While Postal Workers apparently celebrate an increase in prosecutions for dog attacks and a 10% fall in attacks overall solicitor James McNally considers the truth that might hide behind the statistics and the impact such attacks have on the new self-employed delivery workforce. There are over 4000 dog attacks a year in the UK. While we may hear about the most serious and tragic such as the recent death of infant Reggie Young many hundreds of attacks go unreported. As such the Communications Workers Union (CWU) and Royal Mail have an annual Dog Awareness Week which seeks to raise awareness of the issue of dog attacks and encourage responsible dog ownership. This week they have launched their campaign by releasing figures heralding a rise in the number of prosecutions and a fall in the number of dog attacks on postal workers. Solicitor James McNally specialises in recovering compensation for victims of dog attacks suggests caution before we celebrate too much. Says James:
In May 2014 the then coalition government introduced changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act which meant that criminal prosecutions could now be brought if an attack took place on private property (previously the law was restricted to public areas) and that heavier sentences could be levied as a result. The change came about following a great deal of lobbying from the CWU who reported 8 of their members a day being bitten while delivering mail. As those deliveries took place on private property before the change in the law very few in any prosecutions were bought as a result. Figures now released show a 62% rise in the number of court cases involving attacks by dogs over the last year and a 10% fall on attacks on postal workers. This would appear to indicate that the new law is a success, that it is reducing the number of attacks. Unfortunately I feel that this is far from the truth. I would expect there to have been an increase in prosecutions because quite simply with the law covering private property the police now have more people to prosecute. Where I feel we need to be very cautious is in respect of the figures which apparently show a 10% fall relating to dog attacks on postal workers. These figures only relate to Royal Mail employees and the fact is that nowadays our mail doesn't just get delivered by the postman or woman. A vast amount of our deliveries come via organisations such as Hermes, Yodel or DPD. If anything over the last 12 months at my firm we have seen an increase in the number of delivery drivers from these organisations contacting us who have been the victims of a dog attack. I wonder how many of the dog attacks which would have been to postal workers have simply been transferred onto this new delivery workforce? What makes it worse is that unlike postal workers the drivers from these organisations work on a self employed basis. This means that if they don't work they don't get paid. A dog bite which stops them from driving can mean no income for several weeks and if that wasn't bad enough the contracts they enter into mean that they have to pay for their own cover while they recover. I act for one delivery driver from Essex would would usually earn about £250 per day but while off sick as a result of a dog attack not only received no wages but was charged £150 per day to cover his deliveries. He found a friend to help who he paid £75 per day and while this has saved him some money he has still been let considerably out of pocket. We have now received a response from the dog owner acknowledging the attack but stating that he has no insurance cover and is totally dependant on state benefits and has no income or savings of any kind. My client has a clear claim worth several thousand pounds and is sure to succeed but I have had to advise he take it no further as there is no chance of him recovering his losses from an uninsured defendant. My view from dealing with these claims on a daily basis is that it is all very well being able to bring more prosecutions after the event but one of the most important changes that needs making to legislation is that insurance needs to be compulsory for all dog owners. Dog owners need to acknowledge that their pet can cause serious physical and financial harm and the more they can do to lessen this the better.
James McNally is a partner at Slee Blackwell solicitors and specialises in recovering compensation for dog bite victims. He can be contacted on 0808 1391601 or firstname.lastname@example.org