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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71048
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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can you be sued if your dog trips someone up accidentally?

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can you be sued if your dog trips someone up accidentally?

Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.

-Could you explain your situation a little more?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Jo. My sister Marilyn was with her granddaughter and son's dog in Lymington, Dorset. She popped into bank and left Emma (9) with dog (Sam) for a couple of minutes sitting outside cafe. Someone knocked over a metal chair and startled him so he moved back suddenly and an old lady tripped over his lead. My sister who was watching from bank rushed out and helped lady and an ambulance was called. She stayed with her until a nurse took over. She gave her name and address in case she could help in any way.

This happened over a month ago and now she has received a solicitor's letter and is desperately worried as she has extreme financial hardship. She is 66 and trying to live on her state pension (impossible!) as unable to find work. She has no assets except her house and has no way of paying damages. Her son and grandchild also live with her and he is also seeking work. She is so distraught I'm trying to help her.


In this particular case, your sister, Marilyn, has been negligent. She left the dog in charge of a minor. I appreciate the circumstances but I am just looking at this from a legal point of view. As a result of that the dog was not kept in proper control and as a further result someone was injured.

I fully appreciate that this was an accident but unfortunately, in law, there is no such thing as an accident. There is only an incident.

This is unfortunately an incident occurring from negligence.

To bring a claim in negligence there must be a duty of care and that duty of care must have been breached and the loss/damage must be reasonably foreseeable. Based on the circumstances you describe those criteria are satisfied.

Unfortunately, your sister's financial standing is not relevant if the claimant suffers injuries.

She might want to check her house insurance to see if she has insurance that would cover this incident and it would also be worthwhile speaking to Citizen's Advice to see whether they would be willing to take this on for her. I cannot see that she has a defence and therefore what she needs to do is try to mitigate her loss bearing in mind that the claimant's claim amount will be increased by the solicitors costs and therefore the more she argues the more the costs will increase until it eventually goes to court.

Whether it is worth going to court not really depends on the nature of the injured person's injuries.

Either she or citizens advice (or a solicitor) should write back to the solicitor stating that she denies liability and in any event, she has no income and no assets and even if this proceeds to court, there is no way that she would be able to pay any judgement. If they took her to court and got a judgement they could of course petition for her bankruptcy or take a charge against the house which would have to be repaid eventually. It really depends whether the solicitor decides to go that far.

I'm sorry if this is bad news for you.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks so much for your answer Jo even though it's not good news.

Just one question if they get a judgement against my sister could she be forced to sell her home to pay it? The solicitors are one of those no win no fee kind that are pretty ruthless I've heard. There wouldn't be much point making her bankrupt as she has no assets except her home only debts.

They would have to get a charge against the property and depending on the amount of the judgement and the value of the property depends on whether they would get the order for sale. If the property is worth a couple of hundred thousand pounds £100,000 and the judgement is for £10,000, it is most unlikely that they would get the order of the sale although expect the solicitor to try it purely to increase the solicitor's costs!
She would need to defend the action on that basis.
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