Have you been bitten by a dog while out for a walk and want to file a complaint but don’t know how? Maybe you’re the owner of the dog and you don’t know what will happen next? Regardless of your situation, you probably have a lot of questions.

In this article, MedLegal’s team of personal injury lawyers covers the topic. Find out what the law says about dog bites, who is deemed responsible for the incident, and the procedures for filing a complaint and claiming compensation.

What Quebec’s civil code says about dog bites

According to Quebec 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 Québec 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 responsible if your dog bites someone and causes bodily harm to the victim.

You can 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 the use of the animal, i.e. who has custody or control of the animal, or is responsible for supervising the animal 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

What to do if you suffer a dog bite, and how to file a complaint

1. Gather evidence

At the time of the incident, if you are able, you should take photos of your injuries, the damage, the dog, and the scene of the attack. Take down the contact information of the dog owner or the person who was responsible for the animal at the time. Also note the names of any witnesses.

2. Consult a doctor

The first thing to do if you’ve been bitten by a dog is to consult a doctor or go to the emergency room, depending on the extent of your injuries. A healthcare professional will make an official diagnosis and produce a medical report. Keep these documents to use as evidence. You should also keep all bills for related care, as you could receive compensation to cover these expenses.

3. Contact your insurance company

Your insurance may cover some medical expenses and property damage. That’s why it’s important to contact your insurer quickly. In other cases, the pet owner’s home insurance or liability insurance could compensate you for damages such as lost wages or pain caused by the incident, for example.

4. Formal notice

To start the process of making a claim, send a letter of formal notice to the owner of the dog that bit you. This letter should explain the damage you have sustained in detail and how much of it is attributable to their dog. State the type and amount of financial compensation you expect. And finally, indicate how much time they have to accept your request. It is recommended that you send a letter of formal notice before taking further legal steps, as the legal process for making a claim for a dog bite can take a long time. Keep in mind that the owner of the dog is presumed responsible, so it will often be to their advantage to accept your initial request for compensation.

5. Investigation by the dog owner’s insurer

Once the letter of formal notice has been received by the dog’s owner, their insurance company should contact you. Often, home insurance policies include liability coverage that will cover damage caused by pets. The insurer will investigate to confirm that the owner is responsible. At this point, you will need to provide the various pieces of evidence that you have gathered. In the long run, if the insurer finds a plausible link between the damage declared and the dog bite, the insurer will pay you a sum of money. If this amount is acceptable, you will have no need to make a legal claim.

6. Filing a complaint and making claim following a dog bite

If the dog’s owner does not respond to the formal notice on time or does not agree with your terms, you can take legal action. The same applies if the amount offered by the insurer is not deemed sufficient.

How long does it take to file a claim for a dog bite?

If you’re considering filing a claim for a dog bite, you need to respect the Quebec statute of limitations. The time limit for filing a civil liability lawsuit is generally three years from the date of the incident. In other words, you have three years after the date of the bite to file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner and claim compensation.

This is important because, if you wait too long, your may lose your right to sue, making it more difficult, if not impossible, to get compensation for your injuries or damage to your property. There are a few exceptions, but they are rare. It is important not to take any risks and to consult a lawyer promptly if you are the victim of a dog bite.

To be certain that you can make your claim in time, seek medical attention as soon as possible after the bite. Keep all documents related to the incident, including medical bills, photos of your injuries, and the dog owner’s contact information. Get in touch with a dog bite attorney for legal advice. By following these tips, you’ll increase your chances of being fairly compensated for the damage caused by the attack.

How to prove that you’ve suffered bodily injury from a dog bite

To make a liability claim against the owner of the pet that bit you, you have to prove that you have been injured. To do this, you need to consult a doctor, who will verify whether you have suffered physical and/or psychological injury. A medical professional can prepare an official report that you can use to determine the type and amount of compensation you are entitled to.

What compensation can I claim following a dog bite?

The type of compensation you can claim depends on the extent of the personal or moral injury you have suffered. You are entitled to compensation following a dog bite for a variety of reasons, such as if you experience:

  • Physical or psychological suffering
  • Medical expenses incurred as a result of the bite
  • Permanent sequelae (pathological condition resulting from the attack)
  • Cosmetic damage
  • An inability to perform daily tasks
  • Stress caused by the event that leads to a decrease in enjoyment of life
  • A loss of income due to an incapacity to work as a result of the incident.

Any claim for compensation following a dog bite will be subject to an analysis of your personal situation and the damage you have suffered. An appropriate amount of compensation will be calculated based on a thorough review of your circumstances. Each situation is unique and calculations are done on a case-by-case basis. A dog bite lawyer can help you determine the type and amount of compensation you can legitimately claim.

What to do if your dog is bitten by another dog

When a dog attacks another dog, the same rules apply. In the case of dog bites, it does not matter if the victim is an animal. The owner or caretaker is liable even if they have not committed any fault. Nonetheless, the owner of the aggressor dog may try to limit their liability by claiming that the victim was at fault or they had no control over the event. The damage caused by a dog attack can be significant, and may include veterinary bills, post-attack care, anxiety, and psychological damage to the dog owner(s).

Trust a dog bite lawyer to help you assert 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.

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