Colorado’s Dog Bite Statute

February 18, 2021

C.R.S. §13-21-124, is Colorado’s “dog bite statute.” This statute provides that a person who suffers serious bodily injury from being bitten by a dog can bring an action against the owner of the dog for economic damages – regardless of the viciousness or dangerous propensities of the dog or the dog owner’s knowledge or lack of knowledge of the dog’s viciousness or dangerous propensities.

Stated another way, if your dog seriously injures someone you may be liable for the injured party’s economic damages, regardless of whether your dog has ever bit someone before. The widespread “one bite rule,” meaning you are not liable if this is the first time your dog has ever bit someone, is not the law in Colorado. Rather, this statute applies strict liability.

However, there are a few exceptions to the statute. First, although the statute is routinely pled, it only applies if the injury is a serious bodily injury. Second, the dog bite has to occur while the injured party is lawfully on land; of no surprise, if your dog bites a trespasser, you do not have to pay for his medical expenses. Third, it is a complete defense to the statute if the dog bite occurred on the dog owner’s property and the dog owner had posted a sign stating “no trespassing” or “beware of dog.” The last, less common exception is for working dogs; the statute does not apply to hunting dogs, herding dogs, farm dogs, or predator control dogs (when the dog bite occurs on the property of the dog’s owner).

What to do if your dog bites someone and the injured party asks you to pay for the medical expenses? Notify your insurance carrier. They are likely to cover the claim and retain excellent attorneys (like myself) to defend you in a lawsuit.