In Ontario, the law follows a strict liability rule when it comes to dog bite cases. This is different than claims arising from motor vehicle accidents or slip or trip and falls. The Dog Owners’ Liability Act makes an owner of a dog strictly liable – that is to say, the injured person does not need to prove the owner was negligent or had knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite. However, a court will reduce the amount awarded to the injured person in proportion to the degree, if any, to which the fault or negligence of the injured person caused or contributed to the bite.

A Case Study

In one case[1], a 15 year old girl was at her friend’s birthday party. She was watching TV, got up from the couch and approached the dog resting nearby. The dog bit her left cheek causing an injury and scarring to her face. The girl sued the owner of the dog for her injuries. The defence tried to argue that because the girl was being treated for ADHD and in some circumstances she was non-compliant with her medication, she was inappropriate and impulsive with her interaction with the dog. The court rejected this argument. The court found the girl did not pester or provoke the dog and the girl was not contributorily negligent to warrant a reduction of the amount awarded.

Best Practices Following a Dog Bite

While an owner will be strictly liable, an injured person will still need to prove their damages – the amount they are entitled to. This is assessed on a case-by-case basis. It will depend on various factors, including the severity of the injuries, medical expenses, length of time off work and other factors.

It is therefore recommended that you follow these steps after a dog bite:

  • Seek medical attention;
  • Report the bite. Call your local animal services or police services;
  • Identify the owner of the dog. Obtain the dog owner’s name and address;
  • Collect and preserve evidence of the attack. This includes taking a clear photo of the injury and collecting information about anyone who witnessed the bite. Record all details as best you can recall; and
  • Consult with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your rights.

In some cases, a settlement can be achieved through the dog owner’s home insurance company. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to negotiate and navigate an injured person through the process.

If you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog, contact the team of respected personal injury lawyers at Jasmine Daya & Co. in Toronto. We will meet with you to discuss the details of your case in a free consultation and give you an honest assessment of your rights and legal options. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means we will not be paid until your case has been resolved. Call us at 416-967-9100 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

[1] Moretto v Nicolini-Femia, 2017 ONSC 3945.