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by our Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer

All drivers in Ontario must be insured and all insurance policies provide for Accident Benefits, which are meant to provide car accident victims with quick access to certain necessities, such as medical treatment and income replacement for unlucky individuals who cannot return to work following a car accident.  These benefits are generally available to all car accident victims, regardless of who caused the car accident, hence the term “no fault”; it does not matter whose fault it is, nearly all car accident victims can make a claim for these benefits.

In a perfect world, the Accident Benefits claim system was meant to be user friendly, and accessible to the public without the need for legal representatives to serve as go-betweens for victims and insurance companies. However, if you take a look at the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, you’ll see a big gap between the vision and the reality; the claims system can be complicated and a qualified legal professional – a lawyer or paralegal – can serve as a trusted guide to guide you through the claims process.

This article will set out the various types of benefits included in a Standard Automobile Insurance policy, as well as the policy limits – how much money is available – under each heading. You should know that auto insurance policy holders can change their policies by making it easier to access certain benefits or increasing the amount of benefits.  They may elect to pay a higher monthly premium to bump-up the policy limits or amount of weekly benefits payable.  If a heading has a asterix (“*”) next to it, you’ll know that policy holders can enhance or change these benefits. What we will discuss here is the standard baseline benefits available to all eligible claimants.

Income Replacement*, Non-Earner, and Caregiver* Benefits

A person who cannot return to work as a result of a car accident may be eligible for income replacement benefits (IRBS), which pay accident victims 70% of their gross income up to a maximum of $400.00 per week. Generally speaking, this benefit is only available to people who were employed on the date of the accident or were working at least 6 of the 12 months immediately preceding the accident.  This benefit is payable so long as an accident victim is unable to return to their own job. However, two years after the accident, the benefit will only be payable if a person is unable to return to any job. Otherwise, the benefit is payable indefinitely, with adjustments made as claimants reach age 65.

A person who was not employed at the time of the accident, but who nonetheless suffers a complete inability to carry on a normal life as a result of the car accident may be entitled to a non-earner benefit of $185.00/week. This benefit is not payable until six months from the date of the car accident. So long as a claimant qualifies for this benefit, it remains payable, with certain adjustments made as claimants reach age 65.

Finally, primary caregivers unable to care for their children may be eligible for caregiver benefits, which will reimburse claimants for expenses they incur hiring others to care for their dependents up to a maximum of $250.00/week for the first child and an additional $50.00 for each subsequent child. Under a standard auto insurance policy, this benefit is only available to people who have suffered a catastrophic impairment. This benefit is payable for two years following the auto accident, following which time, it is only payable if the caregiver suffers a complete inability to carry on a normal life, in which case it may be payable for the duration of an accident victim’s entire life.

Lost Educational Expenses

An insurance company may pay up to $15,000.00 to reimburse car accident victims for tuition, books, equipment and room and board if they have incurred these expenses as part of an education program that they can no longer participate in as a result of the car accident.

Benefits for Damage to Personal Property

Standard policies include provisions that reimburse accident victims for reasonable expenses incurred to repair or replace personal items such as clothing, dentures, hearing aids, prescription eye wear, and any other items a person was wearing that were damaged in an accident.

Attendant Care* and Housekeeping* Benefits

Car accident victims unable to carry out personal care activities, such as grooming, bathing, meal preparation, etc., may apply to have the car insurance company pay for expenses incurred to hire an attendant to assist accident victims with these activities. In order to qualify for this benefit, car accident victims must (1) suffer more than a mere “Minor Injury”; and (2) have an occupational therapist assess a victim’s attendant care needs and submit an assessment and accompanying form to the auto insurance company.

Under standard automobile insurance policies, car accident victims who have not been catastrophically impaired may be entitled to up to two years worth of attendant care benefits of $3,000.00 a month and not more than $36,000.00 in total. Catastrophically impaired claimants may access up to $6,000.00 a month for incurred expenses relating to attendant care up to a maximum of $1million for the duration of their life.

