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dog bite injury legal coverage

Dog Bite Cases in Canada: Your Legal Rights and Protections

July 11, 2023

In Canada, dogs are treasured family members in many households, cherished for their companionship, loyalty, and love. However, like any other animal, dogs can be unpredictable. Incidents of dog bites can occure, resulting in physical harm, psychological trauma, and sometimes, severe, life-altering injuries. Dog bites, estimated to occur approximately 500,000 times each year in Canada. Understanding your legal rights and protections in such circumstances can empower you to seek the justice and compensation you may be entitled to.

Understanding Dog Bite Liability in Canada

Across the diverse provinces of Canada, one finds a varying landscape of laws pertaining to dog bites and the liability of dog owners. Despite these differences, one consensus remains largely shared: the accountability of dog owners for their pets’ actions. For example, Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act holds that if a dog bites or attacks another person or domestic animal, the owner is liable for the resulting damages. Intriguingly, this liability applies whether or not the owner was at fault or negligent, thus establishing a principle referred to as ‘strict liability’.

This principle of strict liability implies that, irrespective of the precautions taken by the owner to avert a dog bite, if the dog indeed causes harm, the owner is held responsible. However, the law also considers ‘contributory negligence’. This means if the victim of a dog bite incident holds some responsibility for the event (such as by instigating the dog), the compensation they receive may be adjusted in proportion to their culpability.

Dog Owners’ Liability Act

Established in 1990, the Dog Owners’ Liability Act of Ontario and its provincial equivalents serve as a pivotal legal measure aimed at protecting dog bite victims in Canada. It emphasizes the onus placed on dog owners to bear responsibility for any harm inflicted by their pet, whether through an attack or a bite on another person or domestic animal. Importantly, in situations involving multiple owners, each one is jointly and separately held responsible for any damages resulting from their dog’s actions.

However, there are exceptions to this liability. For example, if a dog bite incident occurs on the owner’s property while the victim is engaging in illegal or criminal activities, the owner is generally not held accountable for the consequent damages.

Under the law, legal action can be brought against a dog’s owner under a variety of allegations. These could encompass scenarios where the dog attacks another domestic animal, demonstrates threatening behaviour towards people or other animals, or where the owner fails to take appropriate measures to prevent such an incident.

Should the court find these allegations to be substantiated, it has the discretion to issue orders based on the context and severity of the situation. These orders can range from drastic measures such as euthanizing the dog to less severe ones targeted at ensuring the dog is better controlled. The latter can include orders to confine the dog to the owner’s premises, use a leash or a muzzle, or display warning signs on the property.

In making a decision, the court considers a broad spectrum of factors. These include the dog’s past and present behaviour, the severity of the inflicted injuries, any unique circumstances that might justify the dog’s actions, the potential for similar incidents in the future, the possible harm the dog could cause, precautions taken by the owner for future incidents, and any other relevant considerations. This comprehensive assessment ensures that the verdict is fair, balanced, and considers every aspect of the situation.

The Role of Insurance Companies

Insurance companies often play a significant role in dog bite cases. Many homeowners’ insurance policies cover dog bite liability as part of the policy. This means that if you are bitten by a dog, the owner’s insurance company may be responsible for compensating you for your injuries, medical expenses, and any other damages such as loss of income or pain and suffering.

However, dealing with insurance companies can be complex and challenging. They often employ tactics to minimize the amount they pay out in claims. It’s crucial not to sign any documents or accept any settlement from an insurance company without first consulting a legal professional specializing in personal injury law. A personal injury lawyer can help ensure your rights are protected and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to secure the compensation you deserve.

Seeking Legal Help: Personal Injury Lawyer or Paralegal?

When it comes to dog bite incidents, it’s critical to seek professional legal advice to navigate the complex terrain of personal injury law. Depending on the severity of your injuries and the complexity of your case, you may choose to engage a personal injury lawyer or a paralegal.

A personal injury lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in tort law, which includes all civil litigation for injuries or wrongdoings resulting from negligence. Personal injury lawyers represent clients injured physically or psychologically due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, company, government agency, or other entity.

On the other hand, paralegals are also qualified to provide legal advice and services, but their scope of practice is more limited. If your case is relatively straightforward and involves a smaller claim, you may opt to consult a paralegal. In such instances, a comprehensive paralegal directory can be a useful resource to find a local paralegal with expertise in personal injury law.

Taking Legal Action

The process of filing a dog bite claim can be complex, and it is usually advisable to engage the services of a personal injury legal professional to guide you through the process. After the initial consultation, your lawyer will begin by gathering evidence. This can include medical records, photographs of injuries, witness statements, animal control reports, and any other relevant documentation.
Your lawyer will then likely engage in negotiations with the dog owner’s insurance company. Many dog bite cases are settled out of court, which can be faster and less stressful than a trial. If a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer may recommend proceeding to court.

During a trial, both sides will have the opportunity to present their case, and a judge or jury will make the final decision. While the prospect of going to court may seem intimidating, remember that your legal professional is there to advocate for your best interests every step of the way.

In conclusion, if you’ve been bitten by a dog, it’s crucial to understand your rights under Provincial law. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer or a competent paralegal can guide you through the complex landscape of personal injury law and ensure you receive the compensation you’re entitled to. While dealing with the aftermath of a dog bite can be challenging, remember that legal protections are in place, and help is available to support you on your path to recovery.

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