According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites each year. Of this number, approximately 386,000 victims require emergency-room treatment, and approximately 16 victims die. The most commonly injured parties are children between the ages of 5 and 9.
Dog bite liability in Colorado
In 2005, the Colorado legislature passed a law that makes dog owners strictly liable for dog bites if the victim suffers serious bodily injury or death. Under Colorado law, a dog owner’s liability does not depend on whether the owner had previous notice of the dangerous condition such as a lack of previous harm by the dog.
Provoking the dog and other liability limitations
Even with strict liability, dog owners’ liability to victims may be limited. Colorado law limits liability to trespassers, particularly if the property is clearly marked with signs warning against trespassing such as “Beware of Dog.” Additionally, the dog bite statute does not apply in cases where:
The victim provokes the bite
The victim is a veterinarian, trainer or dog-groomer, or similar individual acting in a professional capacity
The dog is working as a hunting dog, predator control animal, herding dog (or in another capacity) and is under the control of its owner
Victims should also be aware that Colorado law limits the scope of damages for dog bites. In Colorado, each class of dog bite victims receives separate legal treatment, which includes specific recovery limitations. Victims are placed into five classes, ranging from trespassers (no liability) to lawful visitors who suffer severe injury or disfigurement (with no cap on economic liability, but a limit of $350,000 in damages for non-economic liabilities such as pain and suffering)