Dog Bite Injuries: What Are Your Legal Options?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Filing a dog bite injury claim offers dog bite victims a way to recover compensation for the damages they suffer from an aggressive animal attack. Dog bites can result in physical and emotional injuries, such as disfigurement, disability, PTSD, and long-term cynophobia (fear of dogs), that impacts a victim’s daily life.
In Michigan, the law places strict liability on dog owners for any injuries caused by their dogs. This statute holds dog owners responsible when their pet harms a person in an attack.
If a dog in Michigan has bitten you or someone you know, speak with a dog bite attorney at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. to understand your legal options. We specialize in dog bite cases and will help you file a dog bite injury claim to win the financial compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Understanding Dog Bite Laws
Michigan has dog bite laws to protect victims and hold dog owners responsible for injuries caused by their pets. The state operates under strict liability laws, which assign automatic liability to pet owners for damages or injuries caused by their dogs.
If you meet the criteria outlined in this law, your attorney can help you file a dog bite injury claim to receive financial compensation after a dog bite attack. The Insurance Information Institute reports more than $881 million in dog bite claims and other dog-related injuries were paid out in 2021. This accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner liability claim dollars.
Strict Liability Statute 287.351
Statute 287.351 specifies that if a dog bites someone without provocation while the person is on public property or legally on someone’s private property, the dog’s owner is responsible for any damages the victim suffers. This applies regardless of whether or not the dog has a known history of aggression.
An individual is considered lawfully on the owner’s private property if they are there for a legal duty, for example, a postal worker delivering mail or if they are invited or allowed to be on the property by the owner.
General Negligence Laws
If a dog harms you by behavior other than a bite, such as being chased, scratched, or knocked over, you may be able to file a claim or lawsuit under Michigan’s general negligence laws. For example, if the owner or person responsible for watching the dog fails to abide by the state’s leash laws, they can be held accountable for injuries sustained in an attack.
Dog Bite Injury Compensation
You have the right to seek compensation when you suffer a dog bite injury. This can include economic damages, which are calculable costs that your attorney can calculate using receipts and bills. Your settlement can also include non-economic damages, which refer to compensation for intangible losses, like emotional distress and pain and suffering.
- Medical expenses: The compensation will cover all medical costs, such as hospital bills, doctor visits, surgeries, and medications. For instance, your settlement will cover reconstructive surgery to treat the dog bite and ongoing physical therapy.
- Pain and suffering: You may receive compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress endured due to the dog attack. For example, if the incident caused severe anxiety, nightmares, or a fear of dogs, the compensation aims to acknowledge and alleviate these psychological effects.
- Scarring and disfigurement: You can receive compensation if the dog bite results in permanent scars or disfigurement. This may account for the impact on your appearance and associated emotional distress caused by visible scars or altered physical features.
- Lost wages: Compensation for lost wages addresses the income you couldn’t earn due to the inability to work during your recovery. For instance, if you had to take time off work for surgeries and rehabilitation, the compensation helps cover the financial setback.
- Rehabilitation costs: Financial support for rehabilitative services, such as physical therapy or counseling, ensures access to necessary treatments to aid recovery. These costs will be covered to assist your healing and adjustment after the dog bite incident.
Factors that Impact Compensation
The amount of compensation you receive from your case is impacted by several factors. Your attorney at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. will review these elements to determine a fair settlement and help you maximize your compensation.
Severity of Injuries
More severe injuries result in higher medical bills, more time away from work, and could even result in permanent scarring or disfigurement. The worse your injuries, such as dismemberment, disfigurement, or permanent nerve damage, the more compensation you can receive.
For example, our lawyers at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. recovered a $250,000 award for a severely injured dog bite victim in Monroe, Michigan.
Michigan is a modified comparative fault state, so you can only receive compensation if you are less than 51% at fault for your injuries. The dog owner and their insurer may try to place blame on you to lower their liability.
For example, they may say you intentionally provoked the dog, ignored a “beware of dog” sign, or were trespassing. If their strategy succeeds, you could lose your right to compensation or have your award reduced by your percentage of fault.
