Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

ACC pays for shark injuries

$150m has been paid out over four years to people who have been attacked by animals

One claimant said they were out on the water fishing and "a shark bit my middle finger." Photo / Kelly Tarltons
One claimant said they were out on the water fishing and "a shark bit my middle finger." Photo / Kelly Tarltons

Twenty people have received ACC payouts for injuries by sharks so far this year.

It has been revealed that in the past four years, the organisation has paid out more than $150 million to people who have been kicked, butted or bitten by pets and other animals.

Information provided to the Herald by the Accident Compensation Corporation shows that between 2008 and June this year more than 300,000 animal-injury claims were accepted, at a cost of more than $150 million.

This year alone, $21,139,467 has been paid on 73,104 claims - including 20 for injuries caused by sharks. Privacy laws prevented ACC from disclosing the full details.

But most related to shark "bites" or people being injured or stabbed by tails or spikes. One claimant said they were out on the water fishing and "a shark bit my middle finger".

Other descriptions included being stabbed by a shark tail on the left forearm and being bitten by a shark on the right thumb.

ACC could not give a full break- down of the other animal claims made between 2008 and this year, but was able to tell the Herald they related to kicks, butts and bites from cattle, deer, dogs, horse, sheep and "other" animals.

This year they had accepted 2631 claims for injuries caused by cats, 2088 for spiders, 80 for goats and 8651 for dogs.

Almost 60,000 other claims have been made this year where the injured person has specified the offending animal in the "other" category.

ACC's website gives the definition of a physical injury as something that causes "actual damage" to the body. An actual diagnosis of the injury is required, not just a diagnosis of pain.

Physical injuries can include: wounds, lacerations, contusions, burns, sprains and strains; fractures, amputations or dislocations; infections or diseases caused at work by performing a particular task; blindness and poisoning.

Many of these injuries can obviously be inflicted by an animal.


Attacks rare but terrifying

A surfer bitten in the calf in Taranaki and a teenage girl nipped in the hip while bodyboarding in Invercargill are two recent survivors of shark attacks in New Zealand waters.

Aucklander Peter Garrett was surfing about 100m offshore near Opunake in March when a shark bit his leg. Onlookers told the Herald Mr Garrett was "shrieking and thrashing about" in the water before frantically swimming to shore.

A vet who was surfing nearby treated the "nasty bite" on the man's calf.

At the time, DoC marine scientist Clinton Duffy said Mr Garrett was unlucky to get bitten, but lucky to survive.

In 2010, Invercargill teen Lydia Ward fought off a shark after it sank its teeth into her hip. She was boogie boarding with her brother when the shark bit through her wetsuit. She wasn't seriously injured, but had to hit it away with her board after it lunged at her.

Mr Duffy said on average there were two unprovoked shark bites a year, usually with minor injuries.


The damage

Accepted claims for injuries by animals

2008 $37m for 77,865 claims

2009 $35m for 79,135 claims

2010 $29.7m for 72,962 claims

2011 $27.6m for 78,987 claims

2012 (to date) $21.1m for 73,104 claims

Total: $150.4m


Claims by animal for 2012

2631 cat
8651 dog
80 goat
20 shark
2088 spider
59,634 other

- NZ Herald

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