It’s an experience no-one should ever have to come to terms with, but the reality is that dog attacks happen – and when they do they can have serious and long-term repercussions on physical and mental health.
While dog attacks are rare, the resulting injuries – both physical and psychological – are very real and may require significant investment to heal. But dealing with the challenges of recovery shouldn’t fall to you alone.
“A dog attack is a traumatic experience for everyone involved,” says Maliganis Edwards Johnson (MEJ) partner James Treloar. “Often physical and mental injuries can arise from an unprovoked attack that can lead to significant medical bills and time off work.
“If you are injured in a dog attack – whether you sustain a dog bite injury visiting someone’s home, or you are attacked in the open by an uncontained dog – you may be entitled to compensation.”
In the ACT, the Domestic Animals Act 2000 (ACT) (DA Act) makes it an offence for a person to be a keeper or carer of a dog if that dog attacks another person and the attack causes serious injury.
The DA Act also makes the keeper of a dog liable to compensate a person for any loss or expense because of personal injury or property damage done to a person, or the death or injury of an animal.
However, dog attacks can also be incredibly stressful depending on the relationship with the persons involved. For example, if the dog belongs to a family member, friend or colleague.
Luckily, James explains that compensation may be recovered whether or not a prosecution for an offence against the DA Act has been brought and may be recovered even if the keeper has been acquitted of any charge.
So what are the first steps to take after a dog attack occurs, after any necessary medical assistance?
“If you or someone in your family is injured in a dog attack, phone the Domestic Animal Services (DAS) hotline to immediately report the incident,” says James.
He explains there are several options available to you after a dog attack.
You can request that DAS issue a warning to the dog owner, request that the dog owner be fined by DAS, or seek to have the dog owner prosecuted.
If you choose to make a compensation claim, James says there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, a case can be tailored to the scope of injury – physical or psychological – whether it was yourself or your dog that was attacked, and how much the attack has affected your life.
“If you are successful in bringing a dog attack claim, the law does its best to put you back in the position [you were in] had you not been involved in the attack,” says James.
“You may be entitled to compensation for your past and future medical, rehabilitation and medication costs, loss of wages and assistance needs. You will also be compensated for your pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.”
If you have previously experienced a dog attack some time ago and the idea of claiming compensation is news to you, James says that while there are legislative deadlines, you should discuss your options with a lawyer.
“If you are unsure if you can make a claim, call your trusted compensation lawyer to take you through your options and advise you of your rights.”
If you or someone in your family is injured in a dog attack, phone Domestic Animal Services via the Access Canberra contact centre hotline on 13 22 81 to immediately report the incident.
For more information or to see if you can make a claim, visit Maliganis Edwards Johnson, or call 02 6257 2999.
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