I’ve Been Bitten by a Dog in British Columbia: What do I do?

Although dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend”, unfortunately this is not always the case.  Some dogs by their nature have the great capability to cause serious injuries, both to people and other animals.  If you are the unfortunate victim of such an incident, it is important to take the proper steps to be sure that your injuries are properly addressed and compensated.

Following the steps below can be important to ensure that the needs of injured parties are adequately addressed.  Some of the most serious personal injuries that occur today can include dog bite injuries. It is not uncommon for persons to suffer serious life-changing injuries at the hands of a dog, including broken bones, soft tissue injuries and other very serious injuries.

In addition to substantial physical injuries, people injured in dog bite attacks often suffer severe emotional distress as a result of these injuries.

Seek medical attention after a dog bite

One of the most important steps to take if you are injured by a dog bite is to seek immediate medical attention for your injuries.  If an injury is severe, it may even be necessary to summon an ambulance and/or law enforcement.

Tests for rabies and other dangerous conditions can be undertaken, and proper treatment can also be given for the wound itself such as vaccinations and antibiotics if necessary.  Time is of the essence in treating these types of injuries which hits home the point of what action steps should be taken in the wake of a dog bite injury.

It is also important to document the bite through medical evidence in the event that further legal action is necessary to properly address the situation and in order to make the victim whole.

-If law enforcement are summoned in order to assist with medical attention or other matters related to a dog bite, it is also helpful if a report can be obtained in order to document the owner of the dog and the location that the dog bite incident occurred.

Report the Injury to the Local Animal Control Office

In addition to seeking medical attention immediately as mentioned above, it is important that a victim of a dog bite promptly contact the local animal control office to report the incident.

Reporting the incident serves as further documentation of the incident and injury and may be important if further legal action is needed. This will help to determine whether or not this is the first time such actions have occurred with the dog in question, which will be an important determining factor in potential legal proceedings and actions.

Reporting the incident will cause Animal Control to undertake a full and complete investigation to determine whether action should be taken against the owner and any additional actions.

If you are the owner of a dog that has bitten someone, you should also contact animal control and also make a report of the incident to your insurers, if you have insurance, which might cover the incident.  Prompt notification of a potential claim is often a prerequisite to successfully securing coverage for an incident.

“One Bite Rule” – Dog Owner Liability for Dog Bites

In British Columbia, a “one bite” rule applies.  What this rule means, with a few exceptions, is that a person who is injured as a result of a dog bite will only be able to succeed in a legal claim against the owner of the dog IF the owner of the dog has knowledge that the dog has bitten another individual previously.  Hence the “one bite rule” concept was coined.

This concept is based on old common law which essentially said that the owner of a domestic animal was not liable for damage done unless the owner had prior knowledge that the animal was vicious.

Clearly if a dog has had a prior instance of biting someone and the owner is aware of it, this standard would be met.  This is something for dog owners to be concerned with if they have a dog that has already bitten someone on one occasion.

It might also be enough to succeed on a claim if the owner had other knowledge that the animal had shown a trait that it could do damage or harm others (For example, if the dog growls at people fiercely without being provoked)

In summary, if the dog in question has previously bitten another person with the owner’s knowledge, legal liability for the damage caused by a subsequent bite can be established under the “one bite” rule.

Negligence Liability

An owner of a dog can also be liable under traditional theories of negligence for failing to exercise reasonable care as it relates to the dog.

For example, if the owner had an unreasonable exercise of care in the handling and housing of the dog (not adequately feeding the dog, treating it in an inhumane way, not allowing the dog adequate exercise time outside, etc)

Other evidence of this type of liability could also be shown by the owner’s violation of applicable laws and regulations – For example, failing to follow the leash law.  If a dog is not leashed when required and the dog then attacks someone while unleashed, this is an example of negligence for failing to exercise reasonable care in the housing and care of the dog and it created the condition that allowed the injury to occur.

Conclusion

If you are the victim of a dog bite injury, it is important to follow the steps above as quickly as possible in terms of seeking medical attention and properly reporting the incident to law enforcement and animal control as needed. It may also be necessary to seek competent legal advice in how to handle the next steps in the process in order to seek adequate compensation for your injuries under either the one bite rule or negligence theories as mentioned above.

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