Housekeeping benefits provide reimbursement for expenses incurred for housekeeping services rendered to car accident victims who are unable to complete their pre-accident housekeeping duties. Under standard policies these benefits are only available to car accident victims who have suffered a catastrophic impairment. In that case, the auto insurer may be obligated to pay up to $100.00/week for incurred housekeeping expenses.

Medical and Rehabilitation* Benefits

Car accident victims are entitled to payment of all reasonable and necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses not covered by a private health plan or OHIP. This may include physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic, or psychiatric treatment; a gym membership and sessions with a personal trainer; occupational or vocational therapy; assistive devices such as long handed brooms, shower stools or adjustable beds; and generally any other good, service or treatment that may be reasonable and necessary to reduce or eliminate the effects of an accident related disability or to facilitate a car accident victim’s reintegration into his or her family, society and the labour market.

The Ontario government has determined “most persons injured in car accidents in Ontario sustain minor injuries” and have therefore passed the Minor Injury Guideline (pdf), which limits medical rehabilitation benefits to $3,500.00 for all victims who have sustained a “Minor Injury”, as defined in the Guideline.

Car accident victims that sustain more than a Minor Injury, or are able to convince the insurance company that they are not bound by the Minor Injury Guideline, are eligible to receive up to $50,000.00 in medical and rehabilitation benefits. Catastrophically impaired accident victims may have access to $1 million in medical rehabilitation benefits over the course of their lifetime.

Death and Funeral Expenses

Sadly, car accidents sometimes cause fatalities. When they do, eligible spouses may be entitled to a lump sum payment of $25,000.00. Dependents of the deceased may be eligible to receive lump sum payments of $10,000.00 each.  The auto insurer may also contribute up to $6,000.00 towards a funeral.

Visitors Expenses

Insurers may repay reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by (immediate) family members, including grandparents and grandchildren, to visit the accident victim. Generally, this benefit is only payable for the first 104 weeks following an accident, unless the victim has been catastrophically impaired.

Sounds Simple, right?…

In this article, an attempt was made to make Accident Benefits as simple as possible to understand. In reality, the claims process is not so simple.  Accident victims must first fill out initial applications and make elections with respect to what weekly benefits they may claim, if any, often without knowing much about the process.

Next, submitting claims and receiving repayment for incurred expenses is complicated and takes time, and often, a claimant has already paid money out of pocket and is waiting weeks if not months (or years!) for the insurer to pay them back. More complicated still are the insurers rules regarding proof that expenses are incurred; in the case of housekeeping, caregiving and attendant care, claimants must first be eligible for the benefit (i.e. have purchased enhanced benefits or convinced the insurer that they have more than a Minor Injury), and then have to meet a whole other set of qualifying rules too complex to discuss here.

Similarly, claims for medical and rehabilitation expenses must be made on approved forms prior to receiving any goods, services or treatment. Once submitted, insurers have a right to scrutinize the applications and send claimants for assessments to determine whether the requested goods or services are reasonable and necessary. Then, once claims are denied, car accident victims must navigate the dispute resolution process, which involves mediation and then arbitration or lawsuits, if necessary.

Put simply, there’s rarely anything simple about the claims process and an experienced car accident lawyer can help explain the process to you and provide valuable assistance and advocacy in the event that the insurance company denies any of your claims.

Free Consultations

Our Toronto Personal Injury Lawyers give free consultations to anyone in Ontario.  Simply Ask your question by completing the form and an experienced Toronto personal injury lawyer will call you to answer your question.

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By Toronto Personal Injury Lawyers

While insurance companies will often tell you that they are there for you when you need them most, the plain truth is that if you are involved in a car accident and sue the at-fault driver, an insurance company will nearly always step in to defend the claim.  In these circumstances, the notionally friendly insurance company becomes your adversary.  Put simply, the insurance company is not always your friend. This is a fact you should always bear in mind when sharing information and pictures with your “friends” on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

The case of Kourtesis v. Joris serves as a good example of how insurance companies may “creep” on a plaintiff’s Facebook profile to troll for information to use against you at trial.

