This kind of homeowner’s liability claim has real teeth

If your dog bites someone, the wounds could be deep and wide… not just for the person who was bitten, but for you as the dog’s owner.

A recent article in Canadian Underwriter Magazine suggests that pet bites top the list for home insurance liability claims, from a simple nip to deep wounds that require surgery or even cases where injuries are permanent. Not only that, but a pet bite can result in court awards under several definitions of damage.

An Ontario court could award damages for medical and rehabilitation expenses, loss of income, loss of business opportunity, pain and suffering and out-of-pocket expenses.

While some dog bites are minor, others result in permanent injury or deep wounds requiring surgery, the article stated. Moreover, you don’t actually have to own the dog in order to be sued when that dog bites a person.

In a 2018 Ontario Court of Appeal decision, the court ruled that the definition of “owner,” in the context of a dog-bite lawsuit, is broad. The dog “owners” include anyone who has physical possession or control over the dog.  This means that even simply walking a dog (despite being a non-owner), makes the dog walker ineligible for compensation if the dog bites them. Even worse, the dog walker may be liable for damages if the dog bites someone else while they have possession or control of the dog.

The Ontario Dog Owners Liability Act makes “owners,” under the wide definition, strictly liable when the dog bites another person.

If a plaintiff is suing you in Ontario alleging a dog bit them, they only need to prove two things: one is that the dog in question bit the plaintiff; and the other is that the defendant is the dog “owner” as stipulated in the Dog Owners Liability Act. If there is more than one owner, they are jointly and severally liable.

Payouts can vary drastically, but average around $30,000.  For those who suffer extreme injuries, the settlement amount can skyrocket to the hundreds of thousands, and have even reached the million-dollar mark in a few select cases.

The article suggested cat bites can, in theory, also spawn liability claims. Other common home insurance liability claims include slips and trips (by door-to-door sales reps, guests, or delivery persons), pools, trampolines, limbs falling from trees and falling trees.

 

Source: Canadian Underwriter

 

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