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Dog Bites and Liability: Understanding Your Rights as a Victim

Dog bites are traumatic and can cause serious injury. When a dog attacks, the victim can be left with cuts, bruises, infection, scarring, and broken bones. Head injuries and psychological issues such as anxiety and fear around dogs are also common after-effects, especially in situations involving a serious dog bite attack or mauling.


If you have been harmed by someone else’s dog, you have rights. You have the right to contact local by-law and animal control and the police to report the incident. You have the right to speak to a personal injury lawyer for advice about your options and guidance on how to proceed. And, you also have the right to claim for financial compensation damages for pain and suffering, income loss from being off work, medical bills, and the costs of any future medical treatments and care expenses.


Right to sue for damages caused by a dog bite


In Ontario, the Dog Owners' Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. D.16 makes the owner of a dog strictly liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal. “Owner”, when used in relation to a dog, includes a person who possesses or harbours the dog and, where the owner is a minor, the person responsible for the custody of the minor.


What does “strictly liable” mean?


The legal concept of “strict liability” makes it easier for dog bite victims to prove their case. The usual rule in personal injury claims is that the injured person must prove the that the person who caused the harm acted in a way that was negligent or unreasonable. For example, if you are injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, your claim under Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act requires you to prove that the private property owner failed in some way to meet the legal duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that you were reasonably safe while on the premises.


dog bite


Not so in situations where strict liability applies. The Dog Owners’ Liability Act makes it so that the liability of the dog owner does not depend upon the owner’s knowledge of the propensity of the dog to bite or attack, or fault or negligence on the part of the owner. In other words, because the Dog Owners’ Liability Act makes a dog owner strictly liable for damages caused by their dog, your right to bring a lawsuit against the owner of the dog does not require you to prove that the dog owner was in some way negligent, that they failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from attacking, or that they knew their dog was vicious or prone to attack.


The right to legal representation in your dog bite claim


You have the right to be represented by a personal injury lawyer in relation to your dog bite claim, and in fact, it is recommended that you exercise that right. A skilled personal injury lawyer can explain your options, protect your legal rights, and guide you through the process to secure compensation for your injuries.


While you won’t need to prove negligence of the dog owner due to the strict liability standard, you will need to prove other aspects of your claim to succeed in securing compensation. For example:

  • You must prove the nature and extent of the injuries you suffered as a result of the dog bite, including how the injuries have impacted your life and your ability to work, your wage loss, your prognosis for recovery, any future treatments you need (e.g., surgery), and any out-of-pocket expenses you’ve incurred as a result of the dog bite. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help gather the evidence to prove each of these aspects of your claim to ensure you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.

  • You will need to push back against any defences that the dog owner raises against you. The dog owner may allege that you were trespassing on their property when you were bit, or that you did something that provoked or instigated the dog attack. Your compensation will be reduced in proportion to the degree, if any, to which your own fault or negligence caused or contributed to the damages. An experienced dog bite lawyer can help you plan ahead and refute all potential defences that the opposing lawyer might employ against you.


Get Legal Advice from An Experienced Oshawa Dog Bite Lawyer


Oshawa and Lindsay accident claims lawyers at Kelly Greenway Bruce are here to help if you or a loved one has suffered harm caused by someone else's dog.


An experienced personal injury lawyer from our team will evaluate your case, explain your legal options, and protect your legal rights. We will work tirelessly to get the compensation you deserve so you can focus on recovering from your injuries and getting back to your normal life.


We have skilled dog bite lawyers in Oshawa and Lindsay who are ready to guide you through the personal injury claims process. Even if the injury appears to be minor, we welcome you to contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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