While most dogs have rightfully earned the title of “man’s best friend”, dog bites or attacks are, unfortunately, not uncommon. Being bitten or attacked by a dog is not only painful but can be extremely traumatic for the victim. Often, these dog attacks leave unsightly scars or other disfigurements that can last well after the injuries themselves have healed.
Ontario has legislation specifically targeting liability for dog bite attacks, called the Dog Owner’s Liability Act. This article will review that legislation with respect to the dog owner’s liability, and provide tips on what to do if you suffer injuries from an encounter with a dog.
“Strict Liability” for Dog Owners
Under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, a claimant can bring an action against the owner of a dog in the following circumstances:
- The dog has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal;
- The dog has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of people or domestic animals; or
- The owner did not take reasonable precautions to prevent their dog from biting or attacking a person or domestic animal or behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of people or domestic animals.
The Dog Owner’s Liability Act holds the owner of a dog liable for injuries to another person or domestic animal. The owners can be held liable regardless of whether they knew that the dog was likely to bite or attack. This means that “strict liability” applies to dog bites. The victim only needs to prove that the dog bit or attacked them to establish that the dog owner is liable.
However, the victim can still be found to have contributed to their injuries and have their award reduced. If, for example, the victim was found to have provoked the dog, the court may reduce the damages awarded in proportion to the degree that the victim’s negligence contributed to their injuries. And, for obvious reasons, owners are not liable if their dog bites or attacks a person on the owner’s premises if the victim is there with the intent to commit a criminal act, such as break and enter.
Damages for Dog Bites
If you suffer injuries as a result of a dog bite or attack, you are likely entitled to many of the same types of damages you would claim for any other accident, such as compensation for your injuries or lost wages. Depending on the nature of the incident, dog bite victims may also suffer from unsightly scars or disfigurements that remain long after their injuries have resolved. As a result, dog bite victims will often seek compensation for cosmetic surgery to reduce or remove scarring in addition to compensation for their injuries.
It’s important to note that dog attack victims may be entitled to damages even if the dog didn’t bite them. A frightening incident with an uncontrolled dog can cause emotional or psychological symptoms, regardless of whether the dog made direct contact with the victim.
Steps to Take Following a Dog Bite Accident
As with any accident or injury, your first step should be to immediately seek medical attention and follow the treatment plan your medical provider recommends. Once you have sought medical attention for a dog bite or attack, you should take the following steps as soon as possible:
- Report the incident to your local police department and animal control.
- Identify the owner of the dog (if you have not done so already). If the dog was not with its owner when the bite or attack occurred, take reasonable steps to determine the owner by putting up flyers seeking witnesses and consulting with police or animal control.
- Document the event and your injuries. Record as many details regarding the dog bite or attack as possible, including (but not limited to) the location of the accident, a description of the dog, a timeline of the events (remember that what you were doing before the dog attacked is also relevant), and the names and contact information of any witnesses to the dog bite or attack. In addition, take photos of any visible injuries as soon as is practical.
- Consult a skilled dog bite or animal attack injury lawyer for a professional assessment of your potential claim.
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we represent dog bite and animal attack victims in Ontario. Our team of personal injury lawyers is highly skilled and understanding of the needs of our clients, and we recognize how traumatic these kinds of attacks can be. We will handle the legal aspects of your claim so you can focus on moving forward from the incident, and finding the help you need to recover.