A nice walk in the park quickly turns into a nightmare when your dog bites a passerby.

Fortunately, the bystander was unharmed, and you both went your separate ways. But ever since the incident, a question has been burning through your mind: who is responsible for the injuries sustained from a dog bite?

You? The victim? A third party?

In this article, MedLegal’s team of personal injury lawyers covers the subject.

Personal Injury and dog bites: what the law says

According to the law, any animal that causes bodily, material or moral harm can incur the liability of its owner or the person who has custody of it.

Article 1466 of the Civil Code of Quebec states the following:

“The owner of an animal is bound to make reparation for injury it has caused, whether the animal was under his custody or that of a third person, or had strayed or escaped.

A person making use of the animal is also, during that time, liable therefor together with the owner.”

Bodily harm and dog bites: who is responsible?

The owner

As the owner of the animal, you are therefore responsible when your dog bites someone and causes bodily harm to the victim.

You may be held liable for personal injury when:

  • Your dog is under your care
  • Your dog is in the custody of a third party
  • Your dog has escaped or gotten lost

The law therefore provides a no-fault liability regime for dog owners.

A person who suffers bodily injury because of a dog bite does not have to prove that you personally committed an offence. The victim must only prove that your dog, which you own, caused the injury.

As the dog’s owner, you will not be held responsible for personal injury suffered by the victim if you are able to demonstrate that the fault is attributable to the victim, a third party or an event or series of events qualified as force majeure or acts of God.

The guardian

Any person who has custody, control, or supervision of a dog at the time the bite occurs may also be held liable with the owner for any personal injury caused by the animal.

When a dog owner entrusts his or her pet to a third party — a relative, neighbor, colleague, etc. — a transfer of responsibility occurs to the person who has temporary custody of the animal.

However, the owner of the dog also remains jointly responsible for any bodily harm suffered because of a bite.

The victim

The victim of a dog bite benefits from a presumption of liability towards the owner or guardian of the animal.

The owner or guardian of the dog will be presumed responsible for any personal injury suffered if the victim is bitten. The exemption of responsibility of the owner or guardian will only be made when it can be shown that the bodily injury was caused by the victim, by a third party or by force majeure.

For example, if the evidence shows that the victim provoked the animal’s behaviour that caused bodily harm, the owner cannot be held responsible or the owner could only be required to compensate the victim for a portion of the damages suffered – this is called shared responsibility.

At the same time, if the evidence establishes that the victim contributed to the personal injury suffered, there will be shared responsibility.

To be entitled to legal recourse against the owner of a dog, the victim must prove the following:

  • Establish who the dog’s owner or user is
  • Demonstrate the personal injury suffered
  • Establish the causal link between the bodily harm suffered and the autonomous act of the animal

Personal injuries from dog bites: defending and asserting your rights

As a dog owner, you need to be extremely vigilant because a nice walk could bring you a lot of trouble if your dog bites another person.

If you or someone close to you has been bitten by a dog, we invite you to contact us. Our firm offers a legal service entirely dedicated to personal injury and we are experienced in this type of legal recourse.

If you want to learn more about the legal world and how it works, visit our blog section. We regularly add articles of interest.

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