Man who was bitten by his neighbour's dog recovers compensation of £30,000, even though his original solicitors told him he didn't have a claim!
Our client, Mr M, was walking home from work when he saw a neighbour in the rear yard of her terraced house. He walked up to the back gate to speak to her through the gap between the gate and house next door. As he did so her Bull Mastiff "Max" put its front paws up on the wall bringing its head level with Mr M's face and, without any warning, bit the tip of his nose.
He was taken to Airedale Hospital before being transferred to Royal Bradford Infirmary. He had surgery but was left with a missing right nostril and extensive scarring.
Mr M originally instructed Minster Law to make a dog bite compensation claim.
Legal responsibility for the dog bite was denied on the basis that Mr M had leant forward and put his face in very close proximity to the dog and that the bite was wholly his fault.
Following advice from a barrister Minster Law decided that the prospects of successfully pursuing a dog bite claim were below 50% and declined to take the case any further.
Mr M then came to us for a second opinion.
We reviewed Minster Law's file and took a different view. We therefore agreed to take on the case on a no win, no fee basis.
The dog owner's insurers made it clear that they were not willing to change their position so we prepared the case for court.
A Consultant Plastic Surgeo confirmed that our client's appearance was now permanent. Reconstruction options were available but would not guarantee a satisfactory cosmetic outcome. A report was also obtained from a Consultant Psychiatrist who diagnosed an 'adjustment disorder'. He suffered intrusive “what if” thoughts and flashbacks.
We brought in a Cosmetic Camouflage expert to help our client improve the appearance of the scarring to his face.
We discovered that the incident had been captured on CCTV. and obtained a copy. We also asked for the dog's vet records. The insurance company was reluctant to disclose these so we made an application to the Court for an Order for disclosure. When we saw the records they confirmed that the dog had previously exhibited aggressive tendencies and its owner had actually feared for their new born baby and had the dog destroyed.
With this evidence available a report was obtained from a canine behaviourist who commented on the breed had a “very well established territorial and protective instinct”. He said that the bite Mr M suffered was a “grip and hold” – designed to temporarily disable its opponent and subdue it. He noted the previous history of behavioural problems and that despite recommendations from the vet the dog had undergone no training. He took a view that the fact the dog wasn’t with the owner on the day was of relevance and that it was clear from the “beware of the dog” sign that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s temperament. The expert's interpretation of the video evidence was that dog was already aroused by the sound of Mr M’s approach before he was visible to him and had put his front paws on the wall prior to his arrival. He said that it is the dog’s muzzle that moves forwards and passes the line of the wooden fence in an attempt to drive Mr McDonald’s territorial intrusion away.
We recruited a specialist dog bite barrister and spent time in conference with Mr M and his partner discussing the impact of the accident. It became apparent that wedding plans had been delayed because of the claimant’s scarring and his feelings towards it.
Prior to trial the owner's insurers made an offer of £30,000. This was accepted without hesitation by Mr M. While his claim was probably worth more he took to view that having previously been told he would get nothing at all he was grateful to receive any compensation and preferred to settle out of court than risk losing at trial.