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Dog Bite Claims in Toronto: How to Prepare for Small Claims Court


dog bite small claims court


No one ever expects to be the victim of a dog bite, but when it happens, the physical and emotional trauma can be severe. In Toronto, the law is clear: dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries caused by their pets. If you or a loved one has been bitten, you have the right to pursue compensation through the small claims court system. However, navigating the legal process can be daunting, which is why this comprehensive guide is here to help.

Imagine you’re out for a leisurely stroll in your neighborhood when suddenly, an unleashed dog charges at you, biting your leg and causing significant injuries. The owner, who was nowhere in sight, finally arrives and brushes off the incident as “no big deal.” Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common, and the consequences can be severe, ranging from physical scars to emotional distress and mounting medical bills.

Thesis: Pursuing a dog bite claim through Toronto’s small claims court system can be a complex and intimidating process, but with the right knowledge and preparation, you can increase your chances of receiving the maximum compensation you deserve. This guide will provide an in-depth look at understanding liability laws, gathering evidence, filing a claim, and effectively presenting your case to achieve a successful outcome.

Dog Owners’ Liability in Ontario: Understanding the Law

In Ontario, dog owners are held strictly liable for any injuries caused by their pets under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. This means that even if the owner claims they had no prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive behavior, or that the victim somehow provoked the attack, the owner is still responsible. The only exceptions to this rule are:

  1. If the victim was willfully trespassing on the owner’s property at the time of the bite.
  2. If the victim was voluntarily participating in a potentially dangerous activity involving the dog, such as dog fighting or dog training.

It’s important to note that the statute of limitations for filing a dog bite claim in Ontario is two years from the date of the incident. If you fail to file within this timeframe, you may lose your right to pursue compensation.

dog bite claim Toronto

When to File a Dog Bite Claim in Small Claims Court

The small claims court system in Toronto is designed to handle civil disputes where the total amount claimed is $35,000 or less. For dog bite claims, this includes compensation for:

  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Lost wages due to time off work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Potential future treatments or procedures

Filing in small claims court offers several advantages over superior court, such as:

  • Lower filing fees
  • Simpler procedures
  • Faster resolution (typically within a year)

However, it’s crucial to remember that if your total damages exceed $35,000, you must file in superior court instead.

Before filing a claim, it’s advisable to explore alternative dispute resolution options, such as:

  1. Negotiation: Contacting the dog owner directly and attempting to reach a settlement agreement.
  2. Mediation: Involving a neutral third-party mediator to facilitate a resolution.

If these methods fail, you can proceed with filing a claim in small claims court.

Preparing a Solid Dog Bite Claim

To build a strong case, it’s essential to gather as much evidence as possible. This includes:

  • Medical Records: Detailed documentation of all injuries, treatments, and associated costs.
  • Witness Statements: Written accounts from anyone who witnessed the incident, including contact information.
  • Photographs/Videos: Visual evidence of the injuries, the scene of the attack, and the offending dog (if possible).
  • Lost Wage Documentation: Proof of missed work and lost income due to the incident.

It’s also crucial to document any non-economic damages, such as:

When calculating the compensation amount to claim, be sure to include both economic damages (medical expenses, lost wages) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering). While there is no set formula for determining non-economic damages, it’s common practice to claim a multiple of the economic damages based on the severity of the case.

For example, if your economic damages total $10,000, you may claim an additional $20,000 for pain and suffering, bringing your total dog bite compensation amount to $30,000.

There are various online dog bite claim calculators available that can provide an estimate of the potential compensation amount based on the details of your case. However, it’s important to note that these calculators are merely guidelines, and the actual amount awarded may vary depending on the specific circumstances and the judge’s discretion.

The Small Claims Court Process Step-by-Step

  1. Filing the Claim: You’ll need to complete a Plaintiff’s Claim form and submit it to the court, along with the required filing fee (typically around $100).
  1. Serving the Defendant: Once your claim is filed, you must serve the defendant (the dog owner) with a copy of the claim and a Notice of Plaintiff’s Claim. This can be done by mail or in person.
  1. Defendant’s Response: The defendant has 20 days to file a Defense form with the court, outlining their side of the story and any applicable defenses.
  1. Settlement Conference: Before proceeding to trial, both parties will attend a mandatory settlement conference, where a third-party mediator will attempt to facilitate a resolution.
  1. Trial: If no settlement is reached, the case will proceed to trial, where both parties will present their evidence and arguments before a judge or deputy judge.
  1. Judgment: The judge or deputy judge will render a decision, determining if the plaintiff is entitled to compensation and, if so, how much.

Throughout the process, it’s essential to follow proper courtroom etiquette, such as:

  • Dressing professionally
  • Addressing the judge respectfully
  • Remaining composed and avoiding emotional outbursts

Settlement Conferences in Dog Bite Cases

Settlement conferences are a crucial step in the small claims court process, as they provide an opportunity for both parties to negotiate a resolution outside of the courtroom. The benefits of reaching a settlement include:

  • Avoiding the stress and uncertainty of a trial
  • Saving time and legal fees
  • Maintaining control over the outcome

During the settlement conference, a neutral third-party mediator will facilitate discussions and help both parties find common ground. It’s essential to approach these negotiations with a realistic mindset, willing to compromise while still advocating for fair compensation for your dog bite injury.

