In all civil liability cases in Toronto, the plaintiff is responsible for proving on a balance of probabilities that there is liability. In the case of a dog bite accident in Toronto, if the dog bites or attacks, then the dog owner is strictly liable for the dog bite or attack. As long as that is proven satisfactorily in court, then liability is established.
Courts can be slow, so it can take two to three years to settle a Toronto dog bite case. If you and your Toronto attorney, have to go to trial, it could take four to five years to see the inside of the courtroom due to court delays in Toronto. It is important to work with an experienced dog bite lawyer who can streamline the process of establishing liability in your Toronto dog bite case.
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Leash laws vary based on municipality. In Toronto, the leash law is quite strict. Essentially, a dog always has to be on a leash when in a public place. Outside of a home, the dog must be leashed unless in a designated dog area. Toronto has many of those areas in parks that are fenced off and locked up, and the dogs are allowed to roam freely in those areas.
If a dog owner lets the dog off of its leash in an improper way or in the wrong time and place and the dog attacks, then there will be liability on that dog owner.
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Typically, an investigator is retained to go out and interview any witnesses that may have witnessed the actual attack, and the witnesses’ statements will be taken to help establish liability in a Toronto dog bite case. A lawyer will also obtain copies of the animal control records or files which will document the bite. Often police records are requested as well, and sometimes there is surveillance video of these attacks. It varies on a case by case basis, but a great deal of an investigative work is put in.
Expert witnesses would typically not be called in as related to liability. Liability tends to be straightforward because of the strict liability rule in Ontario. Expert witnesses would be needed to establish damages. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove their damages. In the event that, for example, a plaintiff makes a claim that they are now scared of dogs or cannot walk down the street, a psychiatrist or a psychologist expert would be retained. For people who have an orthopedic injury like a broken knee or worse, an amputation, an orthopedic specialist would likely testify.
Expert witnesses are rarely used in establishing liability, because of the strict liability regime.
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When establishing liability in a Toronto dog bite case, one defense that could come up that would prevent liability from being proven is provocation. Provocation could include teasing the dog, injuring the dog, or creating a situation of danger with the dog. Provocation can be a partial or complete defense.
If it is partial liability, the damages would be reduced. The plaintiff provoking the dog is considered to be contributory negligent, which would cause a reduction in the person’s claim for damages. If their damages were, for example, $100,000 and are reduced by 20%, the plaintiff would only recover $80,000.00. Liability would not be an issue in Ontario unless there is provocation, which is rare. An experienced dog bite attorney can best help explain how negligence works in their client’s dog bite case in Toronto.
Contributory negligence is the extent to which the plaintiff can be said to have caused the accident. If a person does something outside of what one would consider reasonable, that would be contributory negligence. A finding of contributory negligence will reduce the amount of damages a plaintiff receives. For example, if they are 20% contributory negligent, then their damages would be reduced by 20%.
One example of a situation involving contributory negligence would be if a person walks by a dog that is tied up and starts teasing the dog while the owner is not there, such as poking the dog with a stick, and then ultimately the dog bites them. It can be presumed that the legislature did not want to encourage a system whereby plaintiffs could provoke dogs in a way such as this without having to suffer the consequences.
There can be underlying reasons for behaviors that might appear to be provoking. For example, perhaps there was a reason why the dog was provoked. It is always best to have legal advice so that one can better appreciate how to answer particular questions, and it is hard to know what the legal issues are when a person is not a lawyer.