Claim compensation for injuries caused by dogs

Neille Ryan

Partner & Head of Personal Injury

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March 8, 2023

Categories Personal Injury Claims

BBC News* reported today that the number of dog attacks recorded by the police have increased by 34% in England and Wales.

You can claim compensation for injuries caused by dogs, Neille Ryan, Head of Personal Injury, explains.

Injuries caused by dogs

There are several ways in which, if you are injured by a dog, you may be able to claim compensation from the keeper.

Common law negligence

This essentially involves establishing that the keeper was at fault for their dog’s actions – say by allowing their dog, which they knew to be out of control, to run amok in a public park.

Animals Act 1971

This Act makes the animal’s keeper strictly liable, but only if certain tricky criteria are met. Strict liability means that the keeper is to blame even if there is no fault on their part.

The tests to be met for liability under the Animals Act are:-

a) That the damage is of a kind which the animal was likely to cause, or which was likely to be severe; and

b) It was due to characteristics not normally found in that species, or not normally found except at particular times or in particular circumstances; and

c) Those characteristics were known to the keeper.

As I say, it can be tricky to satisfy all three of those conditions and it only takes one to be unfulfilled for the keeper to have a defence.

So if, for example, this was the first time that the animal had acted in the way which caused the injury then the keeper has an argument that they didn’t know about that particular characteristic, therefore test c) isn’t met and they have a defence.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

This Act currently specifies four breeds of dog which it is illegal to own in this country:-

  • Pitbull Terrier sometimes known as an American Pitbull;
  • Japanese Tosa;
  • Dogo Argentino;
  • Fila Brasileiro.

So if you are injured by one of these dogs, while a prosecution under the Dangerous Dogs Act is actually a criminal matter, it would also give you very strong grounds for a separate and successful civil claim for compensation in common law negligence and/or under the Animals Act.

Insurance – this is likely to be crucial as even if your claim succeeds, without insurance to cover the incident the keeper may well not have the means to pay you. So you will basically be left with a Judgment, which is nothing more than a piece of paper saying that the keeper owes you money, but you might never see a penny of it.

So my advice to all pet owners is to get insurance, and to those injured by pets to contact a specialist Personal Injury Lawyer, such as one accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers or the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel, as claims against keepers of animals can be a bit of a legal minefield.

Contact Neille Ryan on 01227 763939 to find out more about compensation for injuries caused by dogs.

*See the BBC report here >>