The vast majority of claims concerning animal bites involve dogs. Some of the incidents involving dogs can be serious and often amount from young children unknowingly agitating the animals. They are unfortunately at the height to receive wounds to the face whereas adults being taller are more likely to be bitten on their arms or legs. Not only can dogs inflict wounds they can also cause infection and psychological trauma. Cats also cause injuries some of which can also be serious; however, these appear to be a less frequent occurrence. Both cat and dog bites are rarely fatal nonetheless the majority will require medical attention. People are more often than not bitten by their own pets or an animal they are familiar with such as a neighbour’s dog. There are however also incidents involving stranger’s pets the most recognised of these being the postman being bitten by a dog whilst delivering letters. In these cases the pet’s owner is usually liable for the behaviour of the animal, particularly if the animal has been vicious previously and claims often emerge.
Making a Claim for a Dog Bite
If you have been injured by a dog in the past three years you may be able to make a claim. The owner or person in control of a dog may be liable to pay compensation to you for any injury you may suffer during an attack by their dog. Most home owners don’t have cover for their dogs on their home insurance they may however have cover in a pet insurance policy, however if the animal’s owner does not have any insurance it may be possible to claim compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme depending upon the severity of your injuries. For further information on pursuing a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme see the Criminal injuries factsheet.
What can be Claimed for?
- Damages for physical injury, any scars and any psychological problems resulting from the attack.
- Any income lost from not being able to go to work
- Damage to clothing or other property
- Cost of care whilst you are injured provided by your friends or family
- Prescription costs
- Travelling expenses
- Plastic surgery costs for example the cost of having a skin graft
What You Need to do to Make a Claim
- Report the attack to the police – remember to get a crime/accident number
- Identify the dog’s owner and their address
- Acquire the contact details of any witnesses
- Take photographs of your injury and any scarring it leaves behind
- Find out if the animal has attacked anyone else
- Keep a note and any receipts of all your expenses such as:
– Travelling expenses to and from the hospital or doctors
– Prescription charges
– Loss of earnings
Providing your solicitor with all the above information will aid your claim and ensure that you are able to obtain the greatest amount of compensation possible.
Often the owner will be found liable for an offence such as failing to safeguard members of the public or failing to control the animal, especially if there is a history of the dog being aggressive. The legislation which governs dog attacks is the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 which was enacted as a response to a number of dog attacks being reported in theUKpress.
Particular breeds – Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero – have specific criteria which must be complied with in order to safeguard people from attacks. The criteria includes keeping them muzzled, registering the dog on the Index of Exempted Breeds, getting them micro-chipped, tattooed and insured, it is an offence to keep these dogs if such criteria is not complied with. There are implications for the owner if a dog attacks as they could be ordered to have the dog destroyed, neutered and/or disqualified from keeping dogs as well as having to pay a fine which could be up to £5000.
The law differs for guard dogs as it is illegal for them to be on the premises unless a handler who is capable of controlling the dog is also on the premises, the only exception to this being when the animal is secured and is not free to roam the premises. A clear warning sign must be displayed stating that there is a guard dog on the premises otherwise it is illegal to use guard dogs. The owner of a guard dog may also be liable for injury to a person.
Owing to the complexity of pursuing a claim for an animal bite it is important that you work with your solicitor and provide them with as much detail as possible thus enabling you to have the best chances of obtaining compensation.