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Dog Bite Claims: Compensation Types, the Legal Process and When to Engage a Lawyer

Yearly, over 2,000 Australians are hospitalised as a result of a dog attack — most being children.
If you have been injured by a dog attack, you should consider pursuing compensation, whether for the physical or psychological harm you’ve experienced. In doing so, ensure that you have legal representation you can trust to fight for you and uphold your rights.

In this article, we cover dog bite personal injury claims, how they fall within the purview of personal injury claims (and why that’s relevant to you), compensation types and the legal process.

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Personal injury claims: An overview

A personal injury compensation claim is where a person seeks financial redress for injury and harm suffered due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions. There are multiple personal injury subdivisions: public liability claims, motor vehicle accident claims, workers’ compensation claims and medical negligence claims. A dog bite falls under the scope of public liability claims.

Public liability claims: Where an injured person seeks compensation from an injury sustained in a public or private space due to the negligence of the property owner or occupier.

The reason that dog bites are filed as public liability claims is because dog owners — as members of the public and therefore bound to individual duty of care — are responsible for the actions of their pets. Duty of care here refers to the legal obligation dog owners have to take reasonable measures to prevent their pets from causing harm to others. Failure to fulfil this duty can result in liability if their dog attacks or injures someone.

GMP Law is Australia’s leading personal injury firm. We can help you navigate dog bite compensation claims and ensure you receive the maximum compensation you’re entitled to.

Do you want to learn more about filing a dog bite claim?

Call us for confidential, free legal advice.

Understanding who is at fault for a dog attack

Determining fault comes down to proving that the dog owner breached their duty of care, and that the breach directly led to your injuries. As per division two, section 25 under the Companion Animals Act 1998 No 87, the liable dog owner is responsible for:

  • Bodily injury to a person caused by the dog wounding or attacking that person.
  • Damage to the personal property of a person (including clothing) caused by the dog in the course of attacking that person.


According to the same Act, an owner may not be liable for damages if:

  • The domestic animal attack occurred on a property or in a vehicle either occupied by the dog’s owner or where the dog is normally kept. This applies only if the person attacked was not lawfully on the property or in the vehicle, and the dog was not classified as dangerous, menacing or restricted at the time of the attack.
  • The domestic animal attack was in immediate response to, and was wholly induced by, intentional provocation by a person other than the dog’s owner or the owner’s employees or agents.


Put differently, the dog’s owner may not be found liable if you are accused of trespassing onto a property where the dog was located or provoking the dog in any way which resulted in the attack. It’s here that the notion of contributory negligence becomes relevant: this refers to a situation where the injured party’s own actions or negligence contributed to the occurrence of the dog attack. Depending on the nature of your case, contributory negligence may either reduce the compensation you’re entitled to, or eliminate it entirely.

Whether you’re partially responsible for your injuries, or not at all, we’ll help you navigate the complexities of dog bite compensation claims. During your free consultation, our team will assess the circumstances that led to your dog bite injury and advise you on the optimal legal options accordingly.

Dog bite compensation types

If you’ve been injured by a dog attack, you may be able to file for economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages refers to financial losses that are directly tied to your injuries — these can include medical expenses, lost wages, and costs for rehabilitation. It extends to also include the loss of potential future earnings.

Non-economic damages refers to the pain and suffering you’ve experienced as a result of the attack — common examples, as diagnosed by a certified psychiatrist or psychologist, include PTSD, anxiety and general loss of life enjoyment.

Australian states differ in how they calculate compensation and the thresholds they set for awarding damages in personal injury cases. As a general rule, the more severe the injury, the greater the compensation. One framework that is commonly referenced in dog bite compensation claims is Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale, which is as follows.

Bite Level

Action and Result

Level 1

Dog growls, lunges or snarls but no teeth touch skin. Mostly intimidation and/or threatening behaviour.

Level 2

Teeth touch skin but there is no puncture. Minor surface abrasions, lacerations or minor bruising. May also include scratches from paws or nails.

Level 3

Punctures one to three holes in a single bite. Victim not shaken side to side. Bruising is evident.

Level 3.5

Multiple level 3 bites.

Level 4

Two to four holes from a single bite, typically contact or punctures from more than canines (teeth) and considerable bruising.

Level 5

Multiple bites at Level 4 or above. A concerted, repeated attack causing severe injury.

Level 6

Wrongful death as a result of a bite or attack.

This framework serves as just one point of reference; more fundamental points of reference include New South Wales’ ‘Most Extreme Case (MEC)’ framework and Queensland’s ISV scale. As an expert in dog bite law, your solicitor will help you understand your state-specific requirements and nuances, informing you of what compensation you may be entitled to.

Book an appointment with our expert team of compensation solicitors.

Here are a handful of key pieces of information you should know if you’re considering filing a dog bite compensation claim:

  • You have three years from the time of the attack to file the compensation claim. However, the sooner you can file the claim, the better. Filing beyond the three-year mark risks reducing or entirely eliminating your compensation entitlements.
  • Police should be immediately notified of the attack.
  • Most dog bite compensation claims resolve without requiring court intervention, via a process called mediation. This is where a third-party mediator assists both parties in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement. In mediation, your legal representatives and the defendant (or their insurance representatives) will discuss the dog bite case, present evidence and negotiate a compensation amount.
  • Litigation only becomes necessary when mediation fails to produce an agreement, compelling the case to go to trial where a judge or jury will determine the outcome.


Mediation is more time and cost-effective in comparison to litigation; while mediation can take days or weeks, litigation can take months or years. This can give rise to financial uncertainty for those considering filing a compensation claim. It’s for this reason that we offer our clients our no-win, no-fee policy, meaning two things:

  • We take on all the upfront costs associated with your case: court fees, expert witness costs and all other legal expenses.
  • If we don’t win, we won’t charge you anything for our work.


You can find out the full details of this policy here, or chat about it with a personal injury lawyer during your free, no-obligation consultation. This consultation is an opportunity for our team to answer any questions you may have and gain legal advice, and if you decide to move forward, we can file the personal injury claim for you.

GMP Law: Australia’s leading personal injury law firm

At GMP Law, we have a 98% success rate, leading to $4 billion delivered to our clients across 25,000 victories — and counting. In each of our cases, we offer our clients competent, compassionate and committed legal services, working to ensure their rights are protected and upheld.

Click here to book your free, no-obligation consultation with one of our expert personal injury lawyers.

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Gerard Malouf & Partners have provided friendly, experienced legal advice to communities across Australia for over 35 years. Our Personal Injury Lawyers have taken on ten’s of thousands of cases and we are proud to have won billions of dollars for our clients.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.

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