Jack Russell, Labrador, Chihuahua, Rottweiler – chances are that if you’re a postie, you have encountered most breeds of dogs at some point or another during your deliveries. Seeing postmen attacked by dogs may seem like the stuff of comedy sketches or amusing videos online, but it is actually a more common problem than you might think. If you are a postman bitten by a dog, you could sustain serious injuries, not to mention the psychological trauma of being attacked by man’s best friend. If this has happened to you then you may be able to make a personal injury claim, provided it has been three years or less since you were attacked. It will all depend on the circumstances behind your accident and whether or not it is possible to prove that the dog owner was negligent.
What are the chances of you being bitten by a dog at work?
Dog attacks on postal workers are actually not as uncommon as you might think – in fact over 3,000 postal workers are attacked every year. New legislation which came into force in 2014 now means that dog owners can be prosecuted if their dog attacks another person either on their property or in a public place, with up to five years jail time if their dog injures somebody, and up to 14 years in jail if the person is killed. It’s not just postal workers who are at risk either – the CWU estimates that around 400 telecoms engineers are attacked by dogs whilst carrying out their jobs each year.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) put into place their Bite Back Campaign in 2007, which aims to reduce the risk of dog attacks for postal workers. According to their statistics, between 2007 and 2013, 26,000 postal workers were attacked by dogs and injured, with two suffering such serious injuries that they almost died.
Postal workers in Austria may be able to breathe a sigh of relief though, as a local pet food supplier decided to contribute tons of dog snacks to be given to postal workers to ‘bribe’ dogs and prevent attacks (with the consent of the owners, of course). This action was put into place after 47 dog attacks were reported in 2014.
Dog bite injuries and treatment
If you are a postman bitten by a dog then you may have sustained serious injuries or minor injuries after being attacked. To some extent the severity of the bite can depend on the size and breed of the dog. A dog bite can damage tendons, muscles or bones if it is deep enough and the main risk is the risk of infection. If you have been bitten on the face, you may need sutures to reduce the risk of scarring, although sutures can increase the risk of infection. You may also need to have a rabies vaccine if the health of the dog that bit you is unknown, and you should ensure that your tetanus vaccination is up to date. There’s no real need to lose sleep worrying about rabies though, as the last reported case of rabies in the UK was in 2012, after a patient was originally bitten by a dog in India. In the case of extremely deep wounds, surgery may be needed, and you may need antibiotics if you are at risk of infection.
Who’s to blame for your accident?
A postman bitten by a dog may find it more complex to claim compensation than somebody else who has been injured at work, as it can be difficult to prove liability in these types of claims. You need to prove that the dog owner (or another party) was liable for your injuries. Yes, you might think that the dog owner is responsible if you have been bitten by their dog, but if their dog has never shown any previous signs of aggressive behaviour, then liability can be difficult to prove. This is because they could argue that if they had no reason to suspect their dog would bite, they could not possibly have taken any action to prevent it from doing so. Of course the opposite is also true – if the owner in question knows their dog is aggressive and they have failed to take steps to protect anybody visiting their property then you could claim compensation, as they have clearly been negligent.
Another option to consider is that you may be able to make a claim against your employer. For example if other staff have visited the same property and reported the presence of an aggressive dog, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer if they failed to warn you. In this case you could claim against your employer’s liability insurance.
What to do after your accident
If you are a postman bitten by a dog, there are some things you should do straight after your accident:
- Report your accident to your employer and ensure that they keep a record of it in your workplace accident book
- Report the incident to the police (get a crime reference number)
- Seek medical attention for your injuries and ask your doctor to detail your injuries in a medical report
- Photograph your injuries, if possible
It’s then a good idea to find out if you can make a claim for personal injury compensation.
Contact Accident Advice Helpline
Although there is a three-year time limit in place to make a personal injury claim, you can get in touch with Accident Advice Helpline at any time after you have been injured. It’s free to call our helpline on 0800 689 0500 (or 0333 500 0993 from a mobile) and we’ll be able to tell you if you have a viable claim. Even if you’re unsure whether you are eligible to make a claim after being attacked by a dog during your deliveries, we’ve helped hundreds of postmen and women claim compensation, so we can listen and offer you advice that could help you decide what to do next.