Dog Bites
Dog Bites, Animal Attacks

You can sue for dog bites in Ontario? A Toronto dog bite lawyer explains

Yes, you can sue for a dog bite in Ontario, explains a Toronto dog bite lawyer at Verkhovets Law. The law provides severe consequences for dog attacks, and there’s compensation for your damages.

With more than 230,000 dogs in Toronto and 7.7 million canine pets in Canada –and growing – chances are, you, or a loved one, may suffer a dog bite. This is not meant to be alarmist;  it’s just a balance of probabilities, explain Toronto dog bite lawyers. Each year, there are an estimated 500,000 dog bites nationally – with most victims being children under age 10. 

Many people don’t realize it’s important to contact a Toronto dog bite lawyer after a dog or other animal attack – even if there’s no bite.

What damages can you sue for after a dog bite? 

A Toronto dog bite lawyer will explain to you that this area of personal injury law is clear: the dog owner, defined as the person in charge of the animal at the time of the attack, is responsible. Victims of an dog bite or a dog attack may launch a personal injury claim against the owner for their pecuniary (economic) or non-pecuniary damages.

Pain and Suffering – A Toronto dog bite lawyer will also tell you that non-pecuniary damages are compensation for enduring the pain, stress, anxiety, and other psychological harm caused by the injuries from a small dog bite up to a vicious mauling. The amount of compensation is subjective and linked to injury severity and how much it has affected enjoyment of life.

Further, to make a claim, there is no requirement for an actual bite if a terrified victim suffers trauma from a dog attack – psychological scars (trauma) can be long-term and debilitating.

Medical Complications – Toronto dog bite lawyers understand how medical complications can affect pain and suffering damages amounts. Compensation can vary depending on the type of injury sustained, how quickly or well a victim recovers, and whether there are complications – even if prior ill or poor personal health is a significant factor in delayed recovery.

For example, if a hemophiliac is bitten by a dog and has a severe outcome because of it, they’d be compensated the full amount of suffering compared to someone attacked identically but with fewer complications. 

So, a Paris runway model, 22, with a dog bite and needing 119 stitches, would get maximum compensation because her ability to make a living is affected. While a retiree, 67, needing five stitches would get a fraction of what the model gets.

Other medical complications that could increase the amount of non-pecuniary compensation include:

Rabies – A virus transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal that infects the central nervous system causing death.

Tetanus – Bites can become infected by a bacterium that causes painful muscle contractions. Another term for it is lockjaw. 

Sepsis – When a dog bite gets infected, it can trigger a chain reaction throughout your body leading to sepsis – tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Capnocytophaga – A bacteria that lives in the mouths of animals and can cause infections in humans which lead to kidney failure, heart attack and gangrene.

Medical Expenses – Toronto dog bite lawyers know that any injuries from an attack are paid for by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). But there are often additional expenses (pecuniary damages) not covered by OHIP. You can sue to recoup for physiotherapy, counseling, drugs, loss of income, caregiver, long-term expenses, and other out-of-pocket costs.

After a dog bite injury, should I sue in court or settle privately? 

Toronto dog bite lawyers understand that just like every dog is different, so are lawsuits. Whether you should settle or continue to court is based on your particular dog bite circumstances. Remember: in Ontario, you only have two years to sue under the Limitations Act.

The goal of Toronto dog bite lawyers at Verkhovets Law is always to get you the best compensation.

While most dog bite cases settle, you may have to initiate a lawsuit against the owner for their insurer to take you seriously and move on to settlement. It also helps to put on the table the amount sought proportionate to the severity of injury, loss of enjoyment of life, expenses, and suffering associated with the incident. 

Reasons for settling include: if there’s homeowners’ insurance, you know the owner, your injuries aren’t serious, and it’s clear the owner will pay.

But sometimes, settlement isn’t the best route, and you must go to court. That includes when you’re not happy with the insurer’s settlement offer, very serious or permanent injuries, the owner refuses to pay and doesn’t have insurance, or the owner alleges you caused the dog bite, so wants the amount lowered.

How much is a dog bite injury worth?

Our Toronto dog bite lawyers have experience with these cases and have seen that compensation amounts vary greatly based on the damages sustained – on average, between $3,000–$10,000. But if the injuries are severe, the amount can jump to hundreds of thousands – even $1M.

Dog bite pain and suffering compensation has a $340,000 cap which varies each year to keep up with inflation. There’s no cap on pecuniary damages. 

Factors that weigh into the compensation amounts include the answers to these questions:

  • Will the injury interfere with or impede altogether your ability to earn a living?
  • How bad is the dog bite injury? How much medical treatment do you need?
  • Will there be a permanent scar?
  • How big is the scar?
  • Is the scar(s) visible? What body part is it on?
  • Age of the victim?
  • Are the injuries only physical or there is associated anxiety/trauma/PTSD? 
  • How bad is the anxiety?
  • What were the recommendations of your doctor? Did you follow them?

You need to document all these details by taking photos, keeping a journal, and reporting everything fully and accurately to your doctor or another medical professional. Also, get the owner’s contact information.

Ontario Dog Owner’s Liability Act—a dog bite lawyer in Toronto explains

Dog bite victims in Ontario are safeguarded by the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) which holds the owner of an animal that attacks strictly liable for damages. If there are two owners, they share responsibility equally.

It isn’t always the actual owner at the time of the attack, but rather is the person who had control, including the walker, sitter, or friend. Importantly, it’s not a legal defence if they didn’t know the animal had a predisposition to bite. 

Under the Act, the owner must exercise reasonable precautions to keep it from attacking a person/domestic animal or menacing. If the owner is found to have contravened the law, they are subject to a fine of up to $5,000.

While the law heavily favours a victim, their actions could see the compensation amount lowered if they provoke or commit a criminal act, for example, if your dog bites a burglar in your home, or bites “bad actors” during a home invasion. 

Toronto dog bite lawyers advise that after a bite, seek medical treatment and then report it to police – in Toronto, call 311 for Animal Services. That allows the dog to be evaluated for rabies and other diseases and provides evidence for your case.


Mariya Verkhovets

Over many years of practicing personal injury law, she has helped thousands of injured Canadians. Whether by case settlement, tribunal, or a Court Order, Mariya can help you get the compensation you deserve. She advocates zealously for those whose voices frequently remain not heard. Prior to having her own practice, Mariya articled in a plaintiff-side personal injury firm, and worked there for a number of years after being admitted to the Ontario Bar. She continues to advocate for her clients and represent their interests in various courts and tribunals.