According to South African law, the victim of a harmful act by an animal has a right to claim damages on the basis of ownership fault or delict. These rights have developed out of Roman remedies, namely the action de pauperie and the actio legis aquiliae.

The key requirement of pauperie versus delictual liability can be stated as follows – could a reasonable person expect the animal to cause the harmful thing complained of? If the answer is ‘yes’, the owner will be negligent and liable in delict if he fails to take proper precautions; and if you, as the victim did something unreasonable, your damages claim will be proportionately reduced according to the degree of your contributory negligence. But, if an animal’s act was so abnormal that no reasonable person involved in the incident could have expected it, the owner is nevertheless liable in pauperie regardless of fault, merely because he is the owner.

Despite a trend in recent animal injury cases to seek to prove the nature of the animal (often by relying on “expert” animal behaviourists) our law only deems it necessary to determine what a reasonable human would have expected in the circumstances. The reasonableness of the animal (or type of animal) is immaterial.

Depending on the details of the case, homeowners’ insurance may cover your damages resulting from dog bites or animal injuries which occur on the owner’s property. Dog bites may also be covered by automobile insurance if your injury is sustained in the owner’s motor vehicle or by animal insurance if the owner elected to purchase such coverage. Even if the animal’s owner does not have coverage, you can still bring a legal claim against the owner to collect compensation for your losses.

Talk to a Dog Bite and Animal Injury specialist advisor today

Obtain free initial advice and the opportunity to talk through your experience with Kagiso our dog bite and animal injuries specialist

Tel 082 885 5201