Who Is Legally Responsible for Dog Bite Injuries in BC?
Dog attacks and dog bite injuries are extremely common in BC. Some dog bites are minor; others cause serious personal injury. Lawyers help people with dog bite claims obtain compensation for injuries such as lacerations, bruising, infections, scarring, damage to muscles or nerves, and broken bones. Many BC dog bite injury claims involve a psychological component as well. The emotional trauma of a dog attack or being mauled by a vicious dog can cause PTSD or other issues such as anxiety, insomnia, and a fear of dogs, particularly if the attack is very serious or the victim of the dog attack is a young child. If you or a loved one is injured by a dog, there are options for seeking compensation for damages. Here is what you need to know about legal responsibility for a dog bite injury.
BC Personal Injury Lawyer on Legal Responsibility in Dog Bite Claims
Dog owners have the responsibility to protect others from their pets, and as such, the owner of a dog is legally responsible if their dog causes personal injury or property damage. If the owner is unknown or ownership of the dog is disputed, this will cause difficulties in your claim for compensation.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help locate and identify the dog’s owner and gather evidence to prove ownership of the dog. A skilled personal injury lawyer can also review your case to determine if legal responsibility for the dog bite rests with any other party.
For example, if the dog was under the care of a person other than the owner (referred to in the case law as a “keeper” who has assumed responsibility for the dog) or if the injury occurred while you were on another person’s property with their permission.
Liability in Dog Bite Claims: How to Hold Others Accountable for Your Injuries
The question of who is legally responsible for a dog bite injury can in many cases be relatively straightforward. For example, if a dog owned by your friend, relative, or neighbour bites you, the identity of the dog owner is known, and that person is named as a defendant in your dog bite claim. But the law with respect to how to hold that person accountable – in other words, the basis of legal liability for injuries caused by a dog – can be more complex.
The complexity comes from the fact that there are different ways that a defendant can be held liable for dog bite injuries in BC:
- “Scienter” – at common law, the owner or keeper of an ordinarily harmless animal such as a dog is not held to strict liability unless he or she was aware of the dangerous disposition of the particular dog. If the injured person can prove specific elements of scienter, including that the owner knew that the dog was mischievous, dangerous, or had a propensity to be vicious, the owner will be held strictly liable for injuries caused by the dog without the injured person having to prove that the owner was in any way negligent. This is sometimes referred to as the “one bite rule” in BC, as a dog owner may not be strictly liable the first time the dog injures someone but will be liable for any subsequent incidents.
- Negligence – a dog owner or keeper is responsible for controlling their dog and preventing it from doing harm to others. To establish liability in negligence; the injured person must prove on a balance of probabilities: (1) that the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured person; (2) that the defendant breached the standard of care of a reasonable person in the circumstances or failed to take reasonable care to prevent the injury; and (3) as a result of that breach, the injured person suffered a reasonably foreseeable injury. Examples of negligence may include inadequate supervision of a dog, permitting a dog to escape from a yard, or failure to follow leash laws.
- Occupiers liability – if dog bite injuries were sustained on someone else’s property, you may have a claim against the property owner or occupier under the provisions of BC’s Occupiers Liability Act. Property owners and occupiers in BC have an obligation to take reasonable care to ensure that people are reasonably safe while on their premises. For example, you may have a claim under the Occupiers Liability Act if you are at a backyard party where the property owner invited guests to bring their dogs, and a dog fight breaks out causing you to be attacked. Or you may have a claim against the property owner if you are bit by a dog while on their premises and then trip or are knocked over and sustain further injuries as a result.
To summarize, it is possible to claim for injuries caused by a dog in both scienter and under the law of negligence, against both the dog owner and its keeper (in other words, whoever harbours and controls the dog), and depending on where the incident took place, you may also be entitled to claim compensation from the owner or occupier of the premises on which the dog bite injury occurred.
Suffered a BC Dog Bite Injury? Get Help from a Top Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has a dog bite claim, having a professional legal representative you can trust can make all the difference. Dog bite claims can be complex. As discussed above, it may be open to an injured person to claim against multiple defendants and using different causes of action to frame their claim. You should also be aware that there are a number of defences that may be raised by a dog owner, keeper of a dog, or property owner. Turn to the personal injury lawyer at Dick Byl Law Corporation in Prince George for trusted legal advice. For the past 36 years, Dick Byl Law Corporation has served Prince George and the surrounding communities in British Columbia. We provide flexible legal consultation and strive to provide prompt assistance in case of an emergency. Call us today at 250-564-3400 or toll-free at 1-800-835-0088 or use our eForm to get in touch.