Dogs are the most common pet in Canada. Almost 35% of Canadian households have one and one survey pegs the total number of canines in the country to be just under six million.So it is not surprising that dog bites are a huge and sometimes painful problem. According to statistics, approximately 42 bites occur every hour in Canada, with 5,000 bites reported every year in Ontario alone. In Toronto– even with dog bite attacks happening less frequently after the pit bull ban of 2005 – there is on average one dog-bite attack incident a day.
At Pace Law Firm, we have handled all manner of dog bite cases, including injuries sustained while fleeing from vicious dog attacks, and dog attacks on public and private properties. “In one case, we discovered that the attacking dog was violating a previous muzzle owner,” says Al Pace, founder and principal of Pace Law Firm. “In many serious dog-bite cases like this, we have been able to win substantial sums from the dog owner’s home insurance policies.”
In Ontario, dog attacks, including bites, are covered under the Dog Liability Act, in force since
1990. The Act holds a dog owner or owners responsible for damages resulting from a dog attack. A victim just needs to show that they have been injured in such an attack and to prove who the dog’s owner is.
There is one exception to the general rule of liability: If you are bitten on the dog owner’s property while trying to commit a crime, then the owner is not responsible for any injuries you receive. The rule is in keeping with a longstanding legal principle that criminals should not befit from their crimes. Anyone suffering a dog attack is entitled to receive compensation for damage suffered,
including pain and suffering. In assessing damages, the court will look at the severity of the attack and injuries, and the extent to which they have affected the victim’s life. Will they have permanent injuries? Are they disfigured? Have they suffered economic losses, such as missing time from work? And so on.
However, a victim’s behaviour might reduce the damages. For example, if you ignored your neighbour’s warning sign to “Beware of Dog” and entered their property anyway, the court might decide that you are partly the author of your own misfortune. This is not to say that the dog owner would get away with paying no damages. The court might decide that you were, say, 10% responsible for what happened and reduce your settlement accordingly.
Dog attacks are usually covered by the dog owner’s homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance policy. However, if the dog owner doesn’t have this kind of insurance, then they could be sued and be forced to make compensation from their personal resources.
However, if they don’t have the insurance or the private means, the dog-attack victim could be bitten again – and not get any compensation, whatever their injuries. This situation stands in contrast with car insurance in Ontario where there is a government fund established offering a maximum of $200,000 to victims in cases where no other car insurance is available (i.e., if the victim was hit by someone driving an uninsured vehicle).
If you suffer a dog attack, your first priority of course is to get medical attention. Then, as soon as you can, get the dog owner’s name and contact information, so you can seek compensation.
You should also report the incident to the local animal control department, so they can launch an investigation and take appropriate measures to ensure the dog poses no danger to the public.
It’s also a good idea to photograph your injuries for any future legal case, noting the time and
date, and who took the pictures.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog attack, contact one of the personal injury
lawyers at Pace Law Firm, who have the experience to ensure that you receive just compensation for your suffering.