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Dog Bites Cases in Ontario: Tricks & Tips

Dogs can be cute, cuddly and well behaved.

But they can also have behavioural issues, or tendencies, which can make them dangerous.

Our personal injury lawyer have seen some pretty horrific injuries resulting from dog attacks. The injuries can be lifelong and quite devastating. The scars from a dog bite, to a place on the body like the face may require plastic surgery and may leave permanent scars which can’t be hidden. It’s not just the physical injuries we see. After a serious dog attack, the accident victim may get triggered whenever they see, or are in close quarters with a dog. Think about needing to go through life avoiding, or fearing dogs. If you think about it, that’s quite hard to do given the popularity of dogs as pets in Ontario.

If you or a loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog in Ontario, here are some tips and tricks for building a sustainable lawsuit in order to get you the compensation which you deserve.

1. Assume that the police won’t show up after a dog attack. A lot of people make the assumption that the police investigate dog attacks. In some cases they do. In others, they don’t. Often, the case is passed along to the Municipality’s Animal Control Department which will investigate what happened. Don’t assume that the police or Animal Control will attend at the scene of the dog attack quickly or in a reasonable period of time. Dog bite investigations often take place long after the dog attack has taken place. Knowing this is important because people make the false assumption that some sort of law enforcement agency will get the name and contact information of the Defendant Dog Owner, and any witnesses to the dog attack itself. Never assume that this will happen. It’s up to the victim of the dog attack (or their friends/loved ones), to get this information right away. If the dog owner walks away, what is the likelihood that you will find them again? Once they’re gone, they’re gone! And if they’re gone, and you don’t have their contact information, how do you expect Animal Control or a personal injury lawyer to get their contact information? Neither can get into a time machine and go back in time to get that information. Assuming that there are cameras “everywhere” which will get that information as well is wishful thinking. Getting the name and contact information for the dog owner is a very helpful step towards advancing a successful dog bite case.

2. Take photos of your injuries. Your cuts will heal. The bruising will go away. The stitches will be removed. Taking photos of the injuries early on will help your personal injury lawyer, the insurer and the Court better understand the nature and severity of those injuries and what you were living with. The photos are far more effective than a Plaintiff getting up on the stand and insisting that their injuries were terrible, but didn’t have any photos to show. Remember that a picture speaks a thousand words, and is a far more effective tool in Court than one’s testimony. Let the pictures of the injuries do the talking.Dog-225x300

3. Insurance matters for Dog Attacks Claims, and unfortunately, it’s completely outside of the accident victim’s control. If the Defendant dog owner is a renter without any sort of home/rental insurance, then recovering on a dog attack claim will prove to be rather difficult. That’s not to say that a Plaintiff won’t “win” his/her case. There is a difference between “winning” and “collecting” on a Judgment. A Plaintiff can win a $100,000 Judgment at trial. But if a Defendant cannot pay that $100,000 and has not assets in his/her name, then what value is the Judgment other than a moral victory? Successful dog attack cases will feature a Defendant who is not Judgment proof, who owns or rents a property, and has some form of home insurance, or rental insurance on that property. The Plaintiff has no control over what a Defendant owns, or does not own.

4. Go see your Doctor. Much like a car accident case, or any personal injury case; it’s up to the Plaintiff to substantiate their injuries. It’s not enough for a Plaintiff to say that s/he got injured. There needs to be some medical records which back up and corroborate the injuries. Skipping medical appointments or not following up with a family doctor or nurse practitioner is not a good idea. Lacerations, stitches and scarring is common in dog attack cases. Depending on the severity of those injuries,  the family doctor may arrange for a referral to a dermatologist or to a plastic surgeon. Sometimes injured accident victims miss these appointments. This is a critical error in a Plaintiff’s case. The Defendant will draw a negative inference (rightly or wrongly) suggesting that because the Plaintiff missed his/her appointment with the specialist, then the injures cannot be that significant and the claim won’t be taken as seriously.

5. Your case won’t settle overnight. Be patient. All personal injury lawyers wish that they could snap their fingers and magically get the Plaintiff paid. That’s just now how personal injury cases work. Often Plaintiffs believe that dog bite cases are simple, straightforward, and ought to settle quickly and quietly. That would make sense, but you have to remember that we are dealing with a Defendant insurance company here. They aren’t in the business or resolving claims quickly. What might seem simple and straightforward for you, often isn’t. If an insurer can conjure up some sort of coverage issue to deny indemnity, they will. And, as discussed in Tip #3, insurance coverage is a huge part of these cases, regardless of how the dog attack itself took place and the ensuing injuries to the accident victim. These cases are marathons and not sprints. If your case settles quickly, then that’s great. But approach your dog attack case with the mindset that these cases take a long time to resolve so that you won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out they way you thought it would.

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