Dog bite injury compensation claims

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Paul Carvis

Panel Personal Injury Solicitor

Claiming compensation for a dog bite injury

According to NHS Hospital Episode Statistics for 2015-16, 7,653 people were admitted to hospital after being bitten or attacked by a dog. This figure represents a 76% growth in the number of dog bite injuries seen by doctors over a 10-year period.

Typical injuries include finger amputations and lacerations to limbs and face, resulting in permanent scarring or nerve damage. There may be a risk of contracting tetanus or other infections through deep puncture wounds. As well as physical injuries, many people attacked by dogs also sustain psychological trauma.

What type of dogs are likely to bite?

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) introduced a ban on ownership of certain breeds that were regarded as more dangerous than others (including Pit Bull Terriers and Japanese Tosas). However, the Act also recognised that any breed of dog (however usually placid and friendly) might attack humans. 

Section 3 of the DDA ‘Keeping dogs under proper control’ makes it an offence for any dog to be dangerously out of control, anywhere, including its own home.

Can I bring a claim for compensation for a dog attack?

A person who has sustained injuries from a dog attack may be eligible to bring a claim against the dog’s owner or its guardian at the time of the incident.

Any dog attack should be reported to the police as soon as possible to provide an official record. The police may be aware of previous incidents with the same dog, which may help to bring a prosecution and a claim.

For the claim to be successful the Claimant must be able to demonstrate that the dog’s owner (or guardian, such as a dog walker) did not have control of the dog, or knew or should have known, that the dog could be aggressive and might attack. 

Many owners will deny that their dog has shown any previous aggression and may try to shift the blame, perhaps asserting that something in the Claimant’s own behaviour was a factor in the attack, such as waving his arms around and shouting.

What if the dog attacked me when I stepped into its garden?

More than a third of all dog attacks are sustained by postal workers and delivery drivers in the course of their employment, with the Royal Mail reporting 2,600 attacks on its staff in the last year. Dog attacks on postal workers increase by around 10% during the summer months when dogs are loose in gardens.

As dogs are territorial animals, even the best behaved may become aggressive if they feel they or their family are threatened by someone entering their property. However, this is no defence for an owner whose dog attacks someone on that property. Since May 2014, when the DDA was amended to extend the legislation, it has been an offence for a dog to be out of control on private property as well as in a public place. This includes front and back gardens and yards. 

All home owners have a duty of care to those who are lawfully visiting their property and are therefore liable for any injury to postal workers, delivery drivers or any other visitors, caused by their dog attacks. A successful claim will involve demonstrating the owner was negligent in that duty of care.

What happens if the dog’s owner cannot be found?

Anyone sustaining an injury through a dog attack has a right to claim for compensation for his injuries, but if a dog is running loose, it may be impossible to establish who is responsible for keeping the dog under control. Where there is no one to bring a claim against, it may be possible to make a claim from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

Next steps

To find out if you have a claim, call us on 0800 612 0377 or request a callback.