Although we are dog bite solicitors a better name for us might be "dog bites and dog strikes solicitors" as we also deal with an awful lot of claims where someone has been knocked over by a dog often suffering broken legs, ankles or wrists as result. Injuries can be severe and are often life changing.
More often then not the victims are just enjoying a walk in their local park or beauty spot when without warning they are knocked off their feet by a dog. The victims are often eldery and a borken wrist or ankle can mean that their retirement plans of gardening or country walks are ruined.
When these collision cases are reported by the hospital they are officially recorded by the NHS as "dog strikes."
Recently dog bite solicitors settled a claim for a North Devon pensioner who was the victim of a dog strike. She received £20,000 after being knocked to the ground when stood talking to a friend while the Defendants exercised their dogs nearby.
This claim took over three years to settle. This is because dog strike cases are not straightforward and are often the ones that really cause us to dig deep into our knowledge of the Animals Act 1971. They are frequently defended and of all the types of case we deal with dog strikes are the ones that most often go to trial or take the longest to settle.
The reason dog strike cases are complicated is because of what we have to show in order to prove that the dog owner is responsible. It isn't as simple as saying that they should have had better control of the dog.
If you are bringing a claim in negligence you have to show that the dog owner could have predicted that their dog might have knocked you over in the way that it did. This is clearly very difficult to prove especially if you don't know anything about the dog's previous history and the vet records don't give any indication that it has knocked someone over before.
In such cases we are able to rely upon the Animals Act. However this bit of legislation is notoriously difficult to understand and causes confusion to solicitors, barrister and judges a like.
As discussed elsewhere on this site there is a three stage test that needs to be met for a Defendant to be held strictly liable. You have to show that:
a. the injury was likely to be severe; and
b. that the injury was caused by a particular characteristic caused by a particular circumstances; and
c. that the owner had knowledge of this characteristic.
Quite often a dog owner will deny liability for a dog strike on the basis that negligence does not apply because their dog had never knocked anyone over before and also that because they had no knowledge that their dog could knock people over they cannot be liable under the Animals Act.
But is this correct?
In a word; No.
This is because of a case called Welsh v Stokes. In this case someone was injured when they fell off a horse whihc had reared up. The Court decided that although this horse had no history of acting in this way it was, like other horses, capable of acting in this way at particular times. They also decided that as far as knowledge is concerned it was enough to show that the Defendant knew that horses, as a species, normally behave in the way in which this horse had.
So where dog strikes are concerned you don't have to show that the owner knew that their dog could knock someone over; just that they had knowledge that dogs do knock people over.
This doesn't mean that liability is a given however. Dog owners will still argue that they didn't know that dog's knocking people over was a thing. They will say that they had no knowledge it was a potential problem.
In dealing with a recent case of a dog strike we instructed a Canine Behaviourist John Rogerson to prepare a report in order to assist the Court with understanding what was happening at the time of the accident and how the Animals Act might apply.
John Rogerson noted that the Defendant seemed to have never considered a dog collision a possibility. He found this extraordinary and so put a question on his facebook page to those who regularly exercise their dogs in a public place. As John says:
"I had 126 replies to the question I raised which was:
Serious question to all of my dog friends in the UK. Have you ever been run into by any dog that is running around in a public place not taking heed of its surroundings? How many have experienced this and how many have never experienced this?"
Of the 126 replies 8 stated that they had never been run into with 3 stating that they avoided places where dogs were exercised off lead because of the risk. One stated that although she had never had a dog collide with her she had witnessed this happening to another person. 83 of the people who responded claimed to have been struck by a dog running into them many, like myself had been struck on multiple occasions."
For John, the dog owners who got in touch with him and for us who deal with numerous dog strike cases all the time it is apparent that a collision is a very real and well known risk. Hopefully one day Defendant dog owners will acknowledge that and make life that little bit easier for their victims.
If you have been injured as a result of a dog strike or collision then contact us now for a free case assessment and No Win No Fee funding.
You can email James McNally direct on [email protected]