Dog attacks account for 90% of all animal bites reported; they happen far more often than owners and enthusiasts would like to acknowledge. Most dog attacks occur in parks or on the street where dogs are off leach, or on private property where the dog is roaming around freely. In some cases, the dogs may attack when greeted or startled by a person, even if typically out of character for the animal and/or in the presence of the owner. Unfortunately, with animals you cannot fully pedict behaviour and reactions. There are times when the dog may not be considered responsible for their attacking reaction (such as when they are startled or feel threatened), but regardless, liability is held against the owner for it is their responsibility to ensure safety to those around their animal. If an owner neglects to post signage of an aggressive dog on private property, the same negligence stance may hold. It is important that dog owners acknowledge the responsibility they have and adhere to the laws surrounding animal attacks. When someone has been attacked by a dog, dealing with the physical and psychological effects can take years to overcome and overall, this whole thing can be a very traumatic experience. Long-term disability for an acquired physical disability or mental disability post a traumatic event such as a dog attack is often required by those who need time to recover and adjust to their new reality post an animal attack.
What To Do When A Dog Attacks
- It is important to find a safe place as soon as possible, away from the dog that has attacked. This ensures that the animal will not attack again.
- Seek medical attention immediately after a dog attack. Since major damage can occur underneath the skin, it is important to have a doctor inspect your wounds and injuries for any trauma that may unnoticeable to the naked eye.
- If skin has been broken and you are bleeding, it is important to keep your wounds elevated to prevent further bleeding.
- You may rinse the wound with water if possible (Do not use soap)
- IMPORTANT: Gather as much information as you can regarding the dog and its owners. Figure out the animals immunization record/status, and if possible, the veterinary doctor or humane society which it uses for such. If you are unable to gather this information, law enforcement and even the hospital at which you seek treatment can help you in obtaining such. The immunization status of the dog which has attacked you can determine the type of medical care you need and is very pivotal to your well being. Rabies, if exposure is not treated, can lead to death.
Common Injuries Sustained
Dog attacks can result in puncture wounds and lacerations that cause deep tissue damage and can damage muscles, bones and nerves. The pressure exerted by a dog’s jaw can cause serious damage to tissue under the skin and can lead to unsightly wounds and deformation. Furthermore, due to the bacteria that is found in and around a dog’s mouths, one is more prone to infection. If you experience signs of infection, such as redness around the wound, radiating heat, swelling or drainage of fluid such as puss, seek medical care. Infections can spread and cause other health problems.
Most dog bites are cared for by emergency and urgent care physicians who will evaluate the wound site, as well as underlying muscle, tendons, nerves and bones. After examination, the wound will be washed with saline solution (a mixture of salt and water) to clear away dried blood, dirt and bacteria from the site. Since infections for dog bites are so high, some doctors may choose not to stitch the wound. While stitches often lead to better looking scaring, stitching a dog bite can enclose harmful bacteria in the wound that can later lead to infection. To prevent such, some dog bites may be left to heal naturally or require ongoing drainage and even skin grafts. In even more serious cases, surgery may be involved, and at times (especially in cases of facial wounds), several surgeries are required. This reality can lead to ongoing suffering from pain, as well as psychological and social effects of unsightly scarring and social isolation.
The psychological trauma sustained from a dog attack can be extremely debilitating. Many victims suffer from acute stress disorder following a dog attack, and some end up developing intense fears and phobias, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Avoidance of areas once enjoyed, such as parks and ravines, to even just walking on a known street can be a reality some dog attack survivors face. The symptoms of depression and anxiety can set in and can take an unknown period of time for one to cope and recover from; this often requires short-term disability or long-term disability leave, especially when a victim needs to recover from a physical trauma as well.
Being attacked by an animal, no matter what the size can lead to injury. Whether be from an injury sustained from the animal, or one while reacting to the attack, serious outcomes can happen. Dog owners in Ontario are held under “strict liability”, which means that they most likely will always be held responsible, and thus liable, for an attack. Even in the case where an owner tries to prevent an attack from happening, they are still held liable for all of the dog’s actions. Even if the dog does not bite you, or come in contact with you, but as a reaction to the attack you back up and fall or injure yourself, the owner is still held liable for the incident. If it was not for the presence of the animal, you would have not sustained any injuries.
Reporting a Dog Bite/Attack
Most often the police are called immediately after a dog attack has occurred, but Animal Control Services is often the governing body that manages and investigates dog attacks and bites. As per Ontario’s Dog Owner’s Liability Act (DOLA), owners are established as being absolutely liable for dog attacks.
If a victim of a dog attack has sustained serious injuries, Animal Control may immediately deem the dog dangerous, initiating an order for the animal to be put down. That being said, in most Provincial court settings, dog owners are entitled to a hearing in front of a judge prior to the termination of an animal. Until the hearing date, the dog must be muzzled and leashed at all times when off the owner’s premise, and be tagged with a dangerous dog tag worn on its collar. The dog must not enter any designated leash-free areas or parks and the owner is responsible for posting warning signs of a dangerous animal on their property. If a dog owner does not adhere to the following rules, they may be held liable for further claims of negligence, endangerment, and even possible jail time.
Dealing with Insurance
Most dog owners, who have had a claim filed against them for a dog attack, will have to submit and deal with this claim through their own insurance company. It is often the insurance company who is held responsible for paying the settlement if one is sued for a dog attack. If an individual dog owner does not have insurance, then the settlement would be paid out of pocket and jail time may be required. This all depends on the severity of injuries and extent of an attack claim.
If the dog attack occurred while you are on the job, working on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation through WSIB, as well as through the property owner’s own insurance policy. If you have suffered from an injury after a dog attack and the owner is insistent on speaking with you about the incident, we highly suggest you speak with a disability claims attorney first. The owner may be trying to avoid getting insurance involved in the case, or may even have an insurance company representative present to ask you questions. It is best that you have a disability lawyer present during either scenarios, in order to protect you from any strategy that may be used to minimize or threaten your claim.
How a Lawyer Will Help You
A personal injury lawyer can help navigate insurance claims and dealings with a defendant’s insurance, which is often in pursuit of not having to compensate you for the physical, emotional, psychological and financial losses you have sustained. With an in depth knowledge of your legal rights, and the readiness and aptitude to defend your claim, an injury lawyer can help deal with the more stressful and demanding aspects of your case, allowing you to rest and eliminate as much stress as possible from your day to day life.
If you are facing a denied insurance claim after seeking short-term disability, long-term disability, and/or worker’s compensation, a disability insurance lawyer can help you appeal these denials and represent you in further conversations with your insurance provider. If you do not feel you are being granted adequate time off from your employer, or the needed financial support to sustain your living and medical costs, speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
TSF Law is a high-esteemed law firm that has dealt with many dog attack cases throughout Ontario. Our team is sensitive and aware of the variety debilitating outcomes of an animal attack and are ready to assist you in your case. If you are unable to meet with our team at our Toronto office, our team will come to you, for we make it our mandate to put our clients first and make this process as easy as possible. Contact TSF Law today to schedule a free consultation.