Our client, Mr O, was walking his dog, a Jack Russell named Toby, along a path near to his house in Carlisle. At the same time “Shaun” was walking two Weimaraner dogs named Kial and Kianna which belonged to his Father in Law on the path close to Mr O and Toby. The Weimaraners were 20 feet in front of Shaun and off the lead.
Kial attacked Toby, grabbing him with his mouth and refusing to let go. Toby was in obvious distress, screaming and crying out while locked in Kial’s mouth. Shaun punched and shoved at Kial to try to end the attack and release Toby from his jaws. Eventually Kial dropped Toby to the ground. Mr O went to retrieve the badly injured Toby and as he did so Kial bit Mr O on his left hand and index finger.
In addition to his physical injuries Mr O suffered from psychological symptoms as a result of the dog attack which he understandably found very upsetting and distressing. Mr O had diabetes and this complicated his recovery.
Mr O initially contacted the dog’s owner in the hope that matters could be resolved amicably. In particular he was looking for payment towards Toby’s vet bills. Unfortunately the dog owner was very defensive and it soon became clear to Mr O that this was not something he would be able to resolve without professional assistance.
We were instructed by Mr O as recognised expert solicitors in dog bite and dog attack claims. We agreed to take on the case on a No Win, No Fee basis because we felt confident that this was a claim we could win for Mr O.
The legal basis of the claim was that Kial’s owner had a duty to ensure that his dog was adequately trained to respond to commands and had failed to ensure Kial was walked on a lead or muzzled.
What should have been a straight forward matter became complicated when the Defendant chose to put forward an alternative version of events. The dog owner even took the view that Mr O had never suffered any injury!
We requested veterinary records and training records for Kial. His owner was refusing to provide details of his insurers and so these were requested as well.
At the same time Mr O was sent to see a medical expert so that a report on his injuries could be prepared. We then disclosed the report to the dog owner long with a copy of Mr O’s hospital records confirming his attendance on the day of the incident and treatment he received for the dog bite.
We urged the dog owner to deal with the matter in a responsible fashion before further legal costs were incurred. This pressure paid off and subsequently contact was made with the Defendant’s insurers.
Unfortunately the insurers continued to deny liability for the dog attack.
Given the different versions of events we instructed a barrister who specialises in dog bite and Animal Act Law.. A case conference took place with Mr O. Following this meeting the barrister agreed with our assessment that Mr O was likely to succeed with his case. He therefore went on to prepare the necessary papers so Court proceedings could be issued.
In the meantime we continued to try to negotiate a resolution of the claim and put forward an offer of settlement to the Defendant’s insurers. The offer was however rejected and the insurers made it clear that they intended to continue with their denial.
To maximise the prospects of succeeding in court we obtained a report from a Canine Behaviourist on whether or not the behaviour displayed by Kial was a one-off episode or if it was likely that the dog would have attacked previously. the expert firmly stated that he believed Kial was displaying behaviours of a dog who was likely to have attacked previously and therefore did not believe this to be an isolated incident.
A copy of this report was sent to the insurers but yet again they made it clear that they intended to deny liability.
Proceedings were therefore issued and served.
As is often the case once the claim was passed on from the insurers to their solicitors and was reviewed by them their stance softened and it became apparent that they wished to try and negotiate a settlement. An agreement was finally reached for a figure just £600 less than we had offered to settle for over 18 months previously. Naturally we claimed the legal costs that had been wasted as a result of the defendant’s conduct.
If you have been the victim of a dog attack and wish to make a compensation claim the call us on 0333 888 0404 or email James direct at [email protected]