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Child Dog Attacks: Preventing Attacks and Seeking Compensation

By Steph Walsh in Dog Attacks, Dog BItes on July 06, 2024

Child Dog Attacks: Preventing Attacks and Seeking Compensation

Dogs are one of the most popular pets among families worldwide, and for good reason. They’re often fun, loving, loyal, and adorable companions. They bond with their families and provide years of love, friendship, and joy. However, they’re also strong, powerful animals with sharp teeth and predator instincts.

While certain dog breeds may be inherently more dangerous due to their size, strength, and breeding, it is important to understand that any dog can pose a threat under the right circumstances. Preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of dog attacks on children; however, there are instances where unforeseen factors can lead to such unfortunate events. It is crucial for parents and guardians to be aware of both preventive strategies and the steps to take if a dog attack does occur, ensuring the safety and well-being of their children.

Remember, dog attacks that result in serious injury can be devastating, and even minor injuries can be costly and disruptive to your life. The emotional and physical trauma experienced by a child can have long-lasting effects, requiring extensive medical treatment and therapy. In addition to the immediate medical expenses, families may face ongoing costs for rehabilitation and psychological support. Navigating the legal complexities of such incidents can also be challenging, which is why it is crucial to seek expert legal advice to ensure your child’s rights are protected and to secure the compensation needed for their recovery and future well-being. By understanding the potential risks and being prepared, you can better safeguard your child and respond effectively if an attack occurs.

Why Dogs Attack Children

According to the CDC, about 800,000 people seek medical intervention for dog bites every year. Around half of these are children. In Canada, it’s estimated that more than 500,000 dog bites occur each year. While not all of these are children, children often suffer more since their bites are more commonly around the face, head, and neck, as opposed to adults who generally suffer bites on their hands and arms due to height.

Overall, children ages 5-9 are the most common victims of dog bites. This may be true for many reasons, but this age tends to be when children start learning how to be independent in some ways, and they’re granted more autonomy and, sometimes, less supervision.

While adults are certainly not immune to dog attacks and their subsequent injuries, children tend to be an easier, more common, and more vulnerable target.

There are many reasons for this:

  • Size and vulnerability. Children are smaller and more vulnerable than adults, making them easier targets for dogs. Their small size may also trigger a dog’s predatory instincts.
  • Lack of understanding. Children often don’t understand how to interact with dogs properly or recognize signs of aggression, leading to unintentional provocation.
  • Unpredictable movements. Children tend to make sudden, unpredictable movements, which can startle or frighten dogs, leading to defensive or aggressive reactions.
  • Lack of supervision. Children are more likely to encounter dogs without adult supervision, increasing the risk of unsupervised interactions that may result in bites or attacks.
  • Inability to read dog body language. Children may not recognize when a dog is feeling anxious, threatened, or defensive and may continue to interact with the dog in a way that escalates the situation.
  • Rough play. Children are more likely to play too roughly with dogs, pulling on their ears, tails, or fur, which can cause pain or discomfort and trigger an aggressive response.
  • Food or resource guarding. Children may approach dogs while they are eating or attempt to take away toys or other resources, which can lead to defensive aggression, especially in dogs with a history of neglect.
  • Lack of education. Children who have not been taught how to interact with dogs safely are more likely to engage in behaviour that may provoke an attack.
  • Dominance and hierarchy. Some dogs may view children as lower in the social hierarchy and attempt to assert dominance over them through aggressive behaviour.
  • Pain or illness. Dogs experiencing pain or illness may be more likely to lash out at children who unknowingly aggravate their condition through rough play or unwanted contact.
  • Lack of training. Dogs who lack adequate training and socialization may not have much experience with kids and, therefore, don’t know how to behave appropriately. Their sudden movements, noises, or unexpected interactions can cause an overwhelmed or confused dog to attack.

