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Dog bite injury: Animal liability claims

Have you been the victim of a dog bite in France? Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation for your injury?


If you suffered from a dog bite in France, it is worth being aware of the principles to claim for compensation under Animal liability. This is not because the injury was caused by a dog and not a person that you do not have the right to claim compensation.

Animal liability is the obligation on the owner or keeper of an animal to repair the damage caused by it. Under French law, the owner of an animal, or the person who controls it, is responsible for the damage that the animal caused, whether the animal was in his custody, or whether it was lost or escaped. It is noticeable that French law provides a special status for the protection of the victims in case of animal acts, subject to certain conditions.


  • What are the conditions to be met for the owner / keeper to be found liable?

French law requires, in Article 1243 of the Civil Code, 4 cumulative conditions to be met for the victim to seek the dog owner’s liability or the keeper having control over it. These apply to domestic animals, excluding wild animals, and they are as follow:

There must be a damage (1) that is caused by an animal (2) who actively contributed to the damage (3) and the owner or keeper must have control over it (4).


  • How does animal liability work?

Animal liability is a regime of liability without fault: the victim does not have to prove the fault or negligence of the dog’s owner / keeper. The defendant cannot therefore escape liability by demonstrating that he/she has not committed a fault.

The keeper is presumed to be the owner of the dog, this means that the victim does not have to prove that the owner had custody of the dog, it is up to the owner who must prove that he is not, in order to escape liability.

The liability of a dog owner can be also seen in case of non-contact during an accident, it is the situation where the dog’s presence provoked the realisation of an accident without any direct contact between the dog and the victim. However, in this regard, the presumption of the animal’s causal role does not apply, and it is therefore up to the victim to prove the animal’s active role.


  • What are the conditions that can exempt the owner/keeper from his/her liability?

Only external causes can allow the keeper to be exempted from their liability :

1) Force majeure, which is an unpredictable event beyond the keeper’s control.

2) The act of a third party, when the latter participates by his act to the realisation of the damage.

3) The victim’s own fault

In some circumstances, a split of liability is appropriate, i.e. the owner is primarily liable but the victim’s fault contributed to the incident and therefore the victim’s right to compensation is reduced in the same proportion as his/her fault.


  • What sanctions does the owner/keeper of the dog risk?

First of all, the dog’s owner can be found liable to compensate the victim for his/her injuries. Most dog owners in France will have taken out public liability insurance to cover them for this risk. So, the prospects of making a claim, for the victim of a dog bite in France, are generally good.

In addition to civil liability, dog owners may be prosecuted for the criminal offence of causing physical harm by using a dog, in case of a serious incident or a breach of a safety obligation.


  • What to do if I am injured because of a dog bite or other behaviour?

  • Seek medical attention immediately for your own safety.
  • Get the name and contact of the dog’s owner and his/her liability insurance details.
  • Get the name and contact details of any witnesses.
  • Take pictures of the dog and of your immediate visible injuries.
  • Get medical records of your injury and treatment.
  • Keep a record of any expenses incurred and keep receipts of those as far as possible.


Our team of bilingual and dual-qualified solicitors are very experienced in dealing with animal liability claims and will be ideally placed to handle your claim with the French insurer and negotiate the best compensation on your behalf.


***Thank you to our legal intern Nada Haggag for drafting this blog!***

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