Insurance Coverage or Personal Assets
Typically you will file a claim with the renter’s or homeowner’s insurance of the dog owner for compensation. These policies usually cover injuries sustained by dog bites up to $100,000 to $300,000 in damages. Your compensation will depend on the owner’s specific policy limits.
However, if the dog owner does not have renters’ or homeowners’ insurance, or your injuries exceed their policy limits, you may have to file a lawsuit seeking damages against their personal assets. Contact our law firm for a free consultation and more information on your legal options.
Steps to Take after a Dog Bite
If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog in Michigan, it’s important to take the appropriate steps to ensure proper medical treatment. The right steps also help preserve evidence for potential legal action. After suffering a dog bite, take the following actions:
Seek Medical Attention
Your priority after a dog bite attack is to get medical attention. Even if it was a minor injury, you must have the wound cleaned and assess the damage. Dog bites can lead to serious infections or diseases such as rabies, so getting medical attention as soon as possible is essential for your well-being and to help establish your claim.
Report the Incident
After medical treatment, report the situation to the proper authorities, either your local animal control or police department. This helps identify the dog and its owner and ensure that the animal has all required vaccinations and does not pose a danger to others.
Identify the dog owner and collect their name, contact information, address, and if possible, their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance details. Gather details from witnesses present, including their names and contact information, and whoever had custody of the dog during the incident.
Document your injuries by taking photographs of the dog bite wounds and other injuries. Record the incident’s date, time, and location, along with a detailed description of what occurred. Also, photograph the setting to show there are no “Beware of Dog” signs.
Document Your Injuries and Expenses
Keep a record of all medical bills and other expenses relating to your dog bite treatment. Also, track any time missed from work due to your dog bite injuries. Tracking all these elements can support your dog bite injury claim and help you receive fair compensation from the dog owner.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If a dog has bitten you, contact a personal injury lawyer specializing in dog bite cases. Our dog bite attorneys at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the legal process and provide the support you need.
Our legal team knows the laws and regulations surrounding dog bites and can ensure your case is handled correctly. We will advocate for your rights, communicate with insurers, and negotiate a fair settlement. With our expertise, you can improve your chances of achieving a favorable outcome in your dog bite case.
Common Dog Bite Defenses
When a person is bitten by a dog in Michigan, the dog owner can be held liable for any injuries caused by their pet under strict liability laws. However, there are some defenses that the dog owner may use to challenge liability for the incident. Some common defenses include:
Provocation is when the victim provokes the dog into attacking by teasing or hitting the animal. The owner will argue that the victim’s actions warranted a reaction from the dog, and they are not liable. The owner must prove that the actions are reason enough to lead to a bite.
If the victim was on the owner’s property at the time of the incident, the owner may argue that the victim assumed risk by being on the property. The victim must have a valid reason for being on the property during the incident.
If the dog was working at the time of the event, the owner could argue that the victim was impeding the dog’s duties and the dog was acting to continue its work. There must be proof that the actions prevented the dog from performing its duties and warranted a reaction.
Assumption of Risk
If the victim was aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies, such as a “Beware of Dog” sign, the owner may argue that the victim assumed the risk of being bitten, and they are not liable.
The victim’s actions may have led to the dog biting despite their knowledge that the dog has aggressive tendencies. The owner may argue that the victim’s negligence contributed to the injury to lower the compensatory amount.
Our attorneys at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. can help you fight against common dog bite defenses. We can challenge defenses such as provocation, trespassing, or assumption of risk, ensuring your rights are protected.
Senior partner and nurse attorney Eileen Kroll will use her nursing background to estimate damages resulting from your dog bite injuries. Eileen’s unique insight and knowledge ensure you receive fair compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the dog bite incident.
Contact Our Dog Bite Attorneys to Help Your Case
A dog bite is a deeply traumatic experience. If this happens to you or someone you love, one of our experienced and compassionate attorneys is available to discuss your legal options for filing a dog bite injury claim. The call is free, and there are no fees unless we win your case.
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 866-MICH-LAW 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.