By Jessica Gower, Trainee Solicitor, Neil Hudgell Solicitors
Dogs might well be man’s best friend, but the number of dog bite claims is on the rise, with a series of severe attacks having been reported both by the police and the press recently.
Just last month a woman and her Lhasa Apso were attacked in York by a Staffordshire bull terrier-type dog, with both owner and pet sustaining serious injuries which required urgent medical attention.
And this isn’t a standalone case. Last year, more than 6,000 people were admitted to hospital following a canine attack, costing the NHS an estimated £3million.
Being bitten or attacked by any dog can be deeply traumatic, leaving victims with psychological scars, as well as physical ones. Wounds may require complicated medical treatment, plastic surgery and on-going rehabilitation sessions, whilst the shock of the whole incident can have long-lasting effects.
Typically, it seems to be dogs named under the Dangerous Dogs Act, such as Rottweilers and Staffordshire bull terriers, that make the headlines, however, family dogs including Labradors and Collies have also been known to turn on humans – sometimes with fatal consequences.
It’s therefore vital to approach all dogs with caution and to remember that their instincts can often be highly unpredictable – even pets with mild temperaments and no previous history of aggression have the capacity to attack.
Dog owners are also responsible for correctly supervising their pet when bringing it into contact with other animals and humans. Failure to control a dog in public is punishable by law and guilty owners can face a fine of up to £5,000, and/or a prison sentence, depending on the gravity of the incident.
Despite this, roughly only half of the 200,000 dog bite incidents which occur annually in the UK are actually reported, with significantly fewer victims pursuing financial compensation.
Having dealt with many dog bite claims during my career as a personal injury solicitor, I’m used to people convincing themselves that their injuries aren’t ‘severe’ enough to warrant a payout. However, injuries that may seem relatively minor at the time can often lead to long-term health problems, particularly if they have been contracted abroad where rabies and other exotic diseases are often rife.
Seeking professional legal advice can help dog bite victims to get the compensation and justice they deserve, as well as ensuring that a dangerous animal is not responsible for a second attack.