Cows trample man to death in Wiltshire

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The BBC have reported that a man has been trampled to death by cows in a field in Wiltshire and another man has been injured.

They were out walking near Winsley when they were crushed by the animals.  The injured man was airlifted to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol after two air ambulances and a road ambulance were sent to the scene.

In cases like this where someone is injured as a result of the behaviour of an animal then a civil claim for damages for personal injury can often be brought against the keeper of the animal.

Liability for injuries caused by animals is largely governed by the Animals Act 1971.  The Act makes the important distinction between dangerous and non-dangerous species of animals.  A ‘dangerous’ animal is defined under the terms of the Act as one which is not commonly domesticated in the British Isles and whose characteristics are likely to cause severe damage or injury.  A lion or an elephant, for example, would fall into this category, as would many animals commonly housed at zoos.  Injuries caused by such dangerous animals can give rise to a claim against the registered keeper and awards of compensation/damages under the principle of strict liability.

Equally, if a person is injured by an animal which does not fall into the classification of a ‘dangerous species’ under the Act, such as a dog or a horse, then it is possible to bring a claim for damages providing the following criteria are satisfied:

  • the damage/injury is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause
  • the likelihood of the damage was due to characteristics of the animal which are not commonly found in animals of that species, or are only found at particular times or circumstances
  • those characteristics were known to the keeper or to the person in control of/responsible for the animal

In applying this criteria, a person who has been bitten by a dog which had not been restrained by its owner, can recover damages for the injuries sustained providing it can be proved that the dog possessed unusual characteristics (such as a tendency to bite or behave aggressively in certain situations) and that its keeper was aware of these characteristics.

The Animals Act imposes liability for injury upon the animal’s keeper.  The keeper is defined as the person who owns the animal or has it in his possession at the time the damage was sustained.  If the keeper is under the age of 16, then liability rests with the owner of the household in which keeper is a member.  In addition, it is to be noted that if a person ceases to own or have responsibility for the animal he remains, in the eyes of the law, the animal’s keeper until such time as another person becomes the keeper.  Therefore, abandoned, unwanted or stray animals will still be the responsibility of a keeper against whom an action may be brought in the event of injury caused by the animal.

If you have suffered an injury caused by an animal within the last 3 years then we recommend contacting personal injury solicitors.