Personal Injury Lawyers

Animal Attacks: Identifying Liability

More often than not, dogs really are a best friend – for some they may even be a member of the family. Even the classic scenario of a mailman being harassed by a dog is used lightheartedly. But anyone who has been bitten or attacked by a dog knows the darker side of man’s best friend and of pet ownership. When a dog or domestic animal attacks someone, the effects on the victim can extend into every facet of their life. Help from a personal injury lawyer may be the only way to receive fair compensation.

In Ontario, the Dog Owner’s Liability Act provides grounds for bite victims to pursue compensation. The common law places responsibility on the owner to meet a standard of care to everyone who might come into contact with their pet. Not doing so – say, failing to leash or muzzle a dog – could constitute negligence on their part if the dog bites someone.  However, if a dog attacks a victim, the owner is strictly liable under the Act and there is no requirement to prove negligence. The Court may consider whether the victim provoked the animal, but otherwise, the dog owner will be liable for the damages sustained by the victim.

It’s important to note that the owner doesn’t necessarily need to act negligently to be considered liable. And, where the victim’s negligence contributed to the injury – say, playing roughly with a strange dog or coming between a dog and its puppies – damages are typically reduced.

A dog bite can have far-ranging consequences for the victim. Depending on their type of work they may have to miss time and thus income, because of injury or emotional stress. Similarly, a parent may not be able to look after their child properly and have to seek temporary paid help.

Whatever the scenario, a personal injury lawyer with intimate knowledge of the responsibilities of pet ownership and the significant effects of injury can provide valuable legal guidance and representation.