Fotini Kourtesis, was one of the plaintiffs in Kourtesis.  She was involved in a car accident as an 18 year old high school student.  She was hit from behind and there was no question that the defendant driver was at fault. The main issue at trial was whether Fotini sustained sufficient injuries to warrant an award for damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

As a result of the accident, Fotini claimed to have suffered injuries to her neck and shoulders as well as memory and concentration problems.  As a result of these injuries, Fotini said, her social life had been ruined.

 Facebook Photos Used in Court

256px-Facebook_icon.svg[1]In the middle of the trial, the defendant’s lawyers gained access to pictures of Fotini that she posted on Facebook.  Possibly, the lawyer gained access through a Facebook friend of Fotini’s.  The Defendant’s lawyers then got an order from the Court allowing them access to more pictures on Fotini’s Facebook account.  The pictures showed, among other things, Fotini partying on St. Patrick’s day three months before the trial.

Fotini was given an opportunity to address the photos at trial and she provided an animated and detailed account of the times and places of the events depicted.  The Court found that the pictures contradicted her allegations regarding her social life being ruined, and that her testimony with respect to the pictures completely undermined her claim to have suffered memory and concentration problems.  Her claim for damages for pain and suffering was dismissed. In sum, the pictures and her explanations of those pictures sunk her case.

 Insurance Company Access to Facebook Photos Not Automatic

Following the decision in Fotini’s case, insurance companies’ lawyers’ requests to access accident victims’ Facebook profiles have been met with mixed success. On the one hand, the Court will not likely ever permit an insurance company full access to a plaintiff’s Facebook profile as much of the information is private and not relevant to the law suit. On the other hand, Courts are willing to conclude that there are likely relevant documents or pictures on a private Facebook account based on the nature of the services Facebook provides.

It seems that a plaintiff in a lawsuit has an obligation to disclose and produce relevant photos and documents on a Facebook account. Photos of a plaintiff sitting next to a pool, for instance, are irrelevant because they don’t prove anything one way or another. On the other hand, photos of an accident victim at the top of Mount Everest or finishing a marathon would certainly be relevant.

Conclusion

What does all this mean to accident victims and what lessons are there to be learned?

First and foremost, if you are the type of person who keeps a public profile, posts updates for the world to see and tends to live tweet every moment of your life, there is very little to learn; the insurance companies will have access to your public profiles and will search for anything useful to reduce the damages on your case.  So, the first lesson is, if you are going to use social media, to keep all of your social network profiles private and viewable only to your “friends” – and not “friends of friends”, which is what caused Fotini all that trouble.

People involved in personal injury lawsuits should certainly be aware that what they post online may end up as evidence in court and, therefore, should be careful not to make statements that are inconsistent with the photos they post online; don’t say you can’t walk for long periods of time and then post pictures of yourself finishing the most recent Tough Mudder or Iron Man competition.

The easiest way to make sure social media doesn’t complicate your case is to unplug from Facebook and other social media sites until your case is over.

Be Truthful

Ultimately, the best way to protect your interests as a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is to be truthful about your limitations and consistent in your actions.


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    Have you been injured?

    Our Toronto personal injury lawyers can help with any of the following:

    • Insurance Disputes,
    • Occupier’s Liability,
    • Long Term Disability,
    • Car Accidents,
    • Boating Accidents,
    • Trucking Accidents,
    • Motorcycle Accidents,
    • Construction Accidents,
    • Sex Abuse,
    • Child Abuse,
    • False Arrest,
    • Malicious Prosecution,
    • Fire Accidents,
    • Brain Injuries,
    • Spinal Chord Injuries,
    • Paraplegic Injuries,
    • Wrongful Death,
    • Dog Bites,
    • Slip and Fall, and
    • Product Liability.

    Our Toronto Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help

    Free Consultations with a Personal Injury Lawyer

    If you would like free legal advice about an injury, then feel free to fill out the form, Free Consultation with a Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer. A qualified Ontario personal injury lawyer who practices personal injury law will contact you to discuss your legal rights as soon as possible.

