There can be no doubt that being bitten by a dog is a traumatic and frightening experience that can cause debilitating psychological and physical injuries. If you have been bitten/attacked by a dog and suffered injury then you may be able to make a claim for compensation. This compensation could cover any lost earnings if you’ve had time off work, the cost of any treatment as well as for the injury itself.
Emmott Snell Solicitors recently obtained a four-figure settlement for a local man, who suffered a fracture and residual scarring to his right middle finger, as a result of being bitten by a dog during the course of his employment as a delivery driver. Mr X was required to deliver a parcel to the defendant’s home address. As no-one was at home, he completed a delivery card and pushed it through the letterbox. As he did, one of the property owner’s dogs jumped up and bit his right middle finger causing puncture wounds, fracture and deep soft tissue injury, which required suturing. A detailed letter of claim was sent and medical evidence obtained and a settlement reached with the property owner’s insurers without the need to go to court.
Who is responsible and the law?
Whilst dogs are commonly referred to as “man’s best friend” they can at times be unpredictable and may attack an individual for no particular reason. It is now against the law to allow your dog to be dangerously out of control on private property (for example in your home, back or front garden) as well as in public places (for example parks or playing fields). This means that dog owners should ensure that visitors to their home - including workers, postmen and delivery drivers - are safe when visiting and coming into contact with dogs. In order to do this, dog owners may choose to take measures such as displaying warning signs, putting in place secure fencing, post baskets and attending behavioural classes. Dog owners should have adequate pet insurance, which will include cover in the event of any claims of damage or injury caused by their dog.
Injuries caused by dog bites
Physical injuries (caused by a dog bite) are generally visible and recognisable and range from minor wounds to nerve/muscle damage and residual scarring. Whilst rare, there have been cases in which the physical injuries are so severe that they have caused death. Psychological injuries are not so easy to see but should not be overlooked. Psychological injuries are similar to physical injuries in that the symptoms vary in their severity and in the majority of cases require treatment.
Time limit in bringing a personal injury claim
Claiming compensation for injury caused by a dog is much like any other personal injury claim. The basic rule in English law is that an adult who is harmed or injured must bring their claim within three years from the date of their injury. If a child is injured then the time limit is their 21st birthday. In law, children must be represented in their claims by a suitable and competent adult known as a “litigation friend”.
The compensation claim process
Your lawyer will take your account of the circumstances surrounding your injury and assess any potential claim you may have. If your lawyer believes that you have a claim against the dog owner/controller then he or she will start the evidence gathering process. This may include taking witness statements from any witnesses and obtaining any police or medical records. Your lawyer will then prepare a letter of claim to send to the dog owner/controller, who then becomes the defendant. The defendant has a period of time to investigate the claim and to return with their response as to whether they accept or deny fault for your injury. During the course of your claim, you will be asked to meet with an independent medical expert who will prepare a detailed report dealing with your diagnosis and prognosis. The report is an important document as it will allow your lawyer to assess the amount of compensation you should recover. It is also possible to claim for any out of pocket financial losses such as lost earnings, damaged clothing and treatment costs.
Your lawyer will send your medical report and details of your financial losses to the dog owner, or their insurance company, and invite an offer of settlement. Negotiation will then take place and it is hoped that your claim may be settled at this stage. The amount of compensation will depend on the severity of your injury and other factors such as the time it has taken you to recover and the effects the injury has had on your day-to-day life. If it is not possible to reach an agreement as to the amount of compensation you should receive, or the opponent continues to deny that they are to blame for your injury, then it may be necessary to register your claim at court.
Making a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
If it is not possible to trace the owner of the dog that has caused injury and the incident has been reported to the police an application can be made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite claim and would like further information as to whether you may have a possible claim for compensation please contact Emmott Snell Solicitors on 01234 360140 or alternatively you can download our personal injury e-book.