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Who Is Responsible for Your Injuries After a Dog Bite?

By Timothy Bussey on February 25, 2019

Colorado is one of the most dog-friendly states in the nation. According to Safewise, Colorado was the fifth friendliest state for dogs in 2018. With some of the country’s best outdoor activities and businesses that embrace canines, it’s true that Coloradans love dogs.

However, there is always a chance that a poorly trained, neglected, or irritated dog may attack. These bites can be serious, as nearly one in five people bitten by a dog will require medical attention. If you become the victim of a dog bite, you may have a lot of questions, including why dogs bite, how to prevent future dog attacks, and who should be held responsible for your injuries. Our Colorado Springs personal injury lawyers have some answers.

What Causes Dogs to Bite?

Dogs usually bite as a defense mechanism. When a dog finds itself in a stressful situation, it may bite to defend itself or its territory, or simply because it’s scared. Dogs will also bite to protect their puppies, their food, a toy, or another valuable.

Sometimes dogs, especially puppies, bite during play. The dog may not intend to injure you, but still end up doing damage.

A seemingly unprovoked attack is often related to the conditions in which the dog was raised and/or trained. Dogs that are chained with limited mobility, dogs that have been abused, and dogs that have not been socialized are more likely to be violent with people.

Tips for Preventing a Dog Bite

When interacting with dogs, there are behaviors you can practice which make it less likely the dog will become aggressive. When you are faced with a tense circumstance involving a strange dog, there are also ways to deescalate the situation (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Do:

  • Always ask if it is okay to pet someone else’s dog before reaching out to pet the dog.
  • Allow a dog to see and sniff you before petting it.

Don’t:

  • Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. It may become frightened or defensive.
  • Don’t encourage your dog to play aggressively. Over half of dog bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar.
  • Don’t let small children play with a dog unsupervised. Children are more likely to exhibit behavior that irritates or threatens dogs, and it is also more difficult for them to recognize warning signs in dogs.

When faced with an unfamiliar dog, while on a walk in your neighborhood, for example:

  • Stop walking/running and be calm.
  • Do not panic or make loud noises.
  • Avoid direct eye contact – this can be seen as a challenge to a dog.
  • Stand with the side of your body facing the dog. Facing a dog directly can appear aggressive to the dog.
  • Wait for the dog to pass or slowly back away – don’t run away.

Colorado Dog Bite Liability Law

Colorado’s dog bite statute, Colorado Revised Statute Section 13-21-124, follows strict liability rules for a dog bite only if the victim suffers serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury which, at the time of the attack or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of permanent disfigurement, or a substantial risk of impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body.

If serious bodily injury was not suffered, the “one bite” rule applies. This rule states the dog owner is liable for the victim’s injuries if there is proof the owner had knowledge of the dog previously biting someone, or knowledge of the dog’s “dangerous propensity” to bite.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. If the victim provoked the dog, trespassed onto private property, or ignored “beware of dog” signs, the dog owner may not be considered liable.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability expenses. As the victim of a dog bite, your damages will most likely be paid by an insurance company. And when it comes down to it, insurance companies fight to pay as little as possible or nothing at all.

This is why it is extremely important to work with an experienced Colorado Springs dog bite attorney after an attack causes serious injury. Attempting to tangle with the dog owner’s insurance policy can be a grueling process, leaving you with less compensation than you deserve. If you’ve been bitten by a dog and would like to discuss your potential case, call The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., for a no-cost evaluation at (719) 475-2555.

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