Dog Bite Claims
An injury or loss caused to you if you are injured as result of an attack by a dog, in either a public or private space, may entitle you to receive compensation pursuant to the provisions of the Dog Act 1976 (WA) (Act). A & E Legal can assist.
Our experienced solicitors will engage on your behalf (by submitting a claim) with the owner or any person in control of the dog and/or their insurers for the compensation that you deserve resulting from your personal injury or loss, which should ultimately resolve by settlement or progression to a trial.
Our solicitors will fight for your rights and entitlements.
Who Can Claim?
Anyone who has been attacked by a dog and suffered injuries as a result can lodge a claim for loss and damages. The injuries that may be sustained vary from case to case, but they may include one or more or all of the following:
- puncture wounds;
- nerve and muscle damage;
- scarring and disfigurement;
- emotional and psychological trauma.
What can I claim?
You can claim for all loss and damage suffered by you, i.e.:
- past and future loss of earnings;
- pain, suffering and loss of amenities of life;
- past and future medical expenses;
- hospitalisation expenses; and
- home assistance.
Can I claim for damages if the attack was partly my fault?
Section 46(2) of the Act provides that for the purpose of determining who is to blame, the standard of care required is that of a reasonable person in your position and it is to be determined on the basis of what you knew or ought to have known at the time. In other words, a Court will have to determine whether you could have done something to avoid the attack in the circumstances of your particular incident. If you could have avoided the attack, the Court may find that you and the dog owner/person in control, were both to blame and reduce your award accordingly. This is called contributory negligence.
Who can I claim from?
In WA, every person liable for the control of a dog commits an offence if the dog attacks or chases any person or animal. The owner of the dog is liable for damages for any injury to a person or animal. However, a person in control of the dog may also be liable.
Normally a claim is lodged against the owner of the dog’s home insurance policy (public liability policy).
What is an attack?
An attack is defined in section 3 of the Act, in relation to the behavior of a dog and unless the owner establishes that the behavior was justified by reasonable cause, as:
- aggressively rushing at or harassing any person or animal; or
- biting, or otherwise causing physical injury to a person or animal; or
- tearing clothing on, or otherwise causing damage to the property of the person attacked; or
- attempting to attack, or behaving in such a manner toward a person as would cause a reasonable person to fear physical injury.
In the matter of City of Armadale v Kiraly  WASC 199, the City of Armadale (City) appealed against the decision of a Magistrate because a charge under section 33D(1) of the Act was dismissed. That section provides that if a dog attacks or chases any person, or any animal owned by or in the charge of another person, whether or not any injury is caused, every person liable for the control of the dog commits an offence:
- in the case of any person, unless he satisfies the court that the dog was being used in good faith in the reasonable defence of any person or property or for the droving or removal of any animal found trespassing;
- in the case of the occupier of premises where the dog is ordinarily kept or ordinarily permitted to live, unless he satisfies the court that at the material time the dog was in fact owned by some other person (whom he shall identify) over the age of 18 years; or
- in the case of the owner or the registered owner, unless he satisfies the court that at the material time the dog was in the possession or control of some other person without his consent, express or implied.
His Honour, EM Heenan J, concluded that the appeal should be dismissed, as the evidence did not clearly demonstrate, amongst others, that the dog had induced fear of physical injury on the person that was bitten and there was no attack pursuant to the Act. The owner of the dog was, however, fined for not having the dog on a leash.
Are there time limits?
There are strict time limits and normally, if you are an adult, you have 3 years from the date of the personal injury or from the date when you first noticed clinical signs of an injury.
If a dog has bitten your child, different time periods exist and we recommend that you contact us immediately.
Do I have to go to Court?
Most claims are settled without having to go to Court on trial. However, pre-trial conferences are held at the Court building in a more informal basis and we will be there to represent you through this process.
How long will it take and how much does it cost?
We will attempt to get through the claim procedure as quickly as possible by seeking the relevant expert medical advice from your doctors to ensure that your claim is settled at the right time. We will answer all your questions about legal costs at the first free consultation with you. However, in the event of a successful resolution of your claim, the owner or person in control of the dog or their respective insurers will cover most of the costs.
Is the first consultation free?
The first consultation is free with no obligation on your part to proceed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.