Protect Your Children: What You Can Do to Prevent Dog Attacks

While you can’t control all the dogs around you, there are many things you can do to prevent dog attacks on your children, starting with educating them. Even if you don’t have dogs of your own, it’s important to teach children how to treat and behave around dogs. Even the nicest dog can become aggressive if provoked too harshly.

Proper dog education includes:

  • Instruct your children never to approach an unknown dog, and always ask owners before petting them, even if you’re familiar with the dog already.
  • Teach children to be gentle when touching and handling dogs. Teach them that they should never push, hit, or poke at dogs and never pull their ears, tails, or fur. Show them how to pet a dog gently and properly, avoiding ears and eyes.
  • Teach them about warning signs and body language. Tell your children that growls, whines, sudden movements, barred teeth, and barks can all mean that a dog is angry or upset, and they should stop interacting with the dog immediately.
  • Teach your children to avoid direct eye contact with a dog. They can see this as a threat.

While all of this is good to teach your children, it’s important to keep in mind that children can forget, disobey, or become panicked and act impulsively. This is why it’s crucial to never leave your children unsupervised with any dog. Even dogs that know your children well can become aggressive when provoked.

There are also various scenarios where it’s best to keep dogs and children separated entirely. This can apply if you’re visiting a home with dogs, entertaining guests with dogs, etc. Dogs can become protective and defensive very quickly, and children may not have time to react even if they realize they’re in danger.

For example:

  • If the dog is sleeping. Waking a dog suddenly may cause it to become angry or fearful.
  • If the dog is eating. Whether it’s meal time or they’ve been given a treat, many dogs are protective of their food, even ones that are otherwise sweet and friendly.
  • If the dog is tied up. Dogs that cannot run away when scared or uncomfortable may lash out instead.
  • If the dog is sick or injured. Pain and discomfort can cause even the nicest dog to be more sensitive and less easygoing than normal.
  • If the dog is with puppies. Dogs who are nursing babies are often extremely protective and may perceive your child’s approaching as a threat.
  • The dog has taken something from your child. Since children are smaller and lower to the ground, dogs may be able to easily take a toy or food away from them. Teach your children to ask you for help in these situations rather than go after the dog and try to get it back.

Even in a controlled and supervised environment, a dog’s behaviour can escalate quickly. If any of these situations apply, it’s best to keep your young children away from these dogs entirely to reduce the risk of attacks and injury.

The Physical Trauma of Dog Attacks

While dog biting is an exceptionally common occurrence during a dog attack, their teeth are not the only things that can do damage. They also have sharp claws and heavy bodies. Many things can happen during a dog attack, and it can result in a variety of serious injuries. Below are some of the more common types of dog bit injuries seen by our Hamilton dog bite lawyers:

Bites – although the extremities, such as arms, hands, and legs, are the most common areas for a dog bite, their teeth can land anywhere. Bites can be in many different forms, including cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds, abrasions, and more. All of these can be very serious, causing a lot of pain, requiring lots of care, and leaving behind permanent scars

Infections – usually a result of a bite, infections can become quite serious and require extensive medical attention. Infections also pose the risk of developing conditions like tetanus or Pasteurella.

Broken Bones/Fractures – especially if a large dog attacks a small child, fractures and broken bones are likely. This could be from the dog itself hitting the child or from the child being thrown onto the ground or into another object or structure. Depending on the severity and location, broken bones can take months to heal and may require several more weeks or months of physical therapy to return to normal. They also prevent the victim from participating in many tasks and activities for the duration of healing.

Head Trauma. – if a heavy dog collides with a child’s head, or the impact causes their head to hit something else, it can result in a serious concussion or even a traumatic brain injury. These injuries can have devastating, life-changing consequences for the injured child and their whole family. Not only will they have a long recovery ahead of them, but some symptoms may become permanent.

