James McNally, a solicitor based in Devon and Somerset specialising in dog attack claims on a nationwide basis, presents a case summary of a dog attack compensation claim he has recently concluded.
Our client, who for the purposes of this case summary we shall refer to as “Maggie”, was in a relationship with the Defendant. She had gone back to the Defendant’s home to meet his parents. She had not visited the premises before and had not met the Defendant’s dog.
The Defendant introduced his dog, a Japanese Akita, to Maggie and went to make her a cup of tea, turning his back on both Maggie and the dog as he did so. Maggie was on her knees and leant forward to “cuddle” the dog. The dog growled and Maggie, still on her knees, moved back from him. Suddenly and without warning the dog leapt forwards and viciously bit Maggie on the mouth and lip. The Defendant grabbed the dog and threw it out of the house before calling for an ambulance.
Maggie received plastic surgery under general anaesthetic, the surgery lasting for four and half hours. This involved reconstructing her lip and stitching her chin. She had suffered a significant injury to her lower lip in the attack, losing approximately 40% of the full thickness of the lower lip. She suffered ongoing physical symptoms following surgery including loss of sensation and cosmetic defect.
Maggie also suffered severe psychological symptoms as a result of the attack and was diagnosed as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Because of the seriousness of her injuries Maggie decided to instruct lawyers to bring a claim for compensation. She initially consulted another firm of solicitors. However, she was unhappy with their delay in dealing with the case and their apparent lack of relevant experience. She wanted solicitors who specialised in animal liability law and found our details. It was a simple process to transfer her file and we took over conduct of her claim, agreeing to handle it on a No Win – No Fee basis.
We immediately pressed the Defendant and his insurers for a formal response to the allegations that had been made. In the meantime, copies of Maggie’s medical records were requested and a Consultant Craniofacial, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon, was instructed to prepare a medical report.
When he reported the expert noted the seriousness of the injury and was of the opinion that unless the Maggie’s psychological issues were treated, they were going to persist. A Consultant Psychiatrist was therefore instructed. He concluded that Maggie’s psychiatric condition had deteriorated since the dog attack. He also said she was presenting with signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which were affecting her quality of life in a significant way. He was of the opinion that it had affected her career. She had felt unable to return to her face-to-face sales career since the incident due to the psychological impact of the trauma. She had instead opted for a telesales job as an alternative, which was not as rewarding financially or emotionally. He added that if the appropriate treatment were provided there was a strong chance Maggie would be able to manage her social anxieties and that her PTSD symptoms would improve. He felt she might not be able to get her old life back, but with therapeutic treatment she may be better able to cope with the changes, which in turn would positively impact on her self-esteem and self-worth. He said that if further medical procedures were available they could make her feel more confident, adding that any such procedures should be offered with ongoing psychological help.
A Skin Camouflage expert was also instructed who concluded that addressing the Maggie’s physical appearance with the recommended aesthetic treatments would make a huge improvement to her confidence, self-esteem, and as a consequence, her life generally. It was also stated that Maggie would benefit from a course of micro-medical skin needling, to stimulate the skin to regenerate and repair itself naturally.
Despite the passage of time the Defendant had still to provide a substantive response on liability. As medical evidence had now been obtained and we were obviously keen to progress the claim so Maggie could fund and access the treatment that had been recommended Court proceedings were issued and served.
The Defendant’s immediate response was to put forward an offer to settle Maggie’s claim for the sum of £30,000.00, without any admission of liability being given. A conference with a specialist barrister was arranged so that Maggie could discuss the offer with her legal team and we could deal with any queries or concerns she had.
As a result of the conference we entered into a period of negotiation with the Defendant’s insurers and just a few weeks after issuing court proceedings the Defendant put forward an improved offer of £50,000.00. Maggie felt this was too large a sum to turn down and instructed us to accept the offer.
Maggie’s case is a prime example of the importance of instructing solicitors who are familiar with niche areas of law such as dog attacks and Animals Act cases. Her previous solicitors obviously didn’t have the expertise in this field and therefore lacked the confidence needed to push the claim forward. The Defendant employed delaying tactics that are common among insurance companies, but as soon as we were involved we adopted a pro-active approach to the claim. We were confident in doing so because we are very experienced in this type of claim and have belief in own abilities. If Maggie had not made the change of solicitors that she did we have little doubt she would either still be waiting for her claim to conclude or worse still, advised to drop the claim.