Dog Bites: A Fortunately Less Common Cause Of Personal Injury

By Joshua Goldberg | October 3, 2018

As a personal injury lawyer, I see accidents caused by distracted driving, slip –and- falls, trip-and-falls and more. I unfortunately also see many injuries caused by dog bites.

As a noble companion to many, we often forget the serious damage a dog can cause both to ourselves and to our pets. These injuries can be emotionally, physically and financially draining for victims. And because of the natural bias, the severity of dog bites is, to some degree, overlooked both by us as a society and by our law makers.

What happens if you’re the victim of a serious dog bite? There are many considerations at play.

Where the law stands:

Under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, R.S.O.  1990, c.  D.16, a dog owner is, generally speaking, liable for damages resulting from an attack by a dog  on another person or domestic animal – even if the person attacked provoked the dog in question.

Thankfully, while “dog bite insurance” does not (widely) exist, many home owner/renter insurance policies provide third party liability coverage to the owner of the dog that caused the injury. Meaning that if you are injured in a dog attack, you may be able to recover compensation from the dog owner’s home insurance company without having to go through the hassle of chasing down the owner and their assets. However, receiving compensation from the liable party is not always easy or possible, as not all dog owners carry home insurance. To further complicate matters, it can be difficult to identify the owner of a dog in the event that the dog owner flees the scene with their pooch.

What the law lacks:  

A victim can sue even if the dog owner does not have insurance to cover the loss, but if the individual does not have insurance or assets to cover what is awarded in a judgment, then the victim may never see a dime of the money they are owed.

Similarly, if a dog attacks your pet, and you don’t have pet insurance and the owner does not have a policy that will respond to a claim, then you may have to pay for all of the veterinary costs out of your own pocket.

What you can do:  

I always recommend that dog owners take out both pet insurance and home insurance. By having both types of insurance, it protects dog owners in the event that your dog is attacked by having medical coverage for your dog, while having home insurance protects you in the event that your dog causes an injury. That being said, you should always read your insurance policies to make sure that they cover what you think, or hope, they cover, and advise your home insurer that you have a dog. Certain dog breeds may be excluded or create a change in risk, which may increase premiums.

Further, in the event that you are involved in an incident with a dog that attacks or injures you or your pet, try to keep calm and identify the owner of the dog so that you can later make a claim against him or her. And call the police right away!

Some potentially needed changes:  

It would be ideal for the legislature to pass laws requiring all pet owners to carry insurance that will protect the victims of an attack by their dog.  If pet liability insurance was mandatory, it may serve as a deterrent to reckless dog owners who own large, dangerous breeds but choose not to train them or purchase appropriate safety gear, or allow them to roam free in public areas.  It may also encourage owners to enroll their dogs in behavior and aggression training courses.

If you or your pet is attacked by a dog, a lawyer can help determine the best route to take to put you on the road to recovery.

Joshua Goldberg, is a personal injury lawyer at Pace Law Firm, and has a passion for dogs.  Whether you need assistance with an injury sustained to you or your pet, Joshua has experience with both.  He can be reached at jgoldberg@pacelawfirm.com