Compensation awarded to dog owner for serious injuries inflicted by cows on a public footpath
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Home > News > Personal Injury News

29th August 2007

Compensation awarded to dog owner for serious injuries inflicted by cows on a public footpath

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) gave the public the right to walk on mapped access land in addition to pre-existing rights to use public rights of way. Thousands of people take advantage of these rights and visit the countryside each year. A fundamental part of the landscape, and often the very reason that the countryside is so attractive, is the sight of cows and calves, and of course all wildlife and livestock. However, when our client decided to walk across a field that contained cows with calves, he was charged and trampled by a number of them, and received serious injuries.

Walking along a public footpath, our client became aware of the animals ahead of him. At times, particularly when they have young calves, cows can demonstrate their maternal instincts by becoming more aggressive. No notice had been posted to warn of possible danger, and no fences had been erected to separate the public from potential hazards. Our client therefore felt safe to continue his walk.

The HSE hazard guidance on keeping cattle in fields with public access, recommends both signage and temporary fencing during calving, and makes it clear that the farmer or the cattle owner has a duty of care to protect members of the public using public rights of way. If separating the animals from the public by fencing is not possible, the animals should be kept in a field not used by the public.

Cows can weigh up to a tonne and use their speed and strength to defend their calves if they feel they are in danger. Their speed is surprising, and they can easily outrun the average person. Cows are curious animals, and particularly inquisitive of dogs. Guidelines on access to the countryside for dog owners therefore suggests that if a potentially dangerous situation develops, it is best to let go of the dog. The dog will run free to safety while you leave the field as quickly as you can. Although rare, dozens of incidents involving members of the public have been investigated by the HSE since 1996 and the most common factors were dogs and cows with calves.

In this case, our claimant received £275,000 in compensation for his injuries, although liability was denied in the protocol. However, liability for failure to comply with the HSE hazard guidance was admitted after proceedings had started and our specialist personal injury lawyers were able to negotiate this satisfactory settlement.

Useful websites

You can find more information about:

Public rights of access on the Countryside Access website at

The law regarding farmers' duty of care by going to the Health and Safety Executive website at

General information on the countryside at the Country Land & Business Association website at

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Clear Answers’ lawyers have teams of experts waiting to help you, should you decide to instruct us to represent you in your accident claim. We specialise in all types of personal injury claims, whether you were injured as a result of an accident at work, or whether your accident happened in a public place.

If you or a family member has been injured in these circumstances, please ring us on 0800 783 9019 and speak to one of our advisers. They will be happy to provide you with expert legal advice, talk you through the claims process in plain English and answer any questions you may have regarding your claim. Alternatively, you may prefer to complete one of our on-line compensation claim forms and one of our representatives will contact you as quickly as possible.

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