Understanding Liability and Coverage: When Your Dog’s Actions Lead to Legal Consequences
Many of us have dogs as family pets and over the course of our relationships with our furry friends we understand the signs and signals they exhibit when they are happy, scared, startled, stressed or sick. However, not everyone knows the various signals a dog may exhibit. There are times where they may act unexpectedly for various reasons. Unfortunately, it is possible your family pet can get out of your yard or be reactionary and bite someone attending your home or walking down the street. If your dog attacks someone, regardless of how the incident occurred, you could be liable for the injuries that result from the incident. As a result of the incident, the victim could sue for damages.
Legal Liability for Dog Attacks: Damages
If you are sued, the claim against you may include both general and special damages.
General damages are damages that are not quantifiable and typically pertain to the injuries. This includes pain and suffering as well as scarring and psychological injuries. The way that general damages are quantified is through looking at other decided cases. Where the courts have made decisions that include similar injuries. It is difficult to find injuries that are identical to each situation. As such, counsel will research case law with similar but lesser injuries, similar but more significant injuries and possibly a couple others. Depending on the age of the cases researched, counsel may have to calculate what the general damages would have been if they happened today by applying inflation. Courts will use the researched cases as a guideline to determine the value of general damages in the case they are dealing with.
Special damages are those that are quantifiable. They can include loss of income, loss of housekeeping capacity, the cost of care and any other out of pocket expenses that you may incur as a result of the injuries.
Loss of Income
Loss of income is the amount that is claimed if a person is forced to take unpaid days off from work due to the injuries they sustained. Sometimes a person may have to take several days or months off of work due to their injuries. In other cases they may only have to take partial days off to attend doctor appointments or treatment appointments. Regardless of how much time a person has to take off of work as a result of their injuries, if they do not receive compensation for the time they have had to take off, then they can make a claim for loss of income.
Loss Of Housekeeping
Loss of housekeeping capacity pertains to when a person is not able to do certain indoor or outdoor chores or maintenance around their home. In other words, if someone was not able to do certain household tasks and someone else had to do the tasks that person would normally do, then the individual can make a claim for the time it took someone else to do those tasks in their stead. Alternatively, if they hire someone to do those tasks, then they can make a claim for the resulting invoices.
For example, if a person would mow their lawn every Sunday and it would normally take them an hour, but due to their injuries they could not do that for 8 weeks and someone else in their household had to do it or they had to hire someone to do it, then they could make a claim for 8 hours or for the invoice for hiring someone.
Cost of Care
The cost of care includes any treatment a person has to pay for out of pocket, as a result of the injuries from the incident. This can include costs to try to recover from their injuries as well as any medication or medical devices they have to purchase as a result of their injuries. If it is necessary to attend physiotherapy, massage, or the chiropractor, and the individual has to pay for the services out of pocket, then they can make a claim for reimbursement. Some medical devices may include tensor bandages, crutches, or even hearing aids.
However, a person can also seek compensation for items outside of the cost of care, which include any other expenses resulting from the incident and injuries that they incur out of pocket. This can include the cost of parking for attending appointments, gas, or possibly the cost of taking a cab to appointments due to not being able to drive.
If you are a victim of an incident, one thing to remember is that there is an obligation to mitigate your damages by trying to get better and taking steps to recover in a timely manner. If there is a failure to mitigate damages by seeking treatment, then the amount that you may receive through settlement or judgment could be lower due to contributory negligence. This means that a person failed to take appropriate steps to try to recover, so the injuries persisted longer than necessary, so they should not receive the full amount they would have otherwise been entitled. However, there can be an exception if the person cannot afford to treat their injuries beyond going to their family doctor.
Depending on the type of dog, the level of injuries can vary broadly, but can be very severe, which we have seen in the news over the past year. Often, rental insurance and home insurance policies will provide personal liability coverage for unintentionally caused personal injury. Fortunately, for homeowners and renters who have dogs, some rental insurance and home insurance policies may provide coverage should our dogs injure someone.
Check Your Insurance Policy
When you are shopping for a home or rental insurance policy, you will want to check to see if there is coverage should your dog cause injury to someone. In the general policy, if there is no personal liability coverage pertaining to your pet, then you can ask for an endorsement to extend coverage by changing the terms of the original policy. The endorsement can often be provided at the time of purchase for an additional amount that would be added to the premium.
If you have an insurance policy that covers you should your pet attack someone, then you should be aware of some of the potential nuances within with your policy. Some insurance companies deem certain breeds of dogs as having a higher propensity for inherent aggressive behaviour, which can cause your premiums to increase. In some instances, the policy can include exceptions where the coverage for personal liability will not extend to certain dog breeds. As such, before purchasing a family pet, it is wise to check with your home insurance provider to find out what dog breeds can cause your home insurance premiums to increase. Furthermore, the policy may only apply to whether the dog bite occurred on your property.
As insurance policies may be confusing for many people, you should consult with your broker if you have questions about a policy. Should your pet attack someone then you should report it to your insurance and if you are the victim of a dog attack, then you are welcome to contact our office to have a consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.
We Can Help!
Remember, as pet owners you have an obligation to protect others as well as our furry friends from situations that may cause harm. Call us today at 403-225-8810 or email us directly here to schedule a free consultation.