Scarring and Disfigurement – severe dog attacks can leave children with deep, permanent scars and disfigurement, particularly on highly visible areas such as the face, neck, and arms. As these children, especially girls, grow older, they may struggle with low self-confidence and body image issues, which can hinder their social development and overall well-being. The extensive scarring often necessitates multiple reconstructive plastic surgeries to restore appearance and functionality, but even with these interventions, the victims may never fully regain their original appearance. The physical and emotional challenges that arise from such attacks can persist throughout their lives, serving as a constant reminder of the trauma they endured. These severe consequences underscore the gravity of dog attacks and the importance of seeking legal guidance to protect your child’s rights and future well-being.

The Psychological Burden of Surviving a Dog Attack

The psychological trauma suffered by children after a serious, life-changing dog attack can be profound and long-lasting. These children may experience severe emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The physical disfigurement and scarring from the attack can lead to feelings of self-consciousness, low self-esteem, and difficulties with social interactions.

Children who have undergone traumatic medical procedures and surgeries following the attack may develop a fear of doctors, hospitals, and medical treatments. They may also experience nightmares, flashbacks, and a constant fear of dogs, which can limit their ability to enjoy everyday activities and lead to social isolation.

As these children grow older, they may struggle with the long-term effects of their psychological trauma. They may face challenges in forming relationships, maintaining employment, and leading a fulfilling life. The emotional scars from the attack can be just as debilitating as the physical ones, requiring ongoing mental health support and therapy to help them cope with the aftermath of the incident.

It is crucial for families of children who have suffered serious dog attacks to seek professional help from mental health experts specializing in childhood trauma. With proper support and treatment, these children can learn to manage their emotional wounds and build the resilience needed to overcome the challenges they face on their road to recovery.

A Dog Attacked My Child, What Should I Do?

If your child is ever attacked by a dog, you should do the following:

  • Check your child and seek medical attention, or call 911 if necessary. Even seemingly mild injuries can run the risk of infection or rabies if not treated promptly.
  • Identify the dog owner. Determine who was in charge of the dog at the time of the attack, and if they are not the owner, also get the owner’s information. Seek proof of vaccination, and keep their information stored safely, as it will be necessary for any legal proceedings.
  • If possible, gather additional information, such as the information of any witnesses present. If the police or animal control becomes involved, keep records.
  • Take pictures of the initial injuries and document any changes throughout the treatment and healing process.
  • Contact our Hamilton Dog Attack Lawyers. The legal system is complex and can be extremely challenging to navigate on your own. The sooner you enlist the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, the better. They can help you through the process from beginning to end, building a strong case and ensuring you are properly compensated.

Your Legal Rights After a Dog Attack: Our Hamilton Dog Attack Lawyers Explain

Firstly, you will need to be named as litigation guardian in your child’s case. A litigation guardian is a person appointed to represent the best interests of someone who cannot make legal decisions for themselves, such as a child, in a personal injury case. In Ontario, if your child has been severely injured in a dog attack, a litigation guardian is necessary to ensure that their rights are fully protected and that decisions made during the lawsuit are in their best interest. The litigation guardian, typically a parent or close family member, steps in to handle the legal proceedings because the child is not legally capable of doing so. This role is crucial as it ensures that the child’s case is managed properly, aiming to secure the compensation needed for their recovery and future well-being.

After a dog attack, both the parents, certain family members and the child are entitled to pursue economic and non-economic compensation.

As a parent, there’s no doubt that you may incur legal expenses for various medical bills, specialized treatment, cosmetic treatment, cosmetic surgery, cosmetic therapy, psychological treatment, physical therapy, prosthetics, medication, etc. At law, these are recoverable expenses, otherwise known as pecuniary expenses – or economic damages. Wage loss is also considered a pecuniary loss. Pecuniary losses in a personal injury case refer to the financial losses suffered by the injured party due to the incident – damages which are quantifiable economic damages that a plaintiff has incurred.

As the parent of an injured child, you can also pursue compensation for wages lost as a direct result of their child’s injuries – such as needing extensive unpaid time off to attend appointments, therapy sessions or, in some cases – the psychological trauma is simply much too difficult to deal with emotionally – leading parents to need extensive time off work. Wage losses are pecuniary losses – or economic damages as well.

