Dog Attacks: No More Free First Bite

In the United States, dog bites account for a third of all paid liability claims, and likely numbers in Canada are similar. We have previously written about the damage that can be done when a dog attacks. We also spoke about the complexities of the laws in British Columbia surrounding these types of personal injury claims. However, the law in this area may be changing. Currently, dogs are essentially allowed “one free bite”; an injured plaintiff must prove not only that the dog was aggressive or inclined to bite, but also that the owner of the dog knew of those tendencies. Hence, knowledge could be difficult to prove with the first bite.

In some other provinces, the laws are stricter. For example, in Ontario, the Dog Owner’s Liability Act has been interpreted to mean once ownership of the dog is proven, the owner is liable for all damages. Proposed new legislation in British Columbia would have our laws fall more in line with this, and would hold the owner responsible for attacks from “any creature that is not human”. The Animal Liability Act would impose the same strict liability for injuries or other damages once ownership is proven. It would also take the place of the Occupiers Liability Act for animal injuries in the home.

What does this mean for you? If you are a pet owner, it means you should be mindful of your dog’s (and other pets’) behaviour both in public and at home when you have company over. You should also be sure you are properly insured should your dog attack someone. This type of coverage is available through most home owner/tenant insurance policies.

On the other hand, if you’ve been injured by a dog, if this new legislation comes into effect, it may be confusing trying to figure out which statute is applicable. It may also be difficult to know which insurance company is responsible for your claim. Therefore, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. John Mickelson Law Corporation can help you acquire financial assistance and medical treatment. Our ICBC lawyers have the experience needed to maximize your personal injury settlement. Call us at (604) 684-0040 for a free consultation in our Vancouver, Surrey or Abbotsford offices.


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