Mary was employed as vet and was asked to look at a client’s American Bulldog which had urination problems. She called up the dog’s records on the computer system and saw that there was no warning noted regarding possible aggressive behaviour. She carried out a physical examination of the dog. She asked if there were further concerns and the owner mentioned the dog’s eyes. She knelt to examine his eyes when suddenly and without warning the dog lunged and bit her face and arm.
Mary later learned that the dog owner had visited the vets a few days before to discuss its health and was advised to bring the dog in for an examination. At the time he had told staff at the practice that he had not had the dog long and that it had shown some behaviour issues, being very possessive of him and snapping at his girlfriend. He was advised at the time to ensure the dog received training and was muzzled. Unfortunately details of this conversation never made it on to the dog’s records.
We were consulted to consider the legal position. We specialise in cases where people have been attacked and bitten by a dog, representing clients from all regions of the country.
We took the view that the incident was caused by the negligence and breach of statutory duty of the veterinary practice. Mary should therefore be entitled to recover compensation. Particularly important was that fact that details of the conversation between the dog’s owner and Mary’s colleagues at the surgery were not recorded or passed onto Mary. If they had been then Mary would have been made aware of the dog’s behavioural problems prior to the examination and could have taken steps to avoid the risk of injury, for example by placing a muzzle the dog.
As a consequence of the attack Mary suffered multiple bites to her forearm as well as a deep laceration to her upper lip and face. Mary also suffered psychological symptoms and a fear of dogs which obviously made her job difficult.
We agreed to pursue a claim for compensation for her injuries as well as for her lost earnings, acting on a No Win, No Fee basis.
Initially liability was denied by the insurers of the veterinary practice on the basis that Mary was a qualified Vet, fully trained in handling animals and had undergone an induction which included the need to assess and potentially muzzle unknown dogs. The Insurers therefore denied any negligence and suggested that the claim be redirected against the dog owner.
Luckily the member of staff who had first spoken to the dog owner was willing to give a statement. This evidence was most helpful. As a result the insurers realised their position was not as strong as they originally believed. They subsequently made an offer of a liability spilt of 80:20 in Mary’s favour, arguing that she had to accept some responsibility due to her expert knowledge and training.
We obtained a report from a plastic surgeon and a clinical psychologist. We also commissioned a report from a makeup and cosmetic consultant who was able to advise on the best products to cover Mary’s scarring.
The psychologist confirmed that Mary was now at an employment disadvantage because of her fear of a similar attack meant she sometimes avoided certain veterinary work. While her current employer had adapted the job to her needs, a future employer may not be so understanding and this could cause Mary difficulties.
Armed with this evidence we entered into negotiations and agreed a compensation settlement of nearly £40,000 for Mary.
James McNally specialises in animal injury cases and is one of the country’s most experience solicitors in the field. If you have been attacked and bitten by a dog and wish to claim compensation on a No Win, No Fee basis then contact James on 0333 888 0404 or email him at [email protected]