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. 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.
The number of dog attacks that have been reported has risen by 34% in the past five years. A BBC investigation has found that there were nearly 22,000 cases of out-of-control dogs causing injury last year, compared to 16,000 in 2018.
Statistics from The Independent have shown that in the case of children, 75% of dog bites are to the head causing long-lasting injuries.
Unfortunately, children are common victims of dog attacks. In June 2023, a 12-year-old boy was walking home from school and was attacked by two escapee boxer dogs, the young boy was one out of five people who were attacked by the dogs. The young boy sustained serious injuries to his legs and needed surgery. Sadly, this violent attack is one of hundreds in the media currently.
Whilst dogs are commonly referred to as “man’s best friend” they can at times be unpredictable and may attack an individual for no apparent reason. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 made it a criminal offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public space and was amended in 2014 to also include incidents on private property (for example in your home, back or front garden). 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.
Importantly, dog owners should have adequate pet insurance, which should include cover in the event of any claims of damage or injury caused by their dog.
Claim for compensation?
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 have previously obtained a successful settlement for a male 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. He was bitten by the dog through the letterbox when delivering a parcel at the defendant’s home address. A detailed letter of claim was sent, medical evidence was obtained and a settlement was reached with the property owner’s insurers without the need to go to court.
Claiming compensation for injury caused by a dog is much like any other personal injury claim.
The time limit for bringing a compensation 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.
Whilst three years may seem like a long time it is important to instruct solicitors as soon as possible to preserve records and take statements from witnesses whilst it is fresh in their minds. This will give you the best chance of success.
In law, children must be represented in their claims by a suitable and competent adult known as a “litigation friend”.
The process of your potential claim:
1. Your legal representative
Your lawyer will take your account of the circumstances surrounding your injury and assess any potential claim you may have.
2. Gathering evidence
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.
3. Notification of your claim
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.
4. Medical expert appointment
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.
5. Gathering of financial information
It is also possible to claim for any out-of-pocket financial losses such as lost earnings, damaged clothing and treatment costs.
6. Documents served on defendant
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.
An alternative route: 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 attack and would like further information as to whether you may have a possible claim for compensation, please contact Emmott Snell Solicitors by message or on 01234 360140. Alternatively, you can download our "Introduction to Personal Injury Claims" guide below.