As beloved members of our families, pets bring joy, companionship, and love into our lives – who doesn’t like a cuddle with a kitten or feel uplifted by a long dog walk? Although they provide a lot of happiness, there’s the potential for pet-related accidents that can result in injuries. These accidents can be emotionally and physically distressing for all involved parties, including the pets themselves.
In this article, we take a look at the common types of pet-related accidents, how to determine liability and responsibility and how you can go about claiming compensation if you feel like you’ve been the victim of owner negligence.
Common types of pet-related accidents
When it comes to the most common type of personal injury claims caused by pets, the culprits tend to be dogs. Dog bite injury claims can come about for numerous reasons, for example, a dog can become aggressive if they feel scared, threatened or they are guarding their territory, but sometimes aggression can come from seemingly nowhere. Naturally, the severity of a dog bite can vary – for some individuals, it could be a minor incident. For others, dog bites can be more serious and result in long-term pain or reduced movement if there’s damage to nerves or tendons.
Trips and falls are also a common type of pet-related injury and are usually attributable to over-excited dogs either running around and tripping people up or jumping up in excitement and pushing people over. Aggressive behaviour from dogs can also cause people to fall if they become scared or startled due to loud barking or growling.
Bites or scratches from both dogs and cats can cause problems if they’re not treated properly and become infected. In addition, cats and dogs can also both cause allergies, which can result in reactions like rashes and respiratory problems.
Liability and responsibility
If you’re looking to pursue a compensation claim for a pet-related accident, then it’s vital that you understand where liability lies as this might not always be clear. Let’s take a look at exactly who could hold the liability for pet-inflicted injuries:
- The pet owner is usually the person held liable as it’s likely that the injury would have occurred while the pet owner was in charge. This isn’t a given, though.
- A dog handler or pet sitter could be walking the dog on behalf of the owner. If the owner has left their pet with someone else in good faith and the third party acts negligently, they could be the one held liable.
- It’s less common, but if the injury happens on someone else’s property, then the property owner could be liable if they were aware that there was a potentially dangerous animal on their premises.
Legal aspects of animal-induced injuries
The legal aspects of pet accidents will vary depending on where you live and the exact circumstances of the accident. Nonetheless, there are a few different legal points that are worth thinking about if you’re assessing whether you have a claim and who might be liable.
In many cases, pet owners are held to a ‘strict liability’ standard, meaning they can be held responsible for injuries caused by their pets regardless of whether they were aware of their pet’s aggressive tendencies or not. This liability standard is common in cases of dog bite injury claims.
To prove liability for pet-inflicted injuries, it may be necessary to establish that the pet owner was negligent in their care or control of the animal. This could include failing to properly secure the pet or allowing the pet to roam freely in a public area. If you’re in any doubt at all, it’s always better to keep your dog on a lead in public places.
If the injury occurs on someone else’s property, premises liability laws may come into play. This is the point we touched on earlier, where essentially a property owner may be held responsible if they knew or should have known that a dangerous pet was on their premises. Property owners are held accountable for both their knowledge of potential danger and their failure to take action in order to prevent injuries.
Pet owners may have valid defences, such as trespassing or provocation, to avoid liability in certain cases. If the injured party was trespassing on the pet owner’s property or intentionally provoked the animal, for example, this could impact the outcome of a claim.
Compensation for pet-induced injuries
If you’ve been injured in a pet-related accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and associated damages such as medical bills or loss of earnings from time off work. If you think you might be able to pursue a claim, there are certain things that it’s important to do:
Seek medical attention
It’s essential to get the necessary medical care for your injuries, especially where an animal has broken the skin as you could be at risk of infection. Getting medical treatment also creates a record of your injuries.
Document the incident
Record details of the accident including the date, time and location. Also, make sure to take lots of pictures as evidence. Hopefully, there’ll have been witnesses to the accident so make sure you get their details, too. Having this information readily available means that it’s easier for us to contact bystanders for a statement.