    By DrOONeil (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Brain Injuries

    Hiring a Toronto Lawyer for a Brain Injury

    A brain injury can often present complex legal and medical issues.  For instance, brain injuries cannot always be seen with conventional medical imaging.  Proving “mild traumatic brain injuries” can present unique challenges, and the injured person should ensure that the law firm that they hire has extensive experience handling these sorts of cases.  Proving the injury can often involve several costly medical assessments, and so injured persons should ensure that the law firm that they hire is financially capable of paying for and carrying those costs, through trial if necessary.

    Brain Injury Effects

    While a brain injury may be described as “mild” in comparison to more debilitating brain injuries, there is generally no such thing as a “mild” brain injury for most people.  The fact is that a mild traumatic brain injury can have far-reaching consequences for the injured person.  The injury could affect the amount of time that the injured person is able to work continuously or efficiently.  The injury could also cause significant fatigue and/or could affect the quality of the injured person’s work.  All of these could potentially have a very real effect on a person’s productivity, their ability to earn income, their relationships, or their ability to carry on a normal life.

    Brain injuries, even mild ones, can cause anger, frustration, difficulties with concentration, memory and other serious problems.  The injured person and their lawyer will have to consider the possible future effects of the injury to ensure that the injured person receives enough compensation to allow the injured person to get the help that they will need in the future.

    Help For People with Brain Injuries

    There is help available to injured persons.  This includes initial legal consultation, medical assistance and other support.  Much of this can often be obtained without payment by the injured person.  If an injured person is considering a lawsuit, it is in their best interests to contact a lawyer immediately to ensure that they do not do anything that prejudices their rights in the future.  As well, they will want to ensure that they take steps before the expiry of any applicable notice and limitation periods.

    Free Consultations with a Toronto Brain Injury Lawyer

    If you or a loved one have a brain injury and would like some legal advice then please submit a Consult a Personal Injury Form and a Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer will contact you right away to discuss your case.

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    Personal Injury News – New Changes to Benefits for Car Accident Victims

    On November 2, 2009, the McGuinty government announced a package of proposed reforms to the accident benefit (no-fault) car insurance system in Ontario. The proposed changes are expected to be implemented by the summer of 2010.

    The proposed changes will considerably reduce the standard benefits available to most people who have been injured in car accidents. Ontarians will still have the option of buying extra coverage when they purchase their car insurance.

    While catastrophically injured car accident victims will be affected by the changes, car accident victims who are deemed to be “non-catastrophic” will face the most notable reductions in benefits. Non-catastrophic car accident victims , in most cases, do not have access to funding for case management, which means that they may well require more accident benefits advice and assistance from social workers, discharge planners and nurses in the period before they retain a lawyer.

    Under the current legislation, there are often disputes about whether the car accident victims is “catastrophically impaired”. The outcome of the disputes are important because of the significantly increased benefits available to catastrophically injured car accident victims.  The number of disputes may well increase as non-catastrophic benefits are reduced.  While some “catastrophic impairments” are easy to identify (ie: quadriplegia), there are many that are not as easy (ie: someone who has sustained a 55% impairment of their whole person). It should be noted that the proposed changes include an, as of yet undefined, amendment to the definition of what “catastrophic” will mean.

    While not all of the changes have been identified yet, some of the significant changes that have been announced for non-catastrophic claimants are:

    *Housekeeping Benefits: Eliminated completely
    *Caregiver Benefits: Eliminated completely
    *Attendant Care Benefits: Cut in half to $36,000 maximum
    *Interest rate penalty to insurers for failure to pay timely benefits: Cut in half
    *Medical/Rehabilitation/Assessment benefits: *Cut by more than half, leaving $50,000 for all medical/rehabilitation and assessment needs.
    *“Minor Injury” Medical/Rehabilitation/Assessment benefits: restricted to $3,500. It remains to be seen how “minor injuries” will be defined

    The current system for car accident benefits provides $100,000 for non-catastrophic medical and rehabilitation needs, plus reasonable amounts for assessment costs requested by the car accident victim.  It also allows injured persons to obtain “rebuttal reports” to reply to insurance company reports that they feel are unfair. Funding for rebuttal reports will be completely eliminated under the proposed changes.

