owner’s property and warning signs were posted
  • situations where the victim can be shown to have provoked the animal
  • instances in which the animal was officially aiding military or law enforcement personnel
  • circumstances in which the victim was a professional dog handler, groomer, veterinarian or the like who was performing typical duties
  • situations in which the animal was on its owner’s property and performing herding, farming or other types of work
  • situations in which the dog bite resulted in a serious bodily injury or death

Defining “serious bodily injury”

The distinction between what is considered a serious bodily injury and a minor injury is a crucial element of a case. Determining whether a claimant has sustained a serious bodily injury can affect their ability to bring a feasible case in the eyes of the law. Fortunately, Colorado statutes provide a clear and concise explanation of what constitutes a serious bodily injury.

In accordance with state law, “serious bodily injury” refers to injuries that involve any of the following elements:

  • A substantial risk of death
  • A substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement
  • A substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or
  • Breaks, fractures, or burns of the second degree

Under the strict liability statute, only economic damages can be recovered to plaintiffs. Therefore, economic losses that a victim experienced in relation to their injury can be compensated if a judge or jury rules in a plaintiff’s favor. Medical expenses, hospital bills, lost wages from missing work (in the past or future), as well as damages to personal property are just some of the damages that one could possibly recover in court.

Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress can only be recovered in cases when an owner is is deemed negligent by a court of law.

Proving Negligence in a Denver Dog Bite Claim

Although the strict liability statute covers a wide variety of dog bites, there are instances when an owner’s negligent actions led to an injury. Not all dog bite cases will result in a serious bodily injury or fatality, however, an injured person still has the right to file a claim for being attacked. When a person brings a claim on the basis of negligence, they must prove the following factors:

  • The owner had a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent the injury
  • The owner failed to exercise reasonable care
  • That failure led to the victim’s injuries
  • The victim suffered economic damages and/or non-economic damages as a result of his or her injuries

Within the realm of negligence based claims is the applicability of the “negligence per se” rule. This rule enforces that a dog owner’s failure to comply with laws or regulations is considered a failure to exercise reasonable care in a case.

For example, let’s say that you decide to take your dog for a walk in your neighborhood. Ordinances regarding walking a dog in the neighborhood, state that all dogs must be on a leash, but you decide to let your dog, Twinkle, walk beside you without a leash due to his supposed unaggressive nature. When a pedestrian walks by, Twinkle begins to snarl and growl at her. You do everything in your power but he jumps on her, knocks her down and bites her arm. Since the neighborhood ordinance required that all dogs be leashed when walked by owners, the pedestrian could put in her claim that you are negligent for not following the rules. This is how the “negligence per se” rule could be applied in a case.

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Lawsuits

Every state in the nation imposes time restrictions on filing personal injury claims, including those that arise due to a dog bite injury. These time limits are referred to as the state’s statute of limitations. In Colorado, residents are permitted two years from the exact date the injury was inflicted to file a civil lawsuit with the help of a dog bite attorney. In most cases, claimants who decide to file a lawsuit outside of the allotted, two-year time limit will have their case thrown out of the court without it being reviewed or assessed. However, there are exceptions, including the discovery rule.

The Discovery Rule

In cases where claimants could not have reasonably known they were injured, there’s a stipulation referred to as the discovery rule. Not all injuries can be seen or even felt immediately. In fact, it’s common for latent injuries to go without any symptoms for days, months and even years at a time before a victim is aware that they may be harmed. Colorado legislators did not intend for the statute of limitations to punish victims who have been oblivious to the injuries they’ve endured. Therefore, the discovery rule serves as justification for review in circumstances when a case hasn’t been brought within the statute of limitations. In order for the discovery rule to apply to a case, a claimant must prove that they could have not possibly discovered that they were injured within the two-year deadline.

Even though this rule may apply to a case, there are benefits to filing a lawsuit immediately after a dog bite victim has been injured. The more details a claimant is able to remember about the incident, the more accurately a Denver dog bite attorney can determine a case’s viability in court.

Protecting the Interests of Dog Bite Victims Across Colorado

A dog attack can be a truly terrifying, bewildering experience, and the consequences can range from temporarily disabling to profoundly tragic. Colorado law affords those harmed in this way the ability to seek full and fair compensation, though the time made available to do so is strictly limited. Denver dog bite attorney, Jeremy Rosenthal, is committed to offering clients the care and understanding injury victims need, together with the zealous advocacy they deserve at what is most certainly among the most difficult times in their lives. If you would like to pursue financial recovery following a serious dog bite event, contact us at 303.825.2223 for a no-cost initial consultation

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