Notify the owner
Normally the owner will be there with the pet, so make sure that you get their details before you head off to get medical attention. If the owner isn’t there, are you able to track them down? If the dog is loose with no guardian whatsoever, you might need to call the authorities in order to have them collected. In this instance, don’t put yourself in any more danger.
Talk to a solicitor
Get in touch with us here at McGinley Solicitors LLP and we can advise you on your next steps. Potentially, we can even help you to get compensation for your pet-induced injuries. We’ll assess the viability of your case, help you gather evidence and guide you through the legal process from start to finish.
Preventing animal-related injuries
As a pet owner, there are numerous ways you can prevent animal-related injuries:
- Always keep control over your pet through proper training and socialisation. When out and about, this could mean keeping them on a short lead or exercising them in a private dog field.
- If your dog has excellent recall, keep an eye on the presence of other dogs and vulnerable people.
- Clean up after your dog to make sure you’re not leaving a trip hazard.
- Never approach a strange animal without asking permission from the owner – they may be sensitive or anxious and your approach could lead to aggression. If possible, avoid getting involved in pet fights, especially if they are not your pets.
- If you’re visiting people and have pet allergies, let your host know in advance.
- Likewise, if you’re expecting visitors, let them know that you have pets so that they can make informed choices about their visit.
Why choose McGinley Solicitors LLP?
Here at McGinley Solicitors LLP, we appreciate that a claim for a pet-related injury can be complex and potentially a very emotional time for everyone involved, especially if the pet belongs to friends or family. We can help you to navigate not just the legal complexities but also the emotional ones – we take every case on its own merits, personalising our approach to suit you.
Contact us via a telephone call or email and we’ll chat to you about your case.
What is a personal injury claim caused by animals?
A personal injury claim caused by animals refers to an individual pursuing a claim because of an injury caused by somebody else’s pet or even a wild animal. These could be anything from a bit or scratch through to more serious dog bite injury claims that result in long-term pain.
Are pet owners liable for injuries caused by their pets?
Yes, although specific rules may vary from place to place, generally an owner has a responsibility for making sure their pet is under control and thus liability for pet-inflicted injuries. If pet-related accidents do occur, the pet owner can be held liable.
Can I file a personal injury claim if a pet injures me?
Yes, you can. It will of course depend on the specific circumstances, but if the owner’s negligence led to you being hurt by their pet then you could have a claim and could also be able to get compensation for medical expenses and loss of earnings.
What steps should I take if I’m injured by someone’s pet?
If you’re injured by someone else’s pet, the first thing to do is to get medical help. Even if at the time you don’t feel like it’s serious, it’s important to have a record of your injuries. Come to us for advice and we can guide you through the next steps.
Can I file a personal injury claim if I slip and fall due to a pet’s mess?
Yes, you can, if the owner was aware of the mess and deliberately didn’t clean it up then you could be able to make a claim if you slip and hurt yourself as a result.
How do I prove liability in a pet-related injury case?
Proving liability is key and unfortunately it can be difficult. If there were witnesses then this is very valuable, so make sure you keep their details so that they can be contacted for statements. Call the police if necessary and take photos of anything that might feel important. We can let you know exactly what evidence you’ll need and help to gather it for you.
Can I file a personal injury claim for emotional distress caused by a pet?
This one can be tougher to prove, but if you are experiencing mental distress caused by someone else’s pet due to owner negligence then you could potentially have a claim. The best thing to do is to talk to one of our team – we have the experience to help you understand whether or not you have a claim.
What if I was injured while trying to break up a pet fight?
Again, this is a tricky one, and it comes down to owner negligence. Was the owner of the pet negligent to the point that the fight occurred? Were there any witnesses? What was your role? Give us a call and we can talk through your case with you.
What happens if I am injured by an unfamiliar pet without an owner present?
If you’re injured by a pet when the owner isn’t present then it will depend on the circumstances and where you were. If the pet was without their owner because they had failed to keep them under control and they had run away then you could definitely argue that the owner’s negligence led to the injury.
Are veterinarians and pet professionals liable for injuries caused by pets?
Yes, they can be, depending on the circumstances. If the vet or pet professional has acted in a neglectful or improper way and this has led to the injury, you may have a claim.