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Pain and Suffering Awards in Dog Attack Claims: The Risks of Dog Ownership

Dogs are among the most popular pets in the world. Dogs accompany owners on walks, when going for a drive, and even while running other errands throughout their day. Many dogs accompany their owners in retail stores, the gym, or while visiting friends.

Dogs can be great companions. Unfortunately, they could attack or bite another person for no rhyme or reason. The prevalence of dogs in various settings increases the potential for lawsuits to arise from a dog attack.

Range of Damages

After dog bite attacks, individuals are often left with puncture wounds and lacerations. Severe and permanent disfigurement of the face and other body parts may occur. Sometimes, fractures are sustained by the victims of attacks.

The attack itself may leave those who have been injured with psychological damages such as a fear of dogs, nightmares, replaying the incident in their mind, and personality changes.

Determining the value of damages for a dog attack is fact-specific. However, there are reported court decisions which serve as a guide for the range of damages for cases involving similar types of injuries. For example, damages for pain and suffering were outlined in the following cases.

Lauricella v. Hamilton (City of) 2003 ONSC 20789 (“Lauricella“)

Lauricella involves an 18-year-old who injured herself while riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in the City of Hamilton.

The plaintiff sustained extensive and severe facial lacerations and trauma resulting in four surgeries involving her nose.

The most significant injury was her facial scarring and the psychological effects from it. The plaintiff’s facial injury was described as changing her outlook from a bubbly, outgoing, confident young woman to one with reduced self-esteem and anxiety in social situations.

When considering a damage assessment for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, Justice Lofchik reasoned: “…While some may not consider her disfigured, being an attractive young woman, she disagrees. It is her face and she will have to live with it for the rest of her life…”

When referring to the plaintiff’s depression as a result of the scarring, Justice Lofchik quoted the words of the plaintiff’s family doctor who stated that the plaintiff was “mourning the loss of integrity of her face as she knew it…”

The plaintiff was awarded $100,000 in damages for pain and suffering. Adjusted for inflation, damages would equate to about $156,386 in 2023.

Cowles v. Balac 2005 ONSC 2038 (“Cowles“)

Cowles involves a couple, David and Jennifer, who, while attending an African Lion Safari, lived through the horrific event of a tiger gaining access to their vehicle’s interior.

David, a student at the time of the incident, mainly injured his dominant arm. He was left with a grotesquely scarred and disfigured right forearm, with some ability to use his right arm remaining. His arm was a constant source of pain. David also suffered emotionally from the accident.

The parties agreed on David’s damages for pain and suffering in the sum of $225,000. Adjusted for inflation, damages would equate to about $337,169 in 2023.

Jennifer, a dancer at the time of the incident, suffered deep and extensive lacerations to her scalp and right thigh resulting in surgeries and unsightly scars. Her right ear and forearm also required suturing. While her long hair worn up covered the scalp scars to some extent, they were clearly visible when her hair was worn down or would be with a shorter hairstyle. She also suffered psychological trauma because of the incident.

The parties agreed upon Jennifer’s damages for pain and suffering at $210,000. Adjusted for inflation, damages equate to about $314,691 in 2023.

R.K. v. Dickson 2005 ONSC 30855 (“Dickson“)

Dickson involves a case where a female was attacked, beaten, bitten, and sexually assaulted by a man on her 46th birthday.

As a result of the incident, R.K. sustained scarring on her face, forearms, and lips, and suffered psychologically.

While the scarring on R.K.’s face was slight, it was obvious to her. It affected her daily life and, therefore, was considered a permanent and significant injury.

Psychologically, R.K. was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder which was untreated. Her prognosis for recovery from her psychological injuries was favorable, if/when treated.

Damages for pain and suffering was awarded at $75,000. Adjusted for inflation, damages equate to about $111,980 in 2023.

Landreau v. Tremblay 2007 ONSC 67896 (“Landreau”)

Landreau involves a male involved in a motor vehicle accident.

His physical injuries included a laceration to his right cheek, a puncture below his lower lip, which left a barely noticeable half-inch scar, some teeth fractures and discoloration, injuries to his shins, and some injury to a finger and big toe. He also suffered emotional consequences because of the accident.

Damages for pain and suffering were awarded at $60,000. Adjusted for inflation, damages equate to about $83,940 in 2023.

Kent v. Laverdiere 2011 ONSC 5411 (CanLii) (“Kent“)

Kent involves an 11-year-old child who was attacked by dogs owned by her grandmother. Her memory of the incident was described as a dog pulling her arm, resulting in her falling and blacking out. When she woke up, she described the skin on her legs as being ripped off. Blood was coming out of her neck. She described being devoured by the dogs.

Damages for pain and suffering were agreed upon between the parties at $125,000. Adjusted for inflation, damages equate to about $163,374 in 2023.

Constantinou v. Stannard, 2021 ONSC 5585 (“Constantinou“)

The plaintiff in Constantinou was bitten by a large dog. When she tried to pull herself free from the dog, she sustained a rotator cuff injury requiring surgery. Following surgery, the plaintiff healed slowly. Functioning in her shoulder remained limited and the pain persisted.

Damages for pain and suffering were awarded at $100,000. Adjusted for inflation, damages equate to about $110,071 in 2023.

The Takeaway

The value of a dog bite case depends on the facts. Individuals who have been bitten by a dog should contact their local Animal Control agency to report the incident, take photographs of their injuries, seek medical attention, and obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses.

Dog owners should ensure that they have insurance to protect themselves from being personally liable for an injured person’s claim. For example, if a dog owner has home insurance, the home insurer will arrange for the dog owner to be represented by a lawyer. The home insurer should also pay for victims’ damages.

If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, contact Preszler Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

This article was written by Jocelyn Rose Brogan.

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