Owner liability for dog bite injuries - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Thursday, 01 November 2018

Owner liability for dog bite injuries

#AskPaulMariani

There are estimated to be almost 8 million dogs kept as pets throughout Canada. While people might look upon dogs as being man’s best friend, being attacked by a dog can be a traumatic and life-threatening event. Lacerations, broken bones and death are only some of the consequences associated with an attack by someone’s “best friend.” Knowing in advance what to do in the event of a dog bite and what rights you have to make a claim for compensation against the dog’s owner is useful information to have in case you or a member of your family is attacked.

Facts about why dogs attack

There are approximately 500,000 dog-bite incidents a year in Canada. The attacks may occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Territorial instincts of the dog causing it to protect its home or property.
  • Provocation of the animal by the victim.
  • Abuse or neglect of the animal by its owner causing it to be aggressive toward people.

Most of the victims of dog bites tend to be children younger than 10 years of age. Most victims know the dog that attacked them because the animal was owned by family or friends of the victim.

Typical injuries suffered by the victims of a dog attack

Depending upon the circumstances of the attack, including the size of the dog, some of the injuries a victim might suffer include the following:

  • Lacerations, including lacerations to the face and head particularly when the victim is a child.
  • Broken or crushed bones due to the bite force applied by the dog.
  • Internal injuries caused by attacks by large dogs.
  • Head and facial trauma, including concussions.

In cases of extreme attacks by dogs, victims have suffered the loss of limbs. Some victims have been killed in an attack.

Owner liability law

The responsibility imposed upon dog owners for injuries caused by their animals is governed by the laws of each province. Ontario imposes strict liability on dog owners for the injuries suffered by victims.

The Dog Owners’ Liability Act holds the person in possession of or harbouring a dog responsible if the animal attacks another person. Someone taking care of a dog belonging to a friend or family member could be responsible for compensating a victim even though the person was not the actual owner of the animal.

Strict liability means it is not a defence to a claim for compensation from an injured victim that the owner or person harbouring or possessing the dog was unaware of its propensity toward biting. This differs from the laws in other provinces in which victims must prove the owner of a dog that bit them knew it could happen. Proving a propensity to bite in other provinces could be accomplished by evidence showing the dog had bitten someone before the latest attack or was known to growl, snarl or lunge at people.

The amount of compensation awarded to a victim can be reduced if there is evidence produced by the dog’s owner or person in possession or harbouring the animal that the victim contributed in some way to causing or provoking the dog to bite. For example, teasing a dog or threatening it could provoke an attack as could entering a yard enclosed by a fence with a locked gate by climbing over the fence without the owner’s permission. A judge would determine the degree to which the victim’s conduct contributed to the attack and reduce the compensation by that percentage

Ontario personal injury lawyers

If you are attacked by a dog, notified the local police and seek medical attention immediately. The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling claims for compensation for individuals injured through dog attacks. If you have been bitten by a dog, you should speak to one of our lawyers. Call the Diamond and Diamond 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We offer free consultations and case evaluations to injury victims throughout Ontario.

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