Man’s best friend doesn’t always live up to the title – an average 4.5 million people throughout the nation suffer a dog bite each year. The Insurance Information Institute reports that, in 2015, dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims. And Denver ranked #7 for the number of dog attacks on USPS employees delivering mail.
If you are the victim of a dog bite and wish to pursue a claim against the dog owner, you will need to determine whether your state imposes “strict liability” on dog owners. If so, you may only need to prove that the dog injured you. If your state does not have a strict liability law, you may need to show that your neighbor knew or should have know of the dog’s vicious propensities before it attacked you.
In most cases, if you are asked into a house (or onto property) to perform work for someone, the person who owns the property has a legal responsibility to take reasonable efforts to protect you from injury. Thus, if the person has a pet, the person might be responsible for keeping the pet away from you, or at least warning you of the presence of the animal. Note that you may also have a workers’ compensation claim against your employer.
If a dog owner violates a leash law, and her dog attacks someone, many courts will hold that this fact alone is enough to conclude the owner was negligent, and that the injured person is entitled to compensation from the dog owner.
A person may be imprisoned for keeping a vicious animal. There have been numerous instances where people have been criminally convicted for knowingly owning dangerous animals. In some instances, owners have been found guilty of murder when an animal’s attack killed another person. Sentences have ranged from severe fines to significant jail time.
The most notorious case may be the couple whose dog killed a San Francisco woman as she was unlocking her apartment. Diane Whipple was mauled by a huge, unmuzzled dog that Knoller and her husband kept in their San Francisco apartment. Police said the criminal case against dog owners Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, who are both attorneys, was bolstered by at least three earlier attacks attributed to their two dogs, Hera and Bane. A state appeals court reinstated Marjorie Knoller’s murder conviction for the death of Whipple, who was killed in the hallway of her Pacific Heights building Jan. 26, 2001. The court voted 3-0 to uphold the involuntary manslaughter conviction of Knoller’s husband, Robert Noel, who had left the dogs in his wife’s care the day of the attack but was not present when Whipple was killed.
For more information about Colorado dog bite cases, please visit Colorado Dog Attacks.