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Compensation for Animal Attack Injury

Unsurprisingly, most animal related injuries are caused by dogs, but other animals can also inflict nasty, and sometimes life changing and permanent injuries to the victims. The psychological injuries of an animal attack can also be profound.

Wherever animals are kept for other people’s pleasure, injuries can occur. Even animal keepers are at risk – like female tiger keeper Rosa King who was killed by one of her charges at Hamerton Zoo Park in 2017. Safari parks, animal sanctuaries, small animal farms, and the like, invariably involve some risk to visitors and workers.

Injuries are also caused by horses, cattle, cats, foxes, rats, other mammals and livestock. Unfortunately, it is underestimated just how dangerous some animals can be. Every year, for instance, there are high profile reports of people fatally injured by cows – usually walkers who have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The reality is: an animal that is frightened or provoked can attack.

Find out more about claiming dog bite compensation.

What if I work with animals and I’m injured?

Many people work with animals on a daily basis on farms, in zoos and other animal establishments. If you work with or around animals, your employer must provide you with a safe working environment. If you are attacked and injured, you can sue your employer for personal injury compensation.

What types of injury can an animal attack cause?

Typical animal injuries include open wounds following a bite, and infections are a common problem following an animal injury. Other injuries can include gore wounds from bulls or goats; serious internal injuries and broken bones from being trampled or kicked; and even brain injuries and lost limbs in some cases.

DID YOU KNOW: According to the Health and Safety Executive, 98 people were killed by cows between March 2000 and March 2020 – most of them farmworkers.

What’s the law?

Animal keepers are legally responsible for the animals to which you and other members of the public have access. This means they must always be under control, and public access to them must be supervised. So farmers must ensure their paths are safe to walk on, and display clear warning signs if there is a bull in their field. Zoos must ensure the public are adequately protected by barriers, toughened glass, cages, and so on. If the animal owner is negligent in their duty, and you are injured as a result, you can claim personal injury compensation. To prove negligence, you need to prove that the owner owed you a duty of care, and your injury was a direct result of that breach. For instance, the animal had escaped, or your access to the animal was not supervised.

Does negligence always have to be proved?

No, you might not have to prove negligence to secure compensation if you’re the victim of an animal attack. If the injury was caused by a dangerous species (ie, one that is not commonly domesticated in the UK and can cause severe damage when fully grown, if not restrained), then ‘strict liability’ applies under the Animals Act 1971. This means you don’t have to prove the owner was negligent to secure damages. However, you must be able to show that the owner was the keeper of the animal, and that the animal caused you personal injury.

If the animal is domesticated, the keeper of the animal will be strictly liable only if your injury was of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause (or if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe); the likelihood of this was because of its characteristics not normally found in the same species – and the keeper knew this.

DID YOU KNOW: In 2019/20, there were 19,663 admissions to hospital for treatment to injuries caused by dogs and other animals.

What steps should I take?

If you have been the victim of an animal attack, it is vital to get medical attention straight away, particularly because of the high risk of infection. Take photographs if you can: of the location of the incident, your injuries, and the animal if at all possible. You should also find out if the Health and Safety Executive has been informed by the animal owner/keeper. And if you think an offence has been committed, tell the police. You should also get the details of any witnesses who can help support your personal injury claim.

How do I start a claim following an animal attack?

If you have been injured by an animal, you may be able to make a claim against the keeper for personal injury compensation under the Animals Act 1971. If the keeper cannot be held strictly liable, you can pursue a negligence claim instead – in which case, you must prove the owner owed you a duty of care, and your injury was a direct result of that breach. You will need to identify who to make your claim against. This could be an individual, a company or another business, such as a zoo operator, the owner of a horse-riding school, or a farmer. If you were attacked while at work, you can make a compensation claim against your employer.

In practice, the claim will usually be made against an insurance company, as establishments keeping animals will usually be required to maintain public liability insurance.

You must make your claim within three years of the date of the injury (though in the case of a child, the three-year period does not start until they reach the age of 18). Try to start your claim as soon as possible, though, while the evidence, such as witness statements, is still fresh. Although you can start your claim more than three years after the attack took place, the court may not allow it.

Fortunately, most animal attack compensation claims are settled out of court. However, if your claim does go to court, you will need as much evidence as possible to prove your claim, including expert medical evidence, to enable the judge to decide what is fair compensation.

How much compensation could I receive?

This very much depends on the nature and extent of your injuries, the expected time of recovery, and the impact on your life. Damages will include general damages (for pain, suffering and ‘loss of amenity’); and special damages – to cover your expenses, medical fees, and so on. General damages are assessed by the court (unless you settle your claim out of court) depending on your injuries. But bear in mind that if you were partly responsible for your injury, a deduction will most likely be made.

If the police are involved following an animal attack, you may be able to make a compensation claim from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) if the animal was intentionally used to cause you harm.

Cow Attack Compensation

In general, cows are docile animals but can attack when spooked. Most people should understand that getting close to cows or letting their dogs near them can result in an accident, so many animal injury claims that involve cattle might not settle.

However, if you’re on a public footpath and a cow attacks you for no reason, it’s possible to make an animal attack claim. As with all injuries, you can only claim compensation if you successfully prove the farmer or landowner was negligent for your animal attack injuries.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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