James McNally has recovered £135,000 for a dental hygienist who was left unable to carry out her job properly after she was injured while protecting her dog.
Our client was walking her small Boston Terrier in woods close to her home when another dog walker approached. His dog, a German Pointer, was following behind him. He walked by and as the German Pointer got level with the Boston Terrier the Pointer attacked it. Our client managed to pick her dog up but as she held it close to her chest the Pointer bit her finger, causing a fracture and tendon rupture.
The finger injury meant that she was struggled to hold her dental instruments and so had to work reduced hours. She also suffered PTSD. She had to postpone her planned wedding because of the financial impact of her injuries.
Legal responsibility for the incident was admitted by the owner of the Pointer relatively early on, but no agreement could be reached in terms of the amount of compensation our client should receive for her injuries.
Matters were complicated as the injury to her finger, though relatively minor, was wrongly treated at hospital, resulting in a mallet deformity. This allowed the solicitors representing the owner of the German Pointer to argue that the hospital was responsible for her losses, not the dog bite. They also argued that the impact of Covid on dentistry would have led to a loss of earnings in any event.
We arranged for a forensic accountant to estimate what our client would have earned but for the incident. A dental expert was also instructed to comment on the impact the injury had on our client’s ability to work. Once we had obtained this expert evidence a specialist barrister reviewed the case. He was clear that the treatment from the hospital was so closely linked to the dog bite that the dog owner was legally responsible for the consequences, not the hospital.
Court proceedings were commenced. The Defendant’s solicitors then took the unusual step of asking the court to be allowed to go back on their admission of liability. They argued that had they known the value of the claim at the time they admitted liability they would have defended it and that they had evidence to show that our client was at fault for intervening when the dogs were “playing”.
It had been three years since the original incident. We were able to successfully argue that the Defendant had known for at least two years of the potential value of the claim and that the delay would seriously prejudice our client should we have to reinvestigate liability. This became even more apparent when the day before the hearing the Defendant revealed that the Pointer wasn’t available for examination as it had been put down a month after the attack on our client after it bit another person in very similar circumstances.
The Defendant’s solicitor’s application to the court failed, but they continued to make life very difficult for our client and subjected her to repeated requests for information and regularly trawled social media and the internet for “incriminating” evidence against her. They also hired private investigators to follow and film our client. None of this revealed anything, but it was very upsetting for our client to go through.
Eventually the solicitors had to accept that they could not defend the case and would have to pay our client an appropriate level of compensation for being injured while protecting her dog. Accordingly an out of court settlement was reached, with our client receiving £135,000.
Says her solicitor, James McNally:
“Occasionally we encounter insurers and solicitors who will try and make life difficult for a dog bite victim. If a Defendant is able to argue that a Claimant has been fundamentally dishonest then they can argue that the Claimant should receive no compensation at all. This unfortunately means that more and more Defendant’s are looking to argue this point. They have little empathy or sympathy for the victim and will argue every point. This was one such case and a claim that should have been relatively straight forward was complicated by the approach the Defendant took. It was a claim where all our skills had to come into play. As well as our expert knowledge of the Animals Act we had to be alive to the different legal arguments that were being raised and more importantly we had to be there to offer support to our client so that she ended up with the compensation she deserved. Our client was very pleased with the end result, as were we.”