    Although $50,000 may be more than enough to satisfy the medical, rehabilitation and assessment needs of many car accident victims, there will likely be other cases where the available benefits are used up before the patient’s needs are satisfied. Further, because some patients are not deemed catastrophic until quite some time after the accident, there may well be car accident victims whose benefits expire before they reach the point where they can even meet the definition of being catastrophic.

    While catastrophically injured persons will continue to have access to one million dollars for medical and rehabilitation benefits, the cost of assessments will now be deducted from that amount.

    The assessment funding changes are significant because of the cost of assessments, the long wait to obtain specialist appointments through OHIP and the frequent need to reply to reports obtained by insurance companies. There will have to be a calculated balance between the need for no-fault assessment funding and the need to fund treatment.

    Non-catastrophic car accident victims , especially those without a personal injury lawyer, may need guidance from social workers, nurses and discharge planners about what type of assessments are vital and may also need other advice about how best to meet their treatment needs while conserving their medical and rehabilitation benefit limits.

    If a car accident victim has a viable lawsuit against the persons who caused the car accident, the assessments could potentially be funded by the claimant’s personal injury lawyer and claimed for in the lawsuit, freeing up the full no-fault medical and rehabilitation limits for treatment.

    The proposed changes will place increased importance on the availability of a lawsuit against the people who caused the car accident.  If a car accident victim needs exceed the available no-fault benefits, car accident victims can, in many circumstances, still pursue compensation as part of a lawsuit against the people who caused the car accident. However, car accident victims will have to wait until the successful completion of a lawsuit to get the money necessary to pay for their treatment or assistance with tasks of daily living. This may lead to an increased number of car accident victims who undergo treatment, or receive assistance, on the promise to pay for it upon settlement or resolution of their lawsuit.

    If you would like free legal advice about an injury, then feel free to fill out the form, Free Consultation with a Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer

    This article is intended to offer general comments on legal developments of concern to individuals, business and legal professionals and is not intended to provide legal opinions. Readers should seek legal advice on the particular issues that concern them. © Zvulony & Company. P.C. August 2006.

    Personal Injury FAQs

    What Type of Accidents or Assaults Can I Sue For?

    personal injury lawyer can help with any of the following: Insurance Disputes, Occupier’s Liability, Long Term Disability, Car Accidents, Boating Accidents, Trucking Accidents, Motorcycle Accidents, Construction Accidents, Sex Abuse, Child Abuse,  False Arrest, Malicious Prosecution,  Fire Accidents, Brain Injuries,  Spinal Chord Injuries,  Paraplegic Injuries, Wrongful Death, Dog Bites, Slip and Fall, and Product Liability.
    personal injury lawyer can examine the causes of an injury and determine whether someone should be held responsible for the injury..  A personal injury lawyer can also help assess the amount of money that is likely to be recovered.
    There are a number of cases and statutes that could be important in analysing who is responsible for someone’s injuries. For instance, if someone becomes intoxicated at a bar and are then injured while driving, they may be entitled to claim compensation against the bar.  Other examples could include property owners or municipalities that do not have appropriate safety measures or snow and ice maintenance in place on their properties or roads.
    Even if someone were injured outside of Ontario or Canada,  they may be able to start a lawsuit here in Ontario. People who live outside of Ontario may also be allowed to start a lawsuit here.

    What Types of Injuries Can be Sued For?

    An injured person may be entitled to compensation. Some injuries cause broken bones, some cause internal injuries, some cause soft-tissue strains and tears, and others cause psychological trauma. Psychological trauma or soft-tissue injuries can often devastate someone’s ability to work, and their life in general.
    Just because some injuries are more difficult to prove than others, that does not mean that the injured person should be denied compensation. A knowledgeable and experienced lawyer can often gather the necessary evidence to prove the merits of your case.

    Who Can I Sue?

