The World Health Organization estimates that dogs bite tens of millions of people every year. Here in Canada, infants and toddlers are the most likely people to get bitten by dogs, though dog bites are quite common among children ages 10 to 14 as well.
Of course, even an adult may be bitten by a dog. Those dog bites require emergency room treatment. Sometimes the bites can result in scarring, disfigurement, and lifelong trauma.
If you or someone you love has been bitten by a dog in Medicine Hat then Merchant Law is the team to turn to.
Dog Owner Responsibilities in Alberta
Alberta has laws about responsible pet ownership. For example, all dogs must have a city license from the time they turn three months old, and are required to wear their license at all times. Owners are supposed to leash their dogs, even when they’re on a property where the owner lives. Dogs may not be left unattended while tethered.
Dog owners are responsible for making sure their pets don’t bite, chase, or injure anyone.
Alberta’s Dangerous Dogs Act allows the courts to order a dangerous dog destroyed.
When dog owners fail in these responsibilities, they are liable for paying the damages. If you are bitten on their home property then their homeowner’s insurance policy usually pays, even if you weren’t on the property with the dog at the time of the dog bite. If the owner is not properly insured or the dog was a wild animal, your own insurance policy may pay.
What to Do After a Dog Attack
First, call 3-1-1 to report the incident to Animal Services. You should take pictures of the bite, and the dog if possible. It also doesn’t hurt to get photos of the surrounding area. It’s also important to get contact information from the owner if you can. If you can, get the dog’s license number.
Get the names and numbers of any witnesses as well.
Seeking medical attention is a must, especially if you intend to make a dog bite claim. Your medical bills will form the basis of the claim. Follow all of your doctor’s instructions for treatment. In addition, it will be important to receive a rabies shot after getting bitten by any dog.
Our legal team can file the insurance claim on your behalf. This is helpful because it means you won’t be dealing with an insurance adjuster whose job it is to try to find reasons not to pay you, or to pay less than the claim is worth.
If the dog bite is very minor you might settle the issue with the dog’s owner, but if the dog owner or their insurance company won’t take responsibility, then call us.
Two Forms of Responsibility
There are two types of dogs: those the owner knew were dangerous and those that the owner had no way of knowing might bite.
Under the doctrine of scienter, or “knowledge,” a dog owner is liable for the actions of a dog that is known to bite even if they were taking the proper steps to care for that dog and control that dog. They knew the risks and chose to take them. A dog’s breed is not enough to qualify them as a dangerous dog under Alberta law, even if local laws have designated them as dangerous.
If the dog has never bitten anyone before then we as your personal injury lawyers must prove that the dog owner was negligent in their care and control of that dog. We can often do this by showing how they violated Alberta’s leash laws or licensing laws. We can also show that the dog owner should have been able to reasonably foresee that they were in a situation where their dog might have bitten someone, but failed to remove the dog from the situation.
A “Beware of Dog” sign is not enough to excuse the homeowner from liability unless the warning should have been enough to ensure a person’s safety if followed.
Winning a Dog Bite Claim
Dog bite claims aren’t unrefuted wins. While it may be unrefuted that the dog did, in fact, bite you, there are many defenses that may be raised. The insurance company will try to make the case that you are responsible for all or part of your dog bite injuries.
For example, the defense can try to claim that you were provoking or threatening the dog at the time of the incident. Provoking or threatening a dog could be as simple as approaching the dog without asking.
If you were trespassing at the time, they might claim that you contributed to your own injuries, and reduce the size of the award accordingly.
Nevertheless, most dog bite cases settle out of court. Securing an appropriate award is mostly a matter of negotiation and investigation, and then showing the insurance company that we could win the case if we were pressed to go to trial.
Why Merchant Law?
“They worked very well with my family, and specifically my son. They were focused, which helped us concentrate and provide the necessary information for the court appearance on short notice. They worked long hours and made a compelling case. My son received everything he requested. It’s been a pleasure to work with them.”
When you choose Merchant Law you choose to work with a caring, responsive team. We answer calls and emails. We take the time to talk you through your case.
Most of our members have two to three decades of experience handling every personal injury case you can think of. We’re diligent and committed to investigating your case as thoroughly as possible so that we can bring it to its best possible outcome.
Experience counts. It makes us savvy negotiators and tough litigators. We’ve helped recover billions of dollars for our clients and have navigated sophisticated, tough issues where the facts of the case aren’t as clear-cut as everyone might like.
If you have a dog bite claim, don’t wait. Reach out to the team at Merchant Law today.