My heart goes out to the family of the young girl savagely attacked whilst playing in the park last weekend. It is reported that her injuries are extremely severe, including the loss of part of an ear and that she is going to require reconstructive surgery at a later date. Only time will tell if her psychological injuries will heal, and indeed those of her family, who witnessed the horrific attack.
The owner of the said dog did initially flee the scene, but later handed himself in to local Police, and is to be charged with allowing a dog to be out of control in a public place and causing injury.
It’s unlikely however, that this dog owner has any insurance which would pay out compensation to this little girl, and it’s also unlikely that she will be able to obtain damages from any other source, such as the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (which itself is under review), as it’s unlikely this attack, although subject to criminal proceedings, will meet the CICA’s criteria. This seems to be to be very unfair, but as a solicitor working within the Personal Injury sector, an all too common occurrence that I am faced with on a very regular basis.
Recent statistics show that the number of admissions to hospital as a result of a dog attack has risen for the fifth consecutive year, and I receive many enquiries from people injured by dogs every year, but are unfortunately unable to secure compensation for a great number of them due to the fact that the dog owners themselves do not have any insurance, nor do they have the financial means of paying damages to the injured person. It is very difficult to bring a successful claim when someone has been injured by a dog.
As an owner of two dogs myself, I believe better regulation should exist in relation to the registration and keeping of dogs, with particular emphasis on ensuring that every dog owner has insurance. In a survey conduct by the RSPCA, two in three dogs owners were in favour of licensing. But this is yet to be introduced in this country, although an announcement is expected early this year in relation to a review of this area of law.
There are changes afoot in relation to the prosecution of dogs that attack, agreed but yet to be implemented, which will mean that even if a dog attacks a person within the dog owners private property, the dog owner can been charged (currently only if a dog attacks in a public place can criminal charges be brought, under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991), but this alone will not ensure that the victims of such attacks have access to justice and civil compensation. The aim of the 1991 was to eliminate banned breeds from this country, and to reduce the number of dog attacks. It has failed to achieve either of those objectives and requires serious overhaul.
Until such time as there has been a significant change in the way in which dogs are licensed, registered and insured and there is a change in the legislation which will mean more prosecutions of reckless dog owners, then people will continue to be attacked, and we will continue to read and hear these horror stories in the news and press.
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury, then we at Stephensons have experienced staff that may be able to assist. Call us for a free initial assessment on 0844 245 6601.
By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Kate Sweeney