Dogs have long been known as “man’s best friend”. This view is widely held in the City of Toronto, as the city is home to more than 230,000 dogs.
While dogs are usually playful, gentle, and loyal companions they can also be unpredictable. Unfortunately, dogs can and do bite or attack people. When dogs bite people they can cause serious personal injuries. Powerful dogs such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Pitbulls can exert tremendous bite forces and cause extensive trauma to skin, tissue, and bones. Even small dogs can cause permanent injuries including scarring. Young children are particularly vulnerable to serious injuries from dog attacks as their faces are exposed to a dog’s bite zone. As personal injury lawyers, we have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact dog bites can have on children and adults, both physically and psychologically.
In Ontario, we have legislation dealing specifically with dog attacks. The Dog Owners’ Liability Act states that a dog owner is legally liable for injuries caused by their dog. The Act imposes “strict liability” on dog owners, which means that a dog owner will be liable for injuries caused by their dog regardless of whether they knew their dog was dangerous, whether their dog had ever bitten anyone before, or whether the owner was acting reasonably. Therefore, if you have been the victim of a dog bite you are entitled to compensation including damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, loss of income, out-of-pocket expenses, and medical care. In serious dog bite cases the medical expenses can be significant and include reconstructive plastic surgery and psychological treatment.
Even though you may be entitled to compensation as a result of a dog attack it does not mean you will receive it. Your ability to recover compensation will depend on the dog owner’s ability to pay. Fortunately, most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies will defend claims brought against dog owners and pay for damages suffered by victims of dog attacks. However, if the dog’s owner does not have homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, then your only option will be to recover compensation from the owner personally.
It is important that you take the following steps if you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack:
- Seek urgent medical advice.
- Document your injuries with photographs.
- Obtain the dog owner’s personal information, including their address.
- Obtain the contact information of any witnesses to the attack.
- Report the dog attack to Toronto Public Health (or your local public health office).
- Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
At Beyond Law, our personal injury lawyers are experienced in handling severe dog bite cases in Toronto and throughout Ontario. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack, please contact us and we would be pleased to assist you.