Other family members can also bring a compensation claim. In Ontario, when a child is seriously hurt in a dog bite incident, not only can the child bring a claim for damages, but certain family members can also bring a claim under the Family Law Act. These family members include parents, grandparents, siblings, and children. They can claim for the loss of care, guidance, and companionship they suffer due to the child’s injury. The loss of care, guidance, and companionship refers to the emotional and relational impact on the family members, acknowledging the profound effect the child’s injury has on their shared lives and the support they provide to one another. This type of claim compensates family members for the disruption and emotional distress caused by the injury.

You can also seek compensation for your child, of course. The structure of the compensation is the same – economic and non-economic.

Regarding non-economic damages, a child is entitled to claim damages for pain and suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life. Pain and suffering is generally assessed by considering several factors to determine fair and just compensation. These factors include the severity and duration of the child’s physical and emotional pain, the impact of the injury on their daily life and activities, and the long-term prognosis. Judges also look at the child’s age and overall quality of life before and after the injury. They often refer to precedents from previous similar cases to ensure consistency and fairness in awarding damages. The goal is to provide compensation that reflects the extent of the plaintiff’s suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, acknowledging that while no amount of money can truly compensate for such losses, it can help provide some relief and support for the affected individual’s future.

Regarding economic damages, children can be awarded future income loss if their injuries are expected to impact their ability to earn income as they age into adulthood. Courts in Canada determine future income loss by considering several factors:

  1. Severity and Impact of Injury: The nature and extent of the injury and its anticipated long-term effects on the child’s physical and cognitive abilities.
  2. Medical and Expert Testimony: Testimonies from medical experts, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and economists who can provide insights into the child’s future capabilities and employment prospects.
  3. Educational and Career Potential: The child’s academic performance, interests, and career aspirations prior to the injury. Courts consider what the child might have achieved in terms of education and career had the injury not occurred.
  4. Statistical Averages: Use of statistical data on average earnings for individuals with similar backgrounds, education levels, and career paths that the child might have pursued.
  5. Discount Rates: Future income is often discounted to present value to account for the time value of money.
  6. Contingencies: Consideration of both positive and negative contingencies, such as the possibility of illness, unemployment, or further education that might affect future earnings.

The aim is to provide fair compensation that reflects the probable loss of earning capacity due to the injury, ensuring the child has the financial support they need to mitigate the impact on their future quality of life.

How do I Hire the Best Dog Attack Lawyer Near me?

How do I Hire a “dog attack lawyer near me” are commonly searched keywords when searching for the right dog attack lawyer. It’s essential to take a few important steps to ensure you find the right legal representation. Start by researching local personal injury law firms that specialize in dog bite cases. Look for lawyers with a proven track record of successfully handling similar cases and securing fair compensation for their clients. Reading online reviews and testimonials can provide insight into the experiences of other clients. Additionally, check the lawyer’s credentials and affiliations with professional legal organizations.

Choosing a lawyer who is not only knowledgeable but also compassionate and responsive to your needs is crucial. A good lawyer will explain the legal process, keep you informed at every stage, and fight diligently for your rights and the compensation you deserve. By taking these steps, you can find a skilled dog attack lawyer near you to help navigate the complexities of your case and achieve the best possible outcome.

Once you have a shortlist of potential lawyers, schedule consultations to discuss your case. Most reputable dog attack lawyers offer free initial consultations where you can assess their expertise, approach, and whether you feel comfortable working with them. During the consultation, ask about their experience with dog bite cases, their strategy for handling your specific situation, and their fee structure.

How can a Dog Attack Lawyer help me?