If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. However, even at this stage, it’s still possible to continue negotiating and potentially reach an agreement before the trial date.

Small Claims Court 

Taking Your Dog Bite Case to Trial

If your case proceeds to trial, it’s crucial to present your evidence in a clear and compelling manner. This may include:

  • Providing detailed medical records and testimony from healthcare providers
  • Submitting photographs or videos of the injuries and incident
  • Calling witnesses to corroborate your account of events

You’ll also need to be prepared to respond to the defendant’s arguments and any defenses they may raise. This could involve cross-examining the defendant or their witnesses, or presenting evidence to counter their claims.

Throughout the trial, it’s essential to maintain a professional and composed demeanor. Avoid emotional outbursts or aggressive behavior, as this could undermine your credibility with the judge or deputy judge.

Maximizing Your Chances of a Successful Outcome

While it’s possible to represent yourself in small claims court, retaining the services of a skilled dog bite lawyer can significantly increase your chances of a successful outcome. An experienced attorney can:

  • Ensure you meet all filing deadlines and procedural requirements
  • Advise you on the appropriate compensation amount to claim
  • Negotiate effectively on your behalf during settlement conferences
  • Persuasively present your case at trial

In cases involving minors, it’s crucial to understand the concept of parental responsibility. Under the Parental Responsibility Act, parents can be held liable for any injuries or damages caused by their children. This means that if a child is bitten by a dog, the claim may be filed against both the dog owner and the child’s parents.

Another important consideration is pre-judgment interest. In Ontario, successful plaintiffs are entitled to interest on the awarded amount, calculated from the date the claim was issued until the date of the judgment. This interest rate is set by the Courts of Justice Act and can add a significant amount to your total compensation.

After the Ruling – Next Steps

If you are successful in your dog bite lawsuit settlement, the next step is to collect the awarded compensation from the defendant. In some cases, this may involve:

  • Garnishing the defendant’s wages or bank accounts
  • Placing a lien on the defendant’s property  
  • Seeking assistance from a civil enforcement agency

If you are unsatisfied with the court’s ruling, you have the option to appeal the decision within 30 days of the judgment date. However, it’s important to note that appeals are typically only granted in cases where there was a legal error or if the decision was clearly unreasonable based on the evidence presented.

The appeals process can be complex, so it’s highly recommended to consult with a lawyer experienced in dog bite cases to determine if you have grounds for an appeal and to guide you through the proper procedures.

Regardless of the outcome, pursuing a dog bite injury claim can have far-reaching implications beyond just compensation. By holding negligent dog owners accountable, you may help prevent future incidents and encourage greater responsibility among pet owners in the community.

Additionally, a successful claim can help cover the costs of any ongoing medical treatments or therapies required to fully recover from the physical and emotional trauma of the attack.

Here is a case study highlighting the importance of pursuing a dog bite claim:

Case Study: John’s Dog Bite Settlement

John was visiting a friend’s house when their dog suddenly attacked him, causing severe lacerations to his arm and leg. After seeking medical attention and incurring over $10,000 in hospital bills, John decided to file a dog bite claim in small claims court.

With the help of a skilled lawyer, John was able to gather compelling evidence, including witness statements from his friend and their neighbor who witnessed the attack. During the settlement conference, the dog owner initially tried to blame John for provoking the dog, but ultimately agreed to a settlement of $25,000 to cover John’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Thanks to his diligence in pursuing the claim, John was able to recover the compensation he deserved and hold the negligent dog owner accountable for their actions.

Get the Compensation You Deserve with Experienced Legal Representation

After enduring the trauma of a dog bite incident, the last thing you want to deal with is navigating the complex legal system alone. That’s where our team at Claim Settlement comes in. 

Unparalleled Expertise in Personal Injury Cases

Our network of personal injury lawyers boasts over 30 years of collective experience in successfully handling personal injury and accident cases, securing millions of dollars in settlements for our clients. We understand the intricacies of dog bite claims and the small claims court process, giving you the best chance at receiving the maximum compensation you deserve.

Contingency-Based Representation: No Upfront Fees

At Claim Settlement, we believe that everyone should have access to top-notch legal representation, regardless of their financial situation. That’s why we offer complimentary initial consultations and operate on a contingency-fee basis, meaning you won’t incur any fees until our lawyers have secured a favorable settlement or award on your behalf.

Your Road to Recovery Starts Here

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite in Toronto, don’t delay in seeking legal assistance. Reach out to us at  1-833-892-5246 for a no-obligation consultation, or email us at Our team will review your case, advise you on the best course of action, and fight tirelessly to ensure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve.


Yes, under Ontario's strict liability laws, dog owners are responsible for injuries caused by their pets, regardless of whether the incident occurred on their property or in a public area.

The timeline can vary depending on the complexity of the case, but most small claims court cases in Toronto are resolved within 6-12 months.

Even if you were partially at fault, you may still be entitled to compensation under the principle of contributory negligence. Our lawyers can assess your case and advise on the potential impact on your claim.

Yes, parents or legal guardians can file a claim on behalf of a minor child who has been the victim of a dog bite.



Claim Settlement is here to help guide you through every step of the process. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for free claim review.
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