If an animal causes you an injury, can you make a claim for compensation?
The modern law of negligence owes a lot to a mollusc but what if you have an accident in Scotland involving an animal – can you claim for your loss or damage?
The Cow’s Adventure
One case from the 1950s involved a clever cow which managed to escape from premises in Inverness’s Eastgate, where it was due to be auctioned.
It then managed to climb the stairway of a nearby property and fall through the floor into the shop below.
In its struggles it turned on a tap, causing flooding. It also trampled and damaged stock.
The Sheriff in that case decided there could be a successful claim against those responsible for the cattle at the time, if they could be shown to have been negligent.
In our experience, the most likely injury scenario will involve a person being bitten by an animal, typically a dog.
The law here is principally regulated by the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987.
Liability under the Act is strict – in other words, a claim for personal injury damages can be made without having to show negligence.
The person who is liable is the keeper of the animal “at the time of the injury or damage complained of” – this is usually either the owner of the animal or the person in possession of it.
The injury must be directly referable to the animal’s attribute or habit to bite.
This means the keeper of a dog will be strictly liable under the 1987 Act if the dog bites you.
It would not matter whether it was the first time it had bitten anyone or whether it had previously shown any likelihood that it might injure someone in that way.
However, there will not be strict liability if you fall over, or are knocked over by, the dog.
The only way you will be able to claim in that situation is if you can establish negligence on the part of the keeper of the dog.
Pet Insurance Issues
When you are considering whether or not to insure your pet, you will usually be considering that from the angle of vet’s bills if your pet needs treatment for any reason.
Bear in mind that another consideration is public liability insurance – i.e. to cover you against the risk that, say, your dog bites someone and they make a claim against you as the keeper of the dog.
It is not compulsory to insure your dog in the way that insurance is required for, say, a motor vehicle used on the public road.
You will see, however, that having public liability insurance could provide you with the peace of mind of knowing that you are covered for the cost if your dog causes injury to another person.
Costs can quickly run into thousands of pounds if a claim is made against you. Dog bites often leave permanent scars.
The other side of this equation is that, if you are bitten by a dog, you need to try to find out the details of the keeper of the dog.
It may not be easy to establish whether there is insurance in place for the dog and, in that case, it may be necessary to make a decision as to whether the keeper is a person with sufficient means to pay out on your claim.
Contact us for help
If you ever have any concerns arising from an injury caused by animal, whether you are the victim or the keeper / owner of the animal, do not hesitate to contact for us for advice.
All initial enquiries are free of charge and without obligation. If you have been injured by an animal, be sure to get specialist legal advice so you know your rights.