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What happens if your neighbor's dog bites you?

The United States is, quite arguably, a nation of dog lovers. However, not all of the dogs out there are exactly lovable. In fact, some people's pet pooches can be outright vicious.

If you happen to be bit by a neighbor's dog in Colorado, can you hold the owner legally responsible?

It depends on a lot of different factors.

In theory, Colorado is considered a "strict liability" state when it comes to dog bites. In comparison to states that give all dogs a presumption of being friendly unless they've already bitten someone once before, Colorado imposes liability on dog owners the very first time their pet takes a nibble out of someone.

However, that strict liability doesn't always turn out to be so strict. The law doesn't apply to dog walkers, so the owner might not be liable if the dog was being walked by a service when it bit you. You're also only entitled to damages if you suffer a serious injury. By that, the law means you had to come close to death or suffer a disfiguring injury. Plus, you can't collect for pain and suffering -- only your actual losses, like doctor bills, hospital bills and missed work.

If you're trespassing on the dog's (or dog owner's) property or do something to provoke the dog, you're also out of luck. The dog -- and the dog's owner -- essentially have more rights when they're inside their own space. And, if you happen to be bit in the course of your job as a vet, dog groomer, dog walker or dog sitter, you're also unable to collect. You assumed a certain amount of risk of being bitten just by doing the job.

On the other hand, if you can show that the owner knew the dog was vicious (because it had bitten before) -- or the landlord did, in the case of a vicious dog that's on rental property -- you can still make a case under the rules of personal injury and negligence.

If you've been injured by a dog that wasn't safely restricted, realize that the law is more complicated than it seems. Consider exploring all your legal options before you decide how to proceed.

Source: FindLaw, "Denver Dog Bites: The Basics," accessed March 23, 2018

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