Dog attack expert succeeds where other solicitors fail

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Slee Blackwell solicitor, James McNally, is one of the country’s foremost specialists in animal and dog related injury law. James is regularly consulted by victims of dog attacks who have been incorrectly advised that they cannot bring a claim for compensation. Although James is based in the South West he deals with claims for people from all over England and Wales. The following case study tells the story of one of James’ clients who has successfully won compensation for her injuries after being told by her previous solicitor that she did not have a case.

Our client, Mrs S, was walking her dog “Millie” in the company of a friend in an area of the New Forest, Hampshire. While doing so they came across a man who was walking his dog, a Boxer/Alsatian cross. The dogs began to sniff one another in the usual way when suddenly and without warning the man’s dog attacked Millie.

Mrs S attempted to rescue Millie, who was smaller than the other dog, by pulling the man’s dog away. However, his dog broke free and resumed its attack on Millie. Millie ran to hide behind Mrs S, whereupon the other dog followed and bit Mrs S on the right thigh. As a result of the incident Mrs S sustained lacerations and puncture wounds to her thigh, bruising to her wrist, a hip injury, shock and anxiety. She went to see her local GP, who prescribed antibiotics. She suffered ongoing pain in her right hip, and was left with scarring on her right lower leg. Mrs S had an MRI scan which indicated soft tissue damage underneath the skin at the site of the dog bite. She underwent surgery in May 2014 to remove the resultant swelling.

Mrs S initially instructed DAS Law to bring a compensation claim on her behalf. However, following a denial of liability by the Defendant Mrs S was told by DAS that her claim had poor prospects of success and that they were no longer prepared to act for her. Mrs S was understandably concerned. She wanted justice and so looked to appoint another firm of solicitors to pursue the case. She specifically wanted solicitors who had experience of dealing with dog attacks and found Slee Blackwell via our specialist website, www.dogbitesolicitors.co.uk.

After reviewing the evidence our specialist dog bite solicitor James McNally was confident that Mrs S had a valid claim under the Animals Act 1971 and agreed to take on the case, acting on a No Win – No Fee basis. The Defendant’s insurers continued to deny liability, disputing that strict liability applied. They said they were certain the claim could be successfully defended under Section 5 of the Animals Act 1972 on the basis that Mrs S had voluntarily accepted the risk when she intervened to save her dog and that she wholly contributed to her injuries.

We brought in specialist Barrister and Animals Act expert, Giles Mooney. Giles agreed with James’ interpretation of the law and the likely prospects of success. He too agreed to deal with the case on a no win, no fee basis.

A Consultant Plastic surgeon prepared a medical report and concluded that the injuries sustained by Mrs S were consistent with the dog bite and that the subsequent pain and swelling that arose were also be consistent with the incident. He was of the opinion that the scar on Mrs S’s leg was permanent, was noticeable from 10 metres, and was likely to remain so for the rest of her life. In respect of the exacerbation of the longstanding pain in her right hip he suggested a review be undertaken by an Orthopaedic hip specialist. The hip expert examined Mrs S and concluded that her condition was entirely attributable to the incident. She confirmed that she had sustained an acute exacerbation of a pre-existing right hip injury, having only just been free of crutches a month prior to the incident, adding that the dog bite had worsened the pre-existing injury. He referred to Mrs S’s history of hip arthritis prior to the incident. As a result of the soft tissue injury sustained during the incident she had experienced an exacerbation of her symptoms and a probable acceleration of the ongoing degenerative process in her right hip, which he estimated to be approximately 12 months.

Liability remained denied and Court proceedings were issued and served. However, following exchange of witness statements the attitude of the Defendant’s insurers changed, no doubt because they could see we understood the law and were serious about pursuing the case to trial if necessary. As a result, the insurers agreed to enter into negotiations and this lead to the Defendant putting forward a compensation package which Mrs S decided to accept.

Commenting on the victory, solicitor James McNally said: “Accident victims often instruct either a local solicitor they know or, as in this case, get told who to instruct by legal expenses insurers without considering whether that solicitor has the specialist legal knowledge needed to get the right result. It was clear to me on first sight of the papers that there was a lack of understanding by both Mrs S’s previous solicitors as well as the insurers acting for the Defendant. Unfortunately this meant they both incorrectly thought there was no valid claim!

As soon as I heard what had happened I knew we could help and although it took time, we gathered all the evidence from the very best experts needed to help Mrs S put together her claim. We reviewed vet records and spoke to witnesses and built a case that was needed for Mrs S to win. Having been told by solicitors and barristers that she had no claim she was obviously delighted by the outcome, as were we.”

If you have been injured by a dog and need the services of a true legal expert to recover the compensation you deserve, then call our FREE legal helpline on 0808 139 1606 or email James direct at [email protected]