Can you sue if a police dog bites you? We look at the law relating to liability for police dog bites
Can you sue if a police dog bites you? Find out where you stand by calling our free legal helpline for a case assessment.
If you suffer a bite from a police dog there are two potential allegations that can be made. You can allege a breach of the 1971 Animals Act and you can allege that the police have been negligent.
To determine whether you can sue if a police dog bites you we would recommend that you speak to one of our specialist lawyers. We operate a free legal helpline so you can call us for initial guidance on making a claim and find out if no win, no fee funding is available.
It is important that any claim against the police is prepared properly and that the solicitor dealing with it understands the complexities of the law involved. As specialist dog bite lawyers who deal with such cases on a daily basis, we know exactly what to do and how to go about getting you the best result.
Over the last three years almost £800,000 has been paid in compensation to people bitten by police dogs. Greater Manchester Police paid out more then £180,000 while the Met Police are next on the list, paying out £95,000. West Midlands police were responsible for the highest number of dog bites. The people who have been bitten by police dogs include those suspected of committing a criminal offence, police staff and innocent members of the public
The police can defeat a compensation claim if they can show that the person bitten “voluntarily accepted the risk of damage” by failing to stop when commanded to do so.
Alleging that the police have been negligent means looking at whether or not there is something the police should have done (or have failed to do) to prevent the dog attacking. It also involves proving that they should have been aware that such an incident was likely, or “foreseeable”.
Proving negligence involves looking at the training records of the dog and its handler and searching for evidence of any previous incidents or similar attacks. If the records show that the dog had a history of difficulty obeying commands then it could be argued that an incident was likely; not just that the police dog would attack and cause injury (which is central to their role as a police dog) but more importantly it would overreact or fail to respond when placed in a “chase and detain” situation.
The police officer may have been negligent by choosing to release the dog at the wrong time or by failing to shout a warning before doing so. The officer owes a duty of care to those who he is going to set the dog on and this is breached if he fails to follow correct procedure and if he releases a dog over which he has little or no control and which could cause a foreseeable injury.
In certain circumstances there may be third option. You may be able to make a claim against the police for assault if it can be shown they have acted in a way which they knew to be unjustifiable and intended to cause harm; or at least acted without caring whether they caused harm or not. The police could counter argue that they were only using reasonable force in the prevention of crime or to lawfully arrest a suspect. It is often a question of whether or not they used “reasonable force” which is the key factor.