    An injured person should discuss the specific facts of their case with a personal injury lawyer. Suing the correct parties is very important. Often, injury victims are not immediately aware of everyone that had a role in causing their injuries.
    Also, injury victims are sometimes worried about suing others, until they find out that the other person will be covered by insurance. For instance, a husband may be driving his wife when he causes an accident – the wife may be entitled to sue her husband through his car insurance policy. Another example could be where you and your friend are at a baseball game and she accidentally trips you – in that case you may be able to sue your friend and recover through her home insurance policy.

    How Long Do I Have to Start a Lawsuit?

    If a personal injury lawsuit is not started fast enough then the law may prevent the lawsuit from continuing due to the passing of a limitation period.  In 2004 a new Limitations Act came into force in Ontario that changed how long you have to start a lawsuit. Some cases are now governed by the old limitation periods, some by the new limitation periods, and some by “transition rules”. In some cases, limitation periods can be extended.  Knowing the limitation period is a crucial piece of knowledge that an injured person should know.  If you have been injured it is very important to speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

    How Much Does it Cost to Speak to a Lawyer About my Case?

    Our Toronto personal injury lawyer gives free initial consultations to anyone who fills out the free consultation form.

    How Much Would a Lawyer Charge to Handle My Lawsuit?

    A lawyer’s fees depend on the lawyer and the complexity of the case. Our personal injury lawyers work on many cases where they are paid a percentage of their recovery at the end of the case. In those cases, the lawyer is not paid during the lawsuit, and often finances all of the disbursements, such as expert reports, investigators, and ongoing costs of the lawsuit as well. Often, the injured person does not pay anything during the course of the personal injury lawsuit.

    How Much Money Can I Get From A Lawsuit?

    This all depends. In Ontario, the amount of money awarded for an injury depends upon how the injury impacts on a number of areas of the injured’s life. For instance, if a famous piano player suffered a broken hand, they might receive more money than someone with the same injury whose hands are not as important for their job (like a lawyer).  A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to develop your personal injury claim in accordance with the law.

    How Long Will the Lawsuit Take?

    Generally speaking, the larger and more complex the personal injury lawsuit is, the longer it may take. Our lawyers will do everything that they can to resolve a personal injury case quickly and fairly.  Sometimes, defendants (such as insurance companies) will not pay fair compensation until shortly before or sometimes even during a trial. Sometimes an injured person has to proceed through a trial. Other times a lawsuit can be settled relatively quickly.  Timing can often depend on your expectations, and the defendant’s views.  Some cases can be settled very quickly while others can take several years.

    Which Lawyer Should I Hire?

    An injured person should hire a lawyer who focuses mainly on personal injury cases.  The law of personal injury is very complex  and not all lawyers are competent to practice personal injury law.  An injured person will want to hire a lawyer that has court room experience in personal injury law and also knows how insurance companies operate.  An injured person should also inquire about the lawyer’s track record and the law firm’s ability to afford the significant costs of medical and liability experts that may be necessary.   Most of all, an injured person should hire a lawyer that will communicate with the client during  all steps of the litigation process.   Our personal injury lawyers meet the above criteria.  Feel free to contact them for a free consultation.

    Will I have to go to Court?

    The overwhelming majority of personal injury lawsuits started in Ontario settle without a trial. In rare cases the parties cannot agree on a settlement and a trial is necessary.  During the course of litigation, the lawyer(s) for the other side(s), will typically have an opportunity to question the injured injured person about their claim; this is done out of court, is recorded,  and is  called an examination for discovery.  An injured person should hire a lawyer that is willing to go to trial if necessary, but also one that will listen to the client and take instructions.

    Free Consultations

    Our Toronto Personal Injury Lawyers give free consultations to anyone in Ontario.  Simply Ask your question by completing the form and an experienced Toronto personal injury lawyer will call you to answer your question.

