Legal Advice for Compensation Insurance Claims & TPD Payouts

Dog Bite Law QLD: A Dog Owner’s Guide to Liability in Australia

In Australia, dog owners are legally liable for bite injuries in most cases. Learn more with our guide to dog bite compensation.
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What Happens If Your Dog Bites Someone?

No matter the type of dog you own, big or small, pet owners have a legal duty to ensure their animal doesn’t attack, bite, or otherwise injure other people. Generally speaking, if a dog bites someone (depending on how it happened), the dog’s owner is legally liable for damages. Hence, the injured party can make a public liability claim for personal injury compensation.

Australia alone reports over 100,000 dog attacks annually, with over 2,000 requiring hospital visits. You must ensure you’re not included in these statistics as a dog owner. Fortunately, this is precisely what we’re talking about here.

We’re exploring all the tips and guidance you need to actively prevent a dog bite situation from occurring, as well as detailing everything you need to know about the owner’s liability and what to do in a worst-case scenario.

A close-up of an angry dog snarling at the camera

An Introduction to Dog Behaviour and Bite Triggers

Starting with the basics, the best way to prevent a dog bite from happening is to understand the causes and signs and what to do if your animal begins feeling triggered.

The first step to learning is to take the time to understand typical dog behaviours and identify potential triggers for aggression. Dogs, like humans, have a spectrum of emotions. They may feel scared, threatened, or protective, which can escalate to aggressive behaviour. Such situations could include:

  • Feeling threatened or cornered in the presence of strangers
  • Protecting resources such as food, toys, or their territory
  • Pain or discomfort from an injury or illness
  • Lack of socialisation and fear towards other dogs or unfamiliar situations

As a responsible dog owner, you’ll always want to be alert and ensure your dog is comfortable, safe, and secure. Of course, the longer you have your animal and the more familiar you are with its behaviours, the more understanding you’ll have of its signs and triggers, making it a little easier.

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How to Recognise a Potentially Dangerous Dog

The signs of a potentially dangerous dog include:

  • Raised fur
  • Bared teeth
  • Growling
  • A stiff tail

A dog displaying these behaviours could be classified as a menacing dog under certain regulations.

An anxious or fearful dog might also display a whale eye (where the whites of the dog’s eyes are visible), a tucked tail, or a lowered body.

Also, it’s important to remember that any dog, regardless of breed or size, can bite when provoked. Yes, you may have a small, soft dog that you believe would never hurt a fly, but again, if your dog feels unsafe or threatened, it could still respond with aggression, even if you’ve never seen it behave dangerously before.

A menacing dog lays on the floor biting a rope chew toy with bared teeth

Effective Dog Bite Prevention Methods

Being a dog owner puts you in a very proactive role. You’re responsible for the well-being and health of your pet and for training them and helping them develop the best behaviours when around others.

Early intervention and consistent training are key to preventing negative behaviours. Then, when you find yourself in a difficult situation, the boundaries and resolutions are already in place, helping to reduce the potential risk of a dog bite claim. Here’s a foundation to build on:

Training

A well-trained dog is less likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour. Invest time in teaching basic commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘no’, and ‘come’. These commands instil obedience and help control your dog in potentially risky situations. If necessary, consider enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer.

Socialisation

Exposing your pet to a variety of environments, people, and other animals from a young age aids in developing their social skills and reducing fear or aggression towards unfamiliar circumstances. Regular walks, visits to the park, or play dates with others provide excellent socialisation opportunities.

Dealing with problematic behaviours

Problem-solving with dogs requires patience and consistency. Remember that aggressive behaviour is often a response to fear or anxiety. Instead of punishing your dog, try to understand the underlying cause of its actions. If your dog exhibits unmanageable aggression, consider seeking advice from a professional behaviourist or a veterinarian. Dogs exhibiting unmanageable aggression may be declared dangerous under local council regulations, which have specific requirements and restrictions.

Promoting positive well-being

Physical discomfort or illness can make a dog irritable and more prone to biting. Regular vet check-ups and timely vaccinations are essential to maintaining overall health.

Educating Family Members

Dogs need education, and family members must also learn how to engage with the family pet to prevent dog attacks and avoid potential dog bite injury claims. Everyone in the household, including children, should understand the animal’s body language and signs of discomfort.

Family members should know the signs of an attacking dog and know how to respond to prevent incidents. Having family members involved in the dog’s training and socialisation processes can also be beneficial in building mutual respect and strengthening the bond between all parties.

A german shepherd attacking a man during a training session

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Legal Responsibilities of Dog Owners in Australia

As an Australian pet owner, knowing your legal responsibilities when preventing bites and avoiding liability is essential. The laws and regulations surrounding dog ownership and liability for bites vary from state to state. However, there are common threads across the country regarding regulations on dog bite claims.

Firstly, dog owners are legally responsible for their pets and can be held liable if their dog causes injury to a person or property. Dog owners must report dog attacks to their local council, which is responsible for recording and investigating these incidents.

This includes dog bites as well as any other injuries or damage. In some cases, owners may be held strictly liable for their pet’s actions, meaning they are responsible regardless of their knowledge of potential harm. Hence, dog attack victims can generally seek common law damages under negligence principles.

