Dog attacks are a common source of personal injury in Canada, especially among children. A recent Canadian study found more children are admitted to hospital because of dog bites than other injury.
1. These injuries are often serious, frequently requiring surgical intervention and/or numerous stitches.
2. There are other costs and consequences as well, including emotional distress and out-of-pocket medical expenses.
In an effort to reduce the number of dog attacks, the Ontario government introduced the Dog Owners’ Liability Act in 1990. Among other things, the Act holds dog owners strictly liable for any “damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal”.
The Act imposes “strict liability” on the dog owner. This means it need not be shown by the victim that the dog owner was negligent in order to be successful in their claim. The underlying idea is to protect the victims of such attacks in all circumstances. A finding that a dog is normally well-behaved or was a on a leash when it attacked is no defence.
The Act is not limited to only dog attacks however. It also includes injuries that result from a dog behaving in a “menacing” manner. For example, a person may still sue for damages if they fell and injured themselves having being scared by a menacing dog. In most circumstances, dog owners can turn to their home insurance policy providers to pay out damages on their behalf. As a result, the actual claim will be disputed between the victim and the dog owner’s insurer.
A personal injury lawyer can be an asset to a dog attack victim both in initiating a claim and helping deal with any insurance. Not surprisingly, insurance companies will often seek to pressure the victim to settle for a lesser amount than that which they are properly entitled to. An experienced personal injury lawyer is familiar with the insurance companies’ routines and tactics and will advocate for the best result on the claimant’s behalf. A personal injury lawyer can also consider other general negligence claims on the victim’s behalf, in addition to any proceedings under the Act.