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How is a Dog Bite Case Litigated in Michigan?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

If you suffer a dog bite in Michigan, you can file a claim for financial compensation. However, if the owner’s insurance company refuses to pay, you may have to take your case to court. Since many dog bite claims don’t go to litigation, you may wonder what to expect if your case goes through the court process.

Dog bite claims are litigated much like other personal injury claims; both sides present evidence to the court to determine who is liable for damages. However, determining who is liable for a dog’s aggressive acts often requires a skilled dog bite attorney.

Discover how dog bite cases are litigated and how a dog bite lawyer in Michigan can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Taking Your Dog Bite Claim to Court

Before your dog bite claim goes to court, you will likely file a personal injury claim with the owner’s insurance company to seek a settlement. Most dog bite claims end in a settlement, meaning the insurer agrees to pay the compensation you and your attorney have requested.

However, your attorney may recommend taking the case to court if you and the insurer cannot agree on a fair settlement amount. To file a lawsuit, your lawyer will file the required documents for a personal injury tort claim within the legal system.

When a claim goes to court, having strong legal representation can increase your chances of winning your case. A dog bite injury lawyer from Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can review the facts of your claim during your free consultation and help you understand how litigation may look for your case.

Factors That Impact Your Dog Bite Lawsuit

Certain legal factors will impact your dog bite lawsuit as it moves through the court system. These include the type of claim you file, Michigan’s modified comparative negligence laws, and the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases.

Type of Claim

You can file a claim for dog bites under two legal concepts in Michigan: strict liability and negligence. Strict liability states that the owner of the dog is responsible for injuries caused by their pets if the victim can prove that a dog bite caused their injuries, they did not provoke the animal, and they were legally on the property where the bite occurred.

If a dog attack caused your injuries, you can file a negligence claim based on Michigan’s leash laws. A negligence claim helps you recover damages incurred when a dog gets loose, knocks you down, and causes injuries like broken bones or scrapes.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Modified comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that helps the court determine damages for dog bite claims. Under this doctrine, you can only receive damages if you are less than 50% at fault for your injuries. The law also lets the court reduce your damages based on any percentage of fault it finds on your behalf.

During litigation for your dog bite case, your attorney from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. will offer evidence to reduce your liability and get you maximum damages. For instance, the dog’s owner may argue that you provoked the dog to reduce your damage award. Your attorney can counter with witness testimony that proves you did not provoke the animal before the attack.

Time Limitations

You have 3 years to file a liability claim in Michigan. If you wait until after the statute of limitations to file, you may be unable to receive compensation in court. However, this time limit only applies to starting your claim, so if your case takes more than 3 years to litigate, you can still receive a settlement.

What Do You Have to Prove to Win a Dog Bite Claim in Court?

To recover compensation in a dog bite claim, you must prove that the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries and that you suffered significant damages due to the dog attack.

Proving Liability

While Michigan law holds dog owners liable for most dog bites, there are exceptions for trespassers or people mistreating the dog. To win damages in court, you must prove that:

  • You were on public property, or you were permitted on private property
  • You did not provoke the dog

You do not need to prove that the dog has previously been aggressive. In Michigan, owners are held liable even if they are unaware of their dog’s aggressive behavior. However, your attorney can use a previous history of aggression to argue that the dog’s owner is negligent.

Small dog bites you

Proving Significant Damages

To collect compensation for a dog bite, you must prove that you sustained serious physical injury or emotional damage. For example, a deep bite may have required surgery, resulting in significant medical expenses.

If the bite also caused nerve or tendon damage that led to permanent disability, or you developed severe anxiety around dogs, you may also be able to claim compensation for pain and suffering.

How to Strengthen Your Dog Bite Claim

Gathering a wide array of evidence for your dog bite claim helps you present a stronger claim in court. If a dog has bitten you, seek assistance from a dog bite attorney at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. to help build your case.

Seek Medical Attention

Seek medical attention immediately after a dog bite to prevent infection or further injury. Receiving medical care for the bite wound can also establish medical records of your injuries and treatment.

Attend all follow-up and rehabilitation appointments, such as physical therapy. Your doctors will add more information about treatment and recovery to your medical records, which you can provide to your attorney for your case.

Document Your Injuries

Take pictures of your injuries as soon as possible, immediately after the bite and after receiving treatment. It may take months or years for your case to go to litigation, by which time your bite wound will have healed. Provide these pictures to your attorney to use as evidence of your injuries.

Collect Evidence of Your Damages

You will need to provide evidence of how the dog bite impacted your financial, physical, and mental well-being. Evidence to collect for economic and non-economic damages includes:

  • Proof of medical expenses
  • Wages lost (if the bite prevented you from working)
  • Journal entries detailing the emotional impact of the dog attack
  • Therapy records
  • Testimony from medical professionals or loved ones

If you aren’t sure how to prove your losses for a dog bite attack, consult a dog bite lawyer at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. Your attorney can help you obtain evidence to use in litigation.

Consult a Michigan Dog Bite Attorney

The dog bite attorneys at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C., have experience negotiating and litigating dog bite claims. Your attorney can assist you with filing your lawsuit, collecting evidence, and representing you in court.

Our legal team includes nurse attorney Eileen Kroll. Eileen has extensive medical experience as a registered nurse and can use her knowledge to examine your treatment records and estimate a fair settlement based on your injuries.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C.

The legal team at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. has represented numerous dog bite victims in Michigan. We will support you every step of the way while negotiating or litigating your claim to ensure you receive the settlement that you’re owed.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529) and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Riley Emerson is a freelance writer whose work focuses on improving legal accessibility and justice. He enjoys relating complex legal issues in a straightforward way, so people can get the legal help they need.

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