While case-dependent, if you, as a dog owner, knew or should have known about potentially aggressive behaviour and failed to take reasonable precautions, you could be held liable for damages related to the dog attack.

What Are The Restricted Dog Breeds in Queensland?

According to the Agriculture and Fisheries and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, the five banned menacing dog breeds in Queensland include the following:

  1. Dogo Argentinos
  2. Fila Brasileiros
  3. Japanese Tosas
  4. Pit Bull Terriers (including the American Pit Bull Terrier)
  5. Perro de presa canario, or presa canario.

What to Do if Your Dog Attacks Someone

If your dog does end up biting someone, it’s essential to act responsibly and take the following steps:

1. Provide Immediate Aid

First, ensure the injured person is safe and out of harm’s way. If the injuries are severe, immediately seek professional medical advice. Even minor bites should be cleaned and dressed to prevent infection. This applies to both physical and psychological injuries.

2. Restrain Your Dog

Remove your dog from the situation to avoid further incidents. Securely confine your dog until you can control their behaviour.

3. Report the Incident

Notify local animal control officials or the police, providing a detailed account of what occurred. This may seem daunting, but it’s necessary, even if the bite was minor or a first offence. Reporting the incident to authorities is crucial, especially if the dog is classified as one of the dangerous dogs. Transparency about the event will help if there is a dog bite compensation case.

4. Provide Information

Give the injured person your contact details, insurance information, and your dog’s vaccination history. Doing this will help them get expedited medical treatment and is critical to your dog bite safety responsibility.

5. Cooperate with Authorities

Please cooperate with accident investigations by offering all requested documentation and following any containment or control orders issued for your dog. Owners of restricted dogs must follow specific containment and control orders issued by authorities. Remember, these steps are about limiting your exposure to compensation for the dog bite victim, acting responsibly, and ensuring everyone receives safe and fair treatment.

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How Does Compensation for Dog Bite Victims Work?

Knowing what happens next is vital if you suffer a dog bite in a worst-case scenario. In Australia, dog bite compensation is typically covered under the owner’s home and content insurance policy.

This means that if someone sues you for a dog attack injury, your public liability insurance company will be liable for funding the compensation payout. However, it’s important to note that some policies have exclusions for certain breeds of dogs or may not cover accidents outside of the insured property.

Criminal Charges for Dog Attacks

In addition to potential lawsuits typically managed by a personal injury lawyer, there may also be legal ramifications for the dog owner. In some cases, criminal charges may be brought against the owner, particularly if their dog has a history of aggressive behaviour or if they did not take sufficient precautions to prevent an attack.

How Much Compensation for Injuries Following a Dog Bite?

The value of a public liability claim payout for a dog bite generally depends on the severity of your injuries and the resulting impact on your life, particularly your work capacity. In Australia, settlement of a dog bite personal injury claim can include:

  • Medical expenses and any related future medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Damage to personal property

In some states, like New South Wales and Queensland, strict liability applies, implying that dog owners can be held responsible for damages regardless of whether they were aware of the dog’s aggression.

Criminal penalties accompanying a dog bite claim can include a lengthy prison term. Therefore, it’s essential that you understand your state laws and have sufficient pet insurance to cover potential liability.

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An old man with a grey beard discussing a dog bite compensation claim with a lawyer

How to Avoid Liability as a Pet Owner

Besides taking preventative measures and being prepared in case of a dog bite incident, it’s important to understand how to avoid liability as a pet owner. This means taking responsibility for your dog’s actions and ensuring they aren’t dangerous to others. Here are some tips for avoiding personal injury law liability as a pet owner:

  • Follow leash laws
  • Train and socialise your dog
  • Be aware of triggers
  • Provide adequate supervision
  • Secure your property
  • Seek professional help from a trainer

When to Seek Professional Legal Support for Dog Attacks

Even the most responsible owners can find themselves facing legal issues in the event of a dog bite incident. Knowing when to seek professional legal assistance can protect you from severe financial and legal implications.

  1. After a Bite Incident: If your dog has bitten someone, it’s essential to seek legal advice immediately. This will help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a dog’s owner and the potential legal consequences you may face.
  2. If You Receive a Legal Notice: If you receive any legal notices or threats of lawsuits related to your pet’s actions, consult a lawyer promptly to understand your options and prepare your defence.
  3. Increased Aggression in Your Dog: If your dog exhibits increased aggression, obtaining legal counsel can help guide you on how to manage the situation legally and ethically.
  4. Dog Bite Compensation Claim: If you’re a dog bite victim and want to file a dog bite compensation claim, engaging legal support can help navigate the complexities of Australia’s dog bite laws.
  5. Unfair Accusations: Consulting with a lawyer or solicitor is beneficial if you feel that you or your pet have been unfairly accused or targeted.

Dog Bite Compensation Claim Legal Advice

Splatt Lawyers is a trusted name in Queensland for personal injury claims related to dog bite incidents and compensation for dog attacks. With a 30-year history of effective legal representation for people suffering from dog bite injuries, we offer expert advice and support in navigating the complex legal process for those seeking compensation.

If you are considering legal action, we have the expertise to help you successfully claim personal injury damages. Contact our dog bite compensation claim experts now to find out if you have a valid claim. Relax knowing our legal fees are covered by our 100% no win no-fee guarantee. Call Now -1800 700 125

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