Have You Suffered A Dog Bite?
The Law Of… gaining compensation for a dog bite
Many of us will be aware of the stereotype that dogs do not like Postmen and women. In fact, most working in the industry would likely describe dog attacks as a very serious occupational hazard, a fact that one of our clients discovered after they were attacked by a dog while doing their rounds.
Ruth Magee – Associate Solicitor in Simpson Millar's Personal Injury team – explains how a recent case she helped settle saw a Postman attacked and bitten by a dog when making deliveries.
Obviously, due to the nature of his job, our client comes into contact with dogs regularly and after being attacked he suffered not only physical symptoms but also significant anxiety when performing his daily duties.
It was on this basis that he decided to bring a compensation claim against the dog's owners. Ruth was able to show they had been negligent and failed to control their dog.
Dog Bite Delivering Mail
In the normal course of his employment, our client was delivering mail to a house and noticed a home owner on their driveway loading items into their car.
The home owner had their dog on a leash when our client approached and he greeted the home owner with the intention of handing mail directly to her.
At this point, the dog showed no sign of aggression; however, without warning the dog sprang forward and leapt up at our client, biting him on the stomach.
Our client was left shaken by the incident but felt he could carry on his round as he only had an hour left on his shift.
Upon returning to his delivery office, he reported the incident, which was recorded and shared with other colleagues by means of a warning notice about the dangers of this particular dog while delivering mail.
Serious Psychological Harm
The incident had both physical and psychological effects on our client; he suffered an abrasion and bruising on his stomach, which remained for three months after the incident.
In the immediate aftermath to the incident, our client visited his GP, who advised him to take antibiotics and get a tetanus injection.
Due to his injuries and the medication he was prescribed, our client had to temporarily reduce some of his duties at work; this included reducing the amount of overtime he could work, which he had previously taken regularly as a necessity to make up hours as he was employed on a part-time contract.
Of particular significance following the incident was the effect on our client's psychological wellbeing, as the incident had a profound influence on his comfort at work.
Our client reported a change in his behaviour towards dogs. After the incident whenever he heard barking or saw dogs at properties he was visiting he would become uneasy and anxious; in many instances he took alternative routes to avoid dogs during his rounds.
A medical expert confirmed that our client suffered from an adjustment disorder and a very specific anxiety disorder as a result of the incident and recommended a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
After undergoing six CBT sessions, our client felt his psychological symptoms subsided and he returned to a mental state closely comparable to that before the incident; however, certain situations would still make him feel uneasy.
Dog Owners Deny Claims
This case saw the dog owners try to deny blame, as they alleged that their dog did not bite our client and simply jumped up to greet him.
Ruth was able to establish that the dog bite had occurred as alleged by our client and was able to show that the home owners were negligent in their duty of care to a legal visitor to their property.
Commenting on the case, Ruth said:
"Dog attacks on Postmen and women are very common, with Royal Mail statistics suggesting that, on average, seven members of staff are attacked across the UK every day."
"Dogs are territorial creatures and even the best-behaved dog can become aggressive if they feel that they, or their family, are threatened by someone on their property."
"It is for this reason that dog owners have to be vigilant when people come onto their property, whether this is Postmen and women attempting to deliver mail or friends and family members coming to visit."
"Home owners have a duty of care to those who are lawfully visiting their property and as this case shows, dog owners should always be mindful of their pet when someone steps onto their property."
"From the point of view of the postal workers, it must be terrifying to consider that they could be attacked at any time when they are simply performing the daily tasks associated with their job."
"If you have suffered a dog bite, you could be entitled to compensation and as a historic trade union firm, Simpson Millar are well placed to help you with your claim."