I was saddened to read in the newspapers about the couple who were attacked by a bull in Nottinghamshire, killing one of them and leaving the other critically ill in hospital. I am not shocked to learn that the farmer, who owns the bull, is equally devastated by the attack.
When I first came into this game, I was very surprised to learn that owners of animals are held liable for attacks such as this. In Scotland, victims of such incidents are protected by the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987. This legislation affords victims of personal injury caused by animals (of a certain nature) a right of remedy against the owner of the animal. In the recent incident highlighted in the press, the couple and their family will have a right of claim against the farmer who is likely to have public liability insurance for such incidents. However, imagine the situation if we had a dog that bit little Thom. Perish the thought, but the wee man would not be able to sue the dog but in turn, would be able to sue me! If I had no insurance for the dog, then the claim would be against me personally and being a man of plasticine he would not get any money from me even though a court would have the right to order it.
This is a common thing for any personal injury lawyer, when client’s approach Thompsons to make a personal injury claim on their behalf, who have been bitten by a dog, the advice usually tendered is whether the owner of the dog had insurance or not. If not, then the claim is directed against the owner who may be a man of straw and have no assets to meet a claim for compensation. The other alternative is to make a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) who will only make payment for an attack by a dog, causing personal injury, if the dog was one of the four breeds listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or was known to be vicious towards humans and that the owner was reckless in their conduct while being in control of the dog at the time it injured someone.
In the case that I have highlighted it is a tragedy for everyone involved.
For my part, in order to avoid my beloved son making a compensation claim against me, I will not be buying him a puppy for Christmas.