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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.

Colorado Dog Bite Laws

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.

What to Do if a Dog Bites You

If you have been bitten by a dog, be sure to do the following:

  • Apply pressure to the wound to cause it to bleed and flush out bacteria, minimizing the chances of infection
  • Wash the wound gently with soap and warm water
  • Use a clean cloth to stop the bleeding
  • Cover the wound with a bandage and antibiotic ointment
  • Seek medical attention and tell your doctor exactly what happened
  • Change your wound dressings every day or more frequently depending on your doctor's orders
  • Monitor for signs of infection such as redness, fever, swelling, or increasing pain
  • Speak to an attorney and explore your legal options

While medical attention should be your priority after a dog bite, much like a car accident, it will also be important for you to exchange contact information with the dog's owner so you can easily get in touch with them afterwards as well as verify the dog's vaccination history. Additionally, you will want to get the contact information of any witnesses and report the bite to your local animal control agency. This will help to prevent future attacks as well as prompt animal control to conduct their own investigation which could be helpful for any subsequent insurance claims or lawsuits you may file.

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

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