Animal injury claims cover a wide range of circumstances wherein an individual has been injured directly by an animal or indirectly as a result of an animal’s actions.
In the UK, dog attacks and dog bites are the two most common types of animal injury claims that are made. Other animal injury claims involve road traffic accidents caused by animals on the road and injuries caused by animals at a zoo. Regardless of where or how the animal injury occurred, you may be entitled to file a compensation claim for your injuries.
According to the Animals Act, which was introduced in the year 1971, animal owners and handlers are legally required to make sure that the animal in their care does not hurt or injure anybody. In case of an injury, the animal owner or the person who was in charge of the animal at the time of the accident is held liable. This Act imposes strict penalties on the owners of animals that cause any kind of damage or injury to others.
What To Do in The Event Of An Animal Attack
Whether you have been attacked by a cat, dog or any other animal which has caused injury it is imperative that you seek medical attention as soon as possible. When you take in the broad range of animals that we come into contact with, injuries can vary significantly in severity. So, even if there appears to be little in the way of injury there are other issues to take into consideration such as diseases and other types of animal-related medical conditions. This ensures that precautionary action can be taken and that the details of your medical examination and any treatment would be noted on your medical records. In the event that you do pursue an animal injury claim for compensation this can prove to be extremely helpful in a court of law.
At the first opportunity the individual or companies who are in charge of the animal(s) should be notified of the accident. They should also be made aware of any injuries received and where there is serious injury the authorities may need to be informed. Once the incident has been reported it is then time to begin gathering evidence.
Employees Attacked By Animals
Whether working in a dog shelter, on a farm with sheep and cattle or as a zoo keeper, your employer has a strict legal duty of care to ensure your safety. The umbrella act which covers this is known as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 but there are other more specific acts targeting individual industries and types of business. If you have been attacked by an animal in your line of employment then you may well have a claim for compensation against your employer.
As standard, employers are legal bound to cover a number of issues such as:
- Initial and updated health and safety training.
- Specific training for dangerous situations.
- Safety clothing and safety equipment.
- Regular risk analysis of dangerous tasks.
- Assigning experienced individuals to appropriate activities.
- Ensure that buildings housing animals are safe and secure.
- Erect appropriate safety signage.
The assumption that employees who work with dangerous animals undertake a degree of risk by taking on their role is correct to a certain extent but this does not exempt employers from health and safety regulations.
Abiding By Safety Instructions
Whether a sign on someone’s door to confirm there is a dog inside, strict instructions not to enter farmland where animals are grazing or detailed safety information when viewing animals in a zoo, it is worth noting that individuals have a duty of care to themselves and those around them. While there will be situations where the Health and Safety Executive might deem that safety precautions were below expectations, even if a victim enters an animal area voluntarily, this is not normally the case. So, if you enter an off-limits area of a zoo, perhaps decide to take a shortcut over farmland or enter a home unannounced where there is a pet dog, you may be held partially responsible in the event of an attack.
Shared negligence is a common feature where animal injuries are concerned because very often there is a degree of provocation or a lack of respect for safety instructions. However, even if there is a potential shared negligence between the claimant and the defendant this does not stop the claimant from pursuing animal attack compensation. It is up to the courts to decide on a specific level of split negligence which will be reflected in any compensation payment.
Evidence In Animal Injury Compensation Claims
In the event of an animal attack claim you should gather as much evidence as possible in terms of photographs of the area, photographs of the injury and where possible photographs of the animal. These may highlight issues with regards to health and safety such as was the area secure and able to accommodate the animal in question. Where there are witnesses it is very helpful to take their details and statements to give a description of the animal attack through the eyes of a third party.
It will obviously depend upon the severity of the injuries received but the next course of action is to record a timeline of events prior and post the animal attack. The evidence accumulated together with the timeline will give the courts and insurance companies a broad picture of the incident. In theory there is a three-year time constraint during which you can claim compensation for any injuries received as a consequence of negligence by a third party. In reality, it is always advisable to lodge an animal attack claim as soon as possible because even with the best will in the world, time can fade memories. Any discrepancies from events on the day may well weaken what should in theory be a relatively strong case.
The three-year time limit begins on the day the injuries were received or, in the event a diagnosis was made further down the line, the date when a diagnosis was received by the claimant.
Legal Advice From A Solicitor
Animal injuries caused by traditional pets are fairly commonplace and the vast majority of personal injury solicitors will have a depth of experience in this area and many will provide free advice on a potential claim for compensation.
There are extremely strict health and safety regulations covering more exotic pets and animals although in recent years we have also seen a tightening of regulations regarding traditional pets and the safety of those in their vicinity. If the injuries were caused by more exotic pets, perhaps on a visit to a wild animal park or when working in a zoo, they can become a little more complicated. Where there are severe animal attack injuries, a solicitor may request a further medical examination by a specialist to fully understand the injuries received.
When all the available evidence has been reviewed the solicitor or their company will likely suggest the No Win No Fee arrangement if they’ve advised there is a legitimate claim for compensation. While No Win No Fee arrangements have received more than their fair share of negative press comments over the years, for many they are the only real option to hold potentially negligent parties to account. We know from past cases that financial penalties, and the often negative publicity which follows, seem to focus the minds of negligent companies and individuals, leading to much stricter health and safety policies.
Lodging A Claim For Animal Attack Injury Compensation
Once agreement has been reached with a solicitor to take on your case it is then time to lodge an animal attack claim with the courts. The defendant, or defendants in cases of shared negligence, will receive a copy of the claim and the accompanying evidence. There will be cases of an animal attack where negligence is rather obvious which will often lead to a settlement prior to court proceedings. These arrangements reduce the defendant’s legal costs and also result in a much swifter compensation settlement for the victim. In cases where negligence for an animal attack is disputed, or there is more than one negligent party, this will go before the courts where a ruling will be made after taking all evidence into account.
What Can Be Claimed For?
When making an animal attack claim you’ll be able to claim for the effect of the injuries (general damages) and for expenditures directly due to the injuries (special damages).
General damages relate specifically to financial compensation for the impact of injuries received as a consequence of the animal attack and account for issues such as:
- The level of pain and suffering from the injuries
- The psychological impact the injuries may have had
- Life changing injuries
The Judicial Court issues a regular review of previous compensation claims grouped by specific injury types and severity. While these figures have no standing in law they are well respected by the courts and legal companies and used as a basis on which to calculate future animal attack compensation claims. There is also a degree of discretion/variation allowed when arriving at the final compensation claim to take in the specific details of individual claims.
Special damages are simply financial recompense for expenses relating to injuries received and future funding requirements. They take into account various issues such as:
- Loss of earnings (past and future)
- Loss of unrecoverable items
- Medical costs (past and future)
- Additional transportation costs
- Adaptions to the home
When you bear in mind the potential severity of injuries received as a consequence of an animal attack, the cumulative impact of both general damages and special damages can be significant. There is no variation/discretion when it comes to special damages.
If you have been attacked and injured by an animal and the cause was possible negligence contact us today. A solicitor will be able to answer your questions and advise on whether they believe you should claim for animal injury compensation.