Canadian Underwriter

This kind of homeowner’s liability claim has real teeth

January 21, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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When a dog bites man, the wounds could be deep and wide for homeowners.

“Pet bites top the list for home insurance liability claims,” reports Dorchester Insurance Brokers Ltd., based near London in the community of Dorchester, Ont.

“Dog bites can range from a simple nip to deep wounds that require surgery or even cases where injuries are permanent.”

A pet bite can result in court awards under several heads of damage, reports SG Injury Law of Ottawa. 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, Dorchester Insurance Brokers wrote in a recent article, The Most Common Home Insurance Liability Claims, on its website.

Moreover, your client does not actually have to own the dog in order to be sued when that dog bites a person, personal injury lawyer Kristoffer Diocampo wrote in an article on the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association web site.

Diocampo quoted Wilk v. Arbour, released in 2018 by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. In Wilk, 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), renders 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,” wrote Diocampo.

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 your client in Ontario alleging a dog bit them, the plaintiff needs to prove only two things, SG Injury Law says. One is that the dog in question bit the plaintiff. The other is that the defendant is the dog “owner” as stipulated in the Dog Owners Liability Act.

“Where there is more than one owner, they are jointly and severally liable.”

The payouts can “vary drastically,” but average around $30,000, reports Conte Jaswal, a Toronto area personal injury law firm with offices in Whitby and Vaughan.

“For those who suffer extreme injuries, the settlement amount can skyrocket to the hundreds of thousands, even reaching the million-dollar mark in some select cases.”

Dorchester Insurance suggests 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, reports Dorchester Insurance.


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