Hiring a dog attack lawyer brings numerous benefits, ensuring your case is handled efficiently and effectively. Here are some ways we can assist you:

  1. Meeting Deadlines: We help you stay on top of all legal deadlines, due dates, and procedural requirements, so your case is never delayed unnecessarily and is settled as quickly as the circumstances allow.
  2. Gathering Evidence: We can help you collect crucial evidence from witnesses, police reports, animal control records, and anyone else involved in the incident. This comprehensive evidence collection is essential for building a strong case.
  3. Medical Evidence: Obtaining the necessary medical evidence to prove the severity of your child’s injuries is critical. We work with medical experts pursuant to Rule 53 of the Rules of Civil Procedure to obtain proper medical opinions that detail the extent of the injuries and the long-term effects they can have on your child’s life.
  4. Compensation Determination: We assist in determining the type and amount of compensation you are eligible for based on your specific case. This includes compensation for immediate medical expenses, future treatments, ongoing care, and any permanent effects on your child’s quality of life.
  5. Building a Strong Case: Our years of experience in dog attack litigation enable us to build the strongest possible case. We understand how to properly value damages, considering all aspects of the injury and its impact on your family. Our expertise ensures you receive the maximum compensation for your circumstances.
  6. Funding the Case: Litigation can be expensive, but we manage and fund the entire case, including the costs of obtaining expert testimonies and other necessary expenses. This means you can focus on your child’s recovery without worrying about upfront legal costs.
  7. Specialized Knowledge: You need a lawyer who specializes in dog attack litigation. We have specific experience and knowledge in this area, which is crucial for navigating the complexities of such cases.
  8. Trial Experience: If your case goes to trial, having a lawyer with trial experience is vital. We are skilled trial lawyers who know how to present a compelling case in court, should it be necessary.
  9. Valuating Damages: Properly valuating damages requires understanding both current and future implications of the injury. We know how to build a case that accurately reflects the full extent of the damages, ensuring you receive fair compensation.
  10. Negotiation and Representation: We negotiate on your behalf and represent you in all necessary forums. Our goal is to make sure you are not taken advantage of by low or unfair offers, and we fight to secure a settlement that meets your needs.

Hiring a specialized dog attack lawyer means you have a dedicated advocate who understands the intricacies of your case, handles all the complexities, and works tirelessly to ensure you receive the justice and compensation your family deserves. By working with an experienced Hamilton dog bite lawyer, you can focus your time, energy, and resources on your child while we handle your case and get you the compensation you deserve.

Has Your Child Been Seriously Injured? Contact Ontario’s Top Dog Attack Lawyers today.

Recognizing the immense challenges faced by dog attack victims and their families, the legal system provides avenues for obtaining compensation. While no amount of money can undo the trauma inflicted upon your child or alleviate the emotional distress endured by your family, seeking fair compensation for all the damages incurred can help ease the financial burden. This support can ensure that your child receives the highest quality medical care, therapy, and resources they need to heal and thrive while also providing a safety net for your family during this difficult time. Remember, our Dog Bite Lawyers are among the best, and we serve victims all over Ontario.

Call us today for your free consultation. Our lawyers are more than happy to thoroughly review your case and provide you with legal advice regarding your options, compensation and your possible next steps at no cost. Call us no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local throughout Southern Ontario at 905-333-8888 to set up your free consultation. Alternatively, you can email us confidentially through our website, and we will get back to you promptly.

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Article FAQ

How Common are Dog Attacks on Children?

Dog attacks on children are relatively common, with statistics showing that children are the most frequent victims of severe dog bites.

What are the most common dog breeds that attack children?

Common dog breeds that attack children include Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers, though any breed can potentially bite if provoked.

Can you seek compensation for a child injured by a dog attack?

Yes, parents can seek compensation for their child’s injuries from a dog attack through legal claims against the dog owner’s insurance or in court.

What is the most aggressive dog breed?

The most aggressive dog breed can vary, but Pit Bulls are often cited as one of the most aggressive due to their strength and history of breeding for fighting.

What steps can parents take to prevent dog attacks on children?

Parents can prevent dog attacks by teaching children how to approach dogs, supervising interactions, and recognizing signs of aggression in dogs.

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