Mrs A was visiting her parents who had recently adopted a Weimararner for a local rescue centre. She was 6 months pregnant at the time. As Mrs A stroked the dog it suddenly lunged forwards and bit her face and lip causing a serious injury. Because of her pregnancy she had to wait until she had given birth before she could undergo scar revision surgery and treatment.
Mrs A initially instructed local solicitors. They sent a letter of claim on her behalf and received a denial of liability. They asked a barrister to advise and his response was that the claim was unlikely to succeed. The solicitors asked Mrs A for £5,000 on account to continue with her claim.
Mrs A contacted Slee Blackwell who reviewed the file and felt that her previous solicitors and barrister had misunderstood the law. They had no hesitation in offering to work on a No Win No Fee basis.
Almost three years had passed while the previous solicitors dealt with the claim and so Slee Blackwell moved quickly and instructed a plastic surgeon and psychologist to prepare reports on Mrs A. A report was also obtained from a cosmetic camouflage expert who provided a list and breakdown of the costs of recommended make-up and skin camouflage that she felt would benefit Mrs A in hiding the remaining scarring.
Whereas the previous solicitor had concentrated efforts in pursuing a claim against the rescue centre Slee Blackwell felt that the claim should be redirected towards the dog owners, Mrs A's parents. They were insured and the Animals Act meant that they were strictly liable for what had happened.
Agreement couldn't be reached on liability and so Court proceedings were issued.
Slee Blackwell obtained a report from a canine behaviourist who considered that the type of bite Mrs A had suffered was a "level 3" bite and was the result of the dog giving her a "severe warning". The expert did not accept that this was the first time a dog aged 5 years old would have reacted in this way and also felt that the dog would not have reacted to someone in the manner unless it had suffered a significant traumatic experience or was medically unwell. The dog's bed was its refuge and approaching the dog while in its bed had led to the bite. That the dog's owners were not present to influence and control the dog's behaviour was also significant.
A conference with a specialist dog bite barrister was arranged for Mrs A to discuss her claim and the possible value.
Following disclosure of the report from the canine behaviorist negotiations began and Mrs A settled her claim for £20,000.
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