Recently, following an attack by neighbour’s dogs while playing in a friend’s yard, a child was awarded $315,500 for injuries.
Prior to the attack, the dogs were securely enclosed in their owner’s premises. The child climbed onto a tree stump on the adjoining property and then stood on a cross beam of the dividing fence, with his hands at the top of the dividing fence, so that he could look next door at the dogs. One of the dogs leapt up and bit him on his arm, while the other dog leapt up and bit him on the face.
The laws relating to dog attacks vary with some states automatically making the dog owner liable for any injury caused, irrespective of any negligence on the part of its owner, unless…
- The attack occurs on the property occupied by the owner,
- Following the intentional provocation of the dog
In Queensland the position is not as tough with the position here that there are three instances where the owner could be liable
- The dog is already registered as a dangerous or menacing animal
- The owner is aware that the dog has previously been guilty of an attack
- The owner was negligent in some way by failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the bite, such as allowing it to escape its yard or allowing it to be off-lead outside its yard
In this particular case, the court took into account that cosmetic scarring and disfigurement the child had suffered to his face and arm, as well as all future surgery and lasting psychological problems, would cause him ongoing issues with his leisure and working life.
Given the child being a minor, there was speculation that the award could be much higher. Noting that as he grew older, he would inevitably be confronted with a daily awareness of his facial disfigurement and that he would be disadvantaged in competing for employment in a range of occupations.
With the proliferation in the number of dogs being purchased in the “COVID-19 period”, the decision is a reminder to appropriately train your dog, ensure that your fencing is adequate. If you have concerns, ask your CQIB Broker about liability cover under your policies.