Dog Attacks: What is the One Bite Rule?

The ‘one bite rule’ is a law that applies to dog attacks in British Columbia. It means that anyone attacked by a dog can take legal action against the owner, if the owner knew that the dog had a tendency for aggressive or dangerous behaviour.

Can I claim compensation for a dog attack?

If you are attacked by a dog, you may have grounds to pursue a personal injury claim against the owner. This allows you to recover compensation for the physical, psychological and financial damage you have been caused.

What is the doctrine of scienter?

There are various ways you can bring legal action for a dog attack in British Columbia. One of them is the doctrine of scienter. In law, ‘scienter’ means that there is a knowledge of wrongdoing.

When applied to dog attacks, it means the owner knew the dog had a history of aggressive or dangerous behaviour. It could be that the dog has previously bitten someone. Or, it could be that the dog was known to snarl at, lunge at, or generally ‘go for’ people.

What is the one bite rule for dogs?

The doctrine of scienter is known more colloquially as the ‘one bite rule’. The phrase was coined because dogs essentially get one chance to behave dangerously towards a human, whether that’s a bite or something else.

After this one incident, the owner should be aware that the dog has the potential to cause harm and take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of others. If the dog attacks a human for the second time, then the owner will be liable.

One bite rule – what do you need to prove?

To bring legal action under the doctrine of scienter – or the one bite rule – you need to prove:

1. Who the rightful owner of the dog is

2. That the dog previously displayed aggressive or dangerous behaviour

3. That the owner knew the dog had previously displayed aggressive or dangerous

You might be wondering: how could you possibly know whether the dog previously displayed aggressive behaviour?

Actually, it might not be that difficult to prove. Animal Control might have already investigated the dog over a former incident. Neighbours, dog walkers or other people in the area may also be willing to testify as to the dog’s aggressive nature.

Does the one bite rule apply to all of Canada?

The one bite rule applies to dog attacks that happen in British Columbia. Provinces such as Ontario have stricter rules, whereby owners are responsible for their dog’s actions, regardless of whether or not they have a history of aggressive behaviour.

What are the other ways of bringing legal action?

Bringing a claim under the one bite rule (i.e. the doctrine of scienter) is just one option. You might also be able to claim compensation for a dog attack if:

1. Your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence

2. Your injuries occurred on someone else’s property

Was someone else negligent?

You can bring a claim if the dog owner – or the person responsible for the dog – acted negligently. This means that they failed to take reasonable steps to keep members of the public safe.

A common example is where a dog attacks someone while they are off-leash, despite being in an on-lease area. In this situation, the dog owner has breached the regulations, meaning they failed to exercise reasonable control over the animal.

To provide a real-life example, we acted for a woman who was knocked over by an off-leash Great Dane that had a propensity for jumping on people. Our client suffered a ligament tear to her knee and anxiety issues. We resolved her claim for $82,500. Read the case study in full.

Were you injured on someone else’s property?

The final option is to bring a claim under the Occupiers’ Liability Act. This is a law which states that the occupier of a premises is duty-bound to keep the area safe. While not every single risk can be eliminated, the occupier must take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent injury to others. This includes keeping people safe from any dogs that are kept on the property.

These claims are particularly frequent amongst postal workers and other delivery agents who are attacked while performing their work duties. Claims may also be made by people living in the same building, or even by friends and family who are visiting.

Related: I Was Injured at My Friend’s House: Can I Make a Claim?

Dog bite lawyers Vancouver

If you have been injured by a dog – or your child has – please contact our Vancouver personal injury lawyers. We can assess the incident and determine whether or not you have grounds to claim compensation.

To speak to our Vancouver personal injury lawyers, either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us on 604 684 0040.

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