By Sam Strafford, litigation assistant and legal expert on dog-bite cases at Neil Hudgell Solicitors.
I know from first-hand experience the devastating effects dog attacks can have on people’s health and well-being. At present I have two clients and recently settled cases for another two: all suffered dog attacks in different ways but all share the pain of physical and psychological scars.
Being attacked by a dog can, first of all, be a tremendous shock, particularly if the dog is one already known to you and which you thought of as friendly. Many victims’ confidence takes a terrible knock; they are often afraid to venture out of the house or go to friends’ houses if there is the possibility of a dog being present.
Dealing with the physical effects of the bite can also be very painful and take a long time and much treatment. Dog bites can be savage and the wounds inflicted require plastic surgery or other procedures. Often, no matter how skilled the surgeon, the scars will always remain and that can be very difficult for many people to come to terms with.
It’s the psychological damage which results from being bitten by a dog which can be equally, and sometimes more difficult, to address and repair. Counselling can help – and it’s important to get exactly the right support required by each individual.
These types of treatments can often incur additional costs as some victims choose to seek help as quickly as possible and this can often mean going privately, rather than waiting for an NHS appointment. That’s often why I’m approached by dog bite victims. Their priority is not to punish the dog or the owner but they do need some compensation to help them put right the damage they’ve suffered and get their lives as near as possible to how they were before the attack.
Seeking legal advice about dog attacks should be very straightforward. A lawyer like me will interview a client and find out details of the case. If it’s apparent there is a case to make a claim the first port of call will be to find out if the owner of the dog has pet insurance. If this is in place, then it is often relatively simple to make a claim. If the dog is not covered by pet insurance then it may be possible to make a claim on the owner’s household insurance or to sue them as an individual.
Generally, a dog bite claim is based on the nature of the injury suffered and any financial losses incurred as a result, for example, loss of earnings. Typical pay outs range from £1,000 upwards but it’s impossible to give an exact amount as it depends so much on the individual circumstances of the claim.
I recently went to see the work of a Hull organisation called Pet Respect which is making a video to raise awareness of dogs and how to behave around them in the hope of reducing the number of attacks on children. Having seen at first hand the devastating impact a dog bit can have on an individual, any initiative such as this film has to be welcomed. I am always here to help a person who’s been attacked by a dog and welcome inquiries from anyone who feels they could benefit from my advice.