A dog bite is usually a nip or a small tear to your hand or leg, but in some cases the dog can leave permanent and disfiguring scars, cause disabling injuries to limbs and muscles or serious infections from a wound, or maul a victim to death. Most dog bite victims, or around 85%, are children under the age of 12. This is likely because children are naturally attracted to animals and are too young and inexperienced to recognize signs of aggression or to be wary of an unattended animal, and not strong enough to fend off an attack.
Most dog attack fatalities in Canada occur in rural areas by packs of dogs. Huskies, Rottweilers, and mixed breeds are usually responsible. Canada has banned or outlawed the sale and possession of pit bulls that are 9-years of age or younger. However, dog bites from any breed still occur in urban and suburban areas because of the negligence of pet owners who fail to adhere to leash laws or to take reasonable precautions to protect persons who are lawfully on their property from being bitten.
Injuries Caused by a Dog Bite or Attack
A dog can inflict numerous types of injuries:
- Sepsis (infection from the wound)
- Muscle damage
- Broken pelvis, limb, or head injury from being knocked down
- Emotional distress
Seek immediate medical care if bitten. If you are able to identify the owner, get information on whether the animal has received all necessary vaccinations.
Dog Owner Liability
A dog’s owner is subject to liability for a dog bite or attack under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act in Ontario. If there is more than one owner, then all owners are subject to joint and several liability, meaning that each owner is independently liable for all damages, though the owner who paid the full damages can seek reimbursement from the other owner(s) for his proportionate share.
Under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, an owner cannot escape responsibility for an attack by claiming he/she had no prior knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities or that it had never bitten or attacked anyone before. In other words, an owner is strictly liable for the injury caused by his dog, whether he was exercising ordinary care or not. An exception is if the dog attacked a person who was trespassing on the owner’s property and was committing or had intended to commit a criminal act. For purposes of seeking compensation, the definition of “owner” extends to anyone who was in control of the dog when the incident occurred, such as a paid dogwalker or any other person.
However, the law does allow any damages to be reduced by the victim’s own negligence or conduct that may have provoked the dog to bite or attack him. If the victim has been throwing rocks at the dog, had kicked it, pulled its leash, or was teasing it, this could be evidence of provocation. Another circumstance is where the owner warned the victim that the dog was vicious or did not like to be petted, and took reasonable steps to keep the dog away from the victim who nevertheless ignored the warnings.
In these cases, a court could conclude that the victim or claimant’s conduct in provoking the animal or in ignoring the owner’s warnings, coupled with the owner having taken necessary and reasonable precautions to prevent the attack warranted either no award of damages or a reduction by the percentage of comparative fault by the claimant in causing his/her own injury and damages.
Liability for Death of a Dog or Domestic Animal
The Dog Owner’s Liability Act also provides damages to the owner of a dog or “domestic animal”(a species that is not wild by nature) that was killed or injured by another dog. The responsible dog’s owner is liable for any resulting veterinarian expenses as well as for any emotional distress suffered by the deceased or injured dog’s owner if he had witnessed the attack.
Courts will award damages for emotional distress in egregious cases of death or serious injury to the animal, but likely not for lesser, non-permanent injuries.
What To Do if Bitten
If you are attacked and injured, there are some important steps to follow:
- If you are able to do so, obtain the name, address and contact information of the dog’s owner
- Get any contact information from witnesses
- Obtain immediate medical attention since any wound can become infected and lead to serious complications.
- Call police or animal control about the incident and follow up to determine if the dog has received all required shots including rabies vaccinations
- Take photos of your injuries
- Write down your memory of how the incident occurred, and include time, content of conversations, location, witnesses, weather, and your actions leading up to the incident
- Keep a diary or log of your medical appointments, medications, symptoms, and pain
- Promptly retain a Toronto dog bite lawyer from Affinity Law
How to Prevent Dog Attacks
As a dog owner, you can prevent your pet from attacking others as well as yourself from being bitten with these suggestions:
- Choose a dog that is friendly and compatible with the age of your children
- Train your dog by taking it to a training and socialization class
- Never leave infants or toddlers alone with a dog, regardless of its friendly disposition
- Never approach a dog that is without its owner
- Never pet a dog without the owner’s permission
- If confronted by an aggressive dog, do not make eye contact, run, yell, or try to scare it off with aggressive gestures
How a Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help
Few personal injury cases have clear cut liability and where adequate compensation is immediately paid to the injured claimant. In a serious dog bite case, you can expect the owner or whomever was walking or in control of the dog to contend that you provoked the animal by taunting or teasing it, or were warned to stay away.
Also, an attorney for the dog owner may question the nature and extent of your injuries, and that you failed to take steps to mitigate your damages by not seeking appropriate medical care or by ignoring obvious signs of infection. Other arguments presented may cast doubt on the necessity or reasonableness of the medical care you did obtain, that your injuries did not prevent you from working at your usual job or engaging in routine or recreational activities, or that you are malingering (exaggerating or fabricating your symptoms).
An experienced Toronto dog bite lawyer from Affinity Law can address these arguments and can provide the following services:
- Contact the owner for homeowner’s or rental insurance information
- File a claim with the insurer and maintain contact with them
- Obtain witness statements
- Take photographs of your wound
- Collect all medical bills, related expenses, clinic and hospital records
- Retrieve necessary school or employment records if you were unable to return to school or work for a period of time
- Obtain a detailed medical opinion from your medical provider regarding the severity and extent of your injuries and prognosis including future treatment and care
- Record how the injury has affected your daily living activities, work, earning capacity, and enjoyment of life
- Negotiate a reasonable settlement or take your claim to court
Damages in a Dog Bite Claim
Damages in a personal injury claim, including a dog bite, include pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. Pecuniary refers to economic losses such as:
- Past and future loss of income
- Past and future medical expenses including rehabilitation costs
- Emotional distress—fear of animals, nightmares, sleeplessness, post-traumatic stress
- Permanent disfigurement
- Disability requiring paid assistance from home care workers or nursing care
Non-pecuniary damages refers to pain and suffering, an element of damages that is subjective and depends on the severity of the injury and the extent to which it has diminished a claimant’s enjoyment of life.
Cap on Damages and Deductible
Canadian law has a cap or limit to the amount of pain and suffering you can collect. This amount increases slightly each year to keep pace with the cost of inflation. There is also a deductible on the amount awarded. In Ontario, it is $38,818.97. For instance, if you are awarded $75,000 in pain and suffering, you would receive $36,181.03. You are also limited to the maximum award for pain and suffering of around $340,000. There is no cap on pecuniary damages. No deductible applies to awards of at least $129,395.45.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured by a dog, promptly contact a dog bite lawyer from Affinity Law to handle your case so that you can obtain the most compensation available.
Call us today for a free consultation at (905) 738-2463.