Dogs are considered to be man’s best friend. They console us, work for us, and act as our friends and companions. However, sometimes they also injure us, whether purposely or by accident. We have all heard of dogs that are great around some people but more aggressive around others. Peterborough law allows for people who have been injured by a dog or a dog bite to recover for injuries caused by a dog bite.
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The Dog Owner’s Liability Act
In normal negligence cases, the victim must show that the other side did something wrong, or acted carelessly. This is not the case with dog bite cases. The law puts a strict liability on the owners of dogs that bite other people. That means that the owner is liable, even if he or she did nothing wrong, and even if he or she did nothing to cause, encourage, or facilitate the dog biting someone else.
Ontario’s Dog Owners Liability Act also says that it does not matter whether the owner knew or should have known that a dog was dangerous, or whether the dog had the propensity to bite or injure someone. No prior knowledge of a dog’s propensity to bite is needed. Even if the kindest, sweetest dog in the world that has never harmed anything before bites or injures another person, the owner is liable.
It also does not matter what breed the dog is. Ontario has banned pit bulls, but the law is the same regardless of dog breed.
The Act also makes the owner liable not just for a bite, but also for any kind of “attack.” This means that if a dog attacks and you are injured by that dog, the owner is still liable, even if your injuries were not actually caused by the dog’s mouth.
These benefits are only applicable to dog bites. Although you may still be able to make a claim for injuries by other animals, these specific provisions and benefits for victims do not apply to injuries from wild animals, cats, or other domestic animals.
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The Victim’s Behavior Matters
You may be wondering why you would even need a dog bite lawyer if the law is so clear and easy to prove. A dog bite case is made more difficult because of another part of the Act, which says that the owner’s liability can be reduced by the degree that the victim caused or contributed to his or her own damages. As you can imagine, insurance companies and liable dog owners will often say anything, including blaming the victim for the dog’s behaviour.
In a dog bite case, a victim can be found partially responsible for his or her injuries if the victim did things like:
- Go on someone else’s property as a trespasser, causing the dog to bite. In fact, in trespassing cases, the dog’s owner is never liable if the trespasser enters the property for the purpose of committing a crime.
- Provoke or antagonize the dog
- Get too close to a stranger’s leashed or secured dog, giving it the chance or opportunity to bite, especially if the victim was aware that the dog was acting aggressively
Under Ontario law and under the Act, dog bite law is treated the same way as any other type of case: If you, as the victim, are party responsible for your own damages (in this case, partly responsible for allowing or causing the dog to bite you), you can still file a claim. However, the amount you would recover would be your total damages, minus the percentage of fault or liability that you are found to have caused.
Joint and Several Liability
The Act has another benefit for dog bite victims. Let us assume that the dog that bit you has multiple owners. The law says that all owners are jointly and severally liable to the victim for the victim’s damages.
This means that a victim can make a claim against any one of the dog’s owners and recover the full amount of the victim’s damages. This can be helpful in situations in which a couple may own a dog, or where an adult child and parents own the animal, or where a business with multiple owners owns the dog that caused the injury.
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What to Do if You Are Bitten by a Dog in Peterborough
If you are injured by a dog, there are some things that you can do to assist your dog bite lawyer in making a claim on your behalf. If possible, get identification for the owner of the dog. That includes getting any contact information, and checking the information for accuracy—do not assume the owner of a dog is giving you his or her correct phone number or address.
You should photograph your injury, and if possible (and safe), take a picture of the dog.
Other photos, such as that of broken fences where a dog may have escaped, or a broken leash, can also be helpful. Call the local police and make a police report of the incident.
Like any accident, make sure you get medical attention for yourself. Some dog bites can be vicious and gruesome, and hopefully, nobody will have to convince you to get yourself medical attention. However, even with what appears to be “minor” injuries, you should still get medical attention.
Dog bites that are severe enough can not only cause physical deformity and scarring but nerve damage that can impair the function of limbs.
If you were bitten by a dog while in someone’s house or around their property, most homeowner’s insurance policies provide coverage for dog bite claims. That means that you generally will not have to worry about collecting on any amount awarded to you—if you win your case, there will be insurance there to make sure that your damages are paid.
The Peterborough dog bite lawyers at Preszler Law Firm can help you if you were bitten by a dog owned by a stranger or someone you know. Call us today to discuss any injuries you or a loved one may have suffered as a result of a dog bite.