If you’re attacked and injured by a dog it’s possible to claim compensation from the owner.
The amount of compensation usually covers medical costs incurred, loss of earnings and general damages for pain and suffering.
R2.4 million payout for dog attack victim in 2020
In 2020, in the case of Cloete v Van Meyeren, the plaintiff claimed damages of R2,341,000 from the owner of three Pitbull-type dogs after they attacked him in the street causing serious injuries.
Despite the defendant’s claim that his dogs were behind a padlocked gate, the dogs got out when the gate was left open by an intruder. This allowed the dogs to attack the plaintiff unprovoked.
The judge ruled in favour of the plaintiff, enforcing the “actio de pauperie”. This legal ruling provides that “the owner of a dog that attacks a person who was lawfully at the place where he was injured, and who neither provoked the attack nor by his negligence contributed to his own injury, is liable, as owner, to make good the resulting damage”.
It is a case of strict liability. The owner is liable even if he or she wasn’t at fault or negligent.
In order to challenge this ruling, an owner must prove the dog was provoked or was defending itself from abuse.
City of Cape Town v Fatiema Carelse
In the same week in September 2020, the Supreme Court of Appeal denied the City of Cape Town leave to appeal an earlier judgment which had found in the Plaintiff’s favour, in the case of City of Cape Town v Carelse and Others. The trial judge had awarded damages to the plaintiff, Fatiema Carelse, after a dog attacked her at Harmony Park Resort while she was at a public pool.
The City of Cape Town shared liability for the attack with the dog owner because it has a legal duty to ensure the safety of visitors to the park. Dogs aren’t allowed inside the park. This rule should have been enforced by security.
R4 million settlement for a dog bite in SA
Another recent claim in 2020 involved a dog attack that left the victim without an arm from the elbow down. This claim was settled out of court for more than R4 million through a personal liability insurance claim.
In a statement from Hollard Insure, which supplied the personal liability insurance to the defendant, its head of legal said, “We did not take it to court and managed to settle the claim, but you can see that these claims can be expensive.”
Factors affecting dog bite payouts in South Africa
Like most personal injury claims, dog bite claims can be complex. The factors affecting the outcome include where the attack took place and the circumstances of the attack.
Even if the attack happened on the owner’s private property, it may be possible to claim.
Other factors that affect the payout include the severity of the injuries, the age of the plaintiff, the medical costs involved (including future costs) and any loss of earnings due to the attack.
What to do if you have a dog bite claim
If you believe you have a valid dog bite claim, schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer. An experienced attorney will tell you if it’s worth pursuing your claim. To do this, you will need to present all the relevant evidence, including medical records.
What we offer at DSC Attorneys
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims, including dog bite claims.
We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no win, no fee basis.
Contact us at DSC Attorneys for the very best legal support and representation.