The legal cases should be known to all dog owners in South Africa

Compensation for dog bite claims in South Africa can include payment for past and future medical expenses, loss of income and general damages for pain and suffering, says specialist law firm DSC Attorneys.

The company notes that dog attacks that result in serious injuries are not uncommon in the country because large dog breeds are popular, and many residents have dogs to protect against potential burglars.

“In South Africa, a dog attack can give rise to a claim based on the ‘pauperie action’, against the owner of the dog. With this type of claim, the owner’s liability does not depend on actual negligence or intent to cause damage.

The legal principle dates back to Roman law, known as the ‘pauperie action‘states that the owner of a domesticated animal is ordinarily held strictly liable for damage caused by that animal.

DSC Attorneys noted that for this claim to succeed, it must be noted that:

  • The suspect (the person you are claiming against) owns the dog;
  • The dog is a domesticated animal;
  • The dog acts beyond his nature (which, so it is assumed, does not imply that they want to attack humans); en
  • The dog caused damage to the person claiming.

The cases you need to know about

DSC Attorneys outlined some of the recent cases that show how dog bites can result in millions of rands in claims in South Africa.

R1.4 million

In 2021, Mohammed Essack of Howick West was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull. The dog entered his property and attacked him, causing injuries that required hospitalization.

Essak is currently claiming R1.4 million in damages. The case, which was brought before a court in Pietermaritzburg in May 2021, has been postponed to a due date.

R2.4 million

In the case of 2020, Cloete v Van Meyeren, A man was attacked and badly injured by three pit bull-type dogs on a public street. He demanded damages of R2,341,000 from the owner of the dogs.

The owner (the suspect) stated that the dogs were able to escape his possession only because a burglar had left the gate to his property open. Normally, the gate was secured by a padlock.

The judge found in favor of the prosecutor – a ruling that reinforces the principle of the pauperie action.

The legal ruling states that “the owner of a dog who attacks a person who was legally at the place where he was injured, and who has not yet provoked the attack nor contributed to his own injury through his negligence , if the owner is liable to make good the resulting damage ”.

R4 million

In 2020, the victim of a dog attack lost an arm from the elbow down. A claim for personal liability insurance was settled out of court for a little over R4 million.

What Does Compensation In Dog Bite Claims Affect In South Africa?

Per the concept of the pauperie actionnegligence by the owner of the dog is not a condition for a successful claim.

However, a claim is more likely to succeed if there is evidence of negligence by the owner. Examples are not repairing a gate that will not close or a hole in the sheds or releasing a dog in a public area.

The behavior of the attacks may also be relevant. For example, was the prosecutor attacked after illegally entering the dog owner’s property? Did the prosecutor also provoke the dog?

Like other types of personal injury claims, dog bite claims can be complex. Even if a dog attack occurred on the property of the owner, the owner could be held liable.

Other factors that are likely to affect compensation in a dog bite claim are:

  • Medical costs associated with the injuries;
  • Loss of income due to injuries;
  • The seriousness and likely long-term consequences of the injuries sustained; en
  • The age of the prosecutor.

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The legal cases should be known to all dog owners in South Africa

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