    By U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Anthony Sanchelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Dog Bites and the Law

    Dogs, it is said, are man’s best friend. But a dog can turn into someone’s worst enemy with just one bite. When a dog bites someone, the victim may understandably want to take legal action. But for obvious reasons, it is hard to sue or indict a dog. The one who must be the target of any legal action, then, is the dog’s owner – but when is an owner liable for a dog’s biting or attacking someone, and what are the remedies for an individual who has been bitten or attacked? This article will address these questions within the context of the laws of Ontario.

    For many years, there was not any legislation regarding dog bites, and the legal doctrine on the issue was ruled entirely by common law. The general rule was that an owner could be liable for a dog’s behaviour, but there was also a saying that “every dog is entitled to one bite” – which meant that if an owner did not have any way of knowing that his or her dog had a tendency to bite, he or she would not be liable for the first time the dog bit someone.

    Liability under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act

    However, most provinces have replaced this unsatisfactory premise with specific legislation. In Ontario, dog bite incidents are governed by the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (R.S.O. 1990, Chapter D.16). It states that when a dog bites or attacks a person or another pet, the dog’s owner is liable for any damages that result. If the dog has more than one owner, then both or all the owners are equally liable.

    Under this law, the person who suffered the damage does not have to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent or that the dog’s behaviour was in any way caused by the owner.  Nor does the owner have to have any knowledge of the dog’s propensity for biting people, which he or she required under the old “one bite” rule. All that must be shown under the legislation is that the dog bit or attacked someone, and the owner is automatically liable for the dog’s actions, it is said that the dog owner in these scenarios is held to “strict liability”.

    The Dog Owner’s Liability Act contains an important exception for a dog that protects its owner’s property. S. 3(2) says that if a person gets bitten or attacked by a dog while trying to commit a crime, the dog’s owner is not liable “unless the keeping of the dog on the premises was unreasonable for the purpose of the protection of persons or property.”

    Damages

    With regard to awarding damages, the law states that the judge should take the owner’s fault into account when calculating damages and may increase or reduce the damages depending on the defendant’s degree of contribution to the dog’s actions. For example, if the owner was negligent in failing to hold back the dog, or ignored the dog’s tendency to bite people, then he or she will have to pay more damages than an owner whose actions or lack thereof did not contribute to the dog’s behaviour.

    If the accident was caused in part by the negligence of the victim – say, the victim provoked the dog – then the judge may reduce the damages by the amount the victim is deemed to be at fault; for example, if the judge believes that the victim was 30% responsible for the damages incurred, then the damages will correspondingly be reduced by 30%.

    If someone else, other than the owner and the victim, was responsible for the dog’s actions (for example, someone who was entrusted to watch the dog and then failed to do so), then it is still the owner who is liable to pay damages.  However, the owner can then require that other person to compensate them for their portion of the damages.

    Other Remedies

    Under the Act, a court can also order an owner to take more control over a biting dog or even get rid of the dog altogether. The consequences for an owner will depend on what the dog has done and on the owner’s conduct or lack thereof. If the court decides that the dog is a menace to the safety of the public, it can order that the dog be destroyed. Or it can allow the dog to remain alive, but order the owner to take more precautions to protect the public from the dog.

    Also, the Act contains a very vaguely-worded provision that the court may order the owner of a biting dog to “take the measures specified in the order for the more effective control of the dog or for purposes of public safety.” Because of the vague wording, this means in practice that if a dog has bitten someone, a court can make all sorts of unusual orders in the name of “public safety,” even to the point of declaring the owner ineligible to own a dog for a period of time. In a recent case, R. v. Brenhouse [2004] O.J. No. 4818, the owner of two unruly dogs not only was told that the dogs would have to be destroyed, but that she would be prohibited from owning a dog for five years after that. (The court found her unfit to own a dog, in part, because she had ignored a previous order to take precautions to prevent those dogs from hurting anyone.) The order was upheld on appeal. So it appears that it is sometimes possible to make sure that a negligent dog owner will not buy another, equally uncontrolled dog.

    Conclusion

    The dog bite laws in Ontario are clear.  Owners of dogs who bite will in the overwhelming majority of cases be liable to the victim for damages.