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Do I Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

If you have been the victim of a dog bite, you may have grounds for a legal case to seek financial compensation. In the worst cases, a dog bite can result in disfigurement, permanent disability, or even death. In milder cases, it can still require medical treatment and cause residual emotional trauma.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you file a bite lawsuit. You deserve just compensation for medical care, any physical injuries, and mental anguish associated with an animal attack.

If you or a family member have been a bite victim in Michigan, contact a dog bite attorney at our law firm to determine whether you have a legal bite claim case.

Understanding Your Options if You are Bitten or Injured by a Dog

There is a difference between being bitten or being injured by a dog in Michigan. Michigan is a statutory strict liability state dog bite statute , which means that a dog owner is responsible for an injury to another person whether or not they knew the dog had a vicious propensity. This means that a dog owner can be held liable for your bite injury if:

  • You can prove that the dog is responsible for your injuries
  • You did not provoke the dog to bite
  • The attack occurred in a public place or on private property

If these criteria apply, the negligent dog owner is liable for an injury even if they claim the dog had never been or seemed dangerous in the past, and you should confer with an experienced lawyer to file a claim.

However, other dog-related injuries do not apply under Michigan’s strict liability law. If you are injured by a dog jumping on you, then the case is more complex. If you sustain a serious bodily injury, a dog owner can be held liable for negligence, for example, by letting the dog off the leash in a public space. The public safety statute known as negligence under common law strict liability may apply if the dog owner neglected its responsibility.

Can the Dog’s Owner be Held Liable for a Bite?

In the event of a dog bite, the owner is held liable under Michigan’s strict liability statute. According to Michigan Legislature Statute §287.351 Section 1 , if a dog bites a person without being provoked to do so while on public property or lawfully on someone’s private property, the dog’s owner is liable for damages suffered by the bitten person.

This applies regardless of the owner’s knowledge of viciousness, which means that the owner cannot avoid being held liable by claiming their dog had not previously been dangerous.

However, your actions under the circumstances that you were bitten matter as well. If you provoked the dog on purpose, taunted it, or otherwise engaged in behavior that would make it afraid or overly excitable, its owner may be shielded from legal responsibility.

Dog owners also may not be liable if you were trespassing on private property when the dog bit you. This is often grounds for provocation of the dog. It is contingent on you to prove that the dog attacked you unprovoked.

Why You Need to Hire an Experienced Attorney in the Event of a Dog Bite Injury

In the event of a minor injury, if the owner agrees to pay the medical bills and you can settle it between you, it’s not always necessary to involve a lawyer. If serious injuries or trauma are incurred, then you should consult a lawyer immediately.

However, depending on the circumstances, fair compensation may include punitive damages, the costs associated with psychological damage, medical costs including physical therapy, and more.

The laws governing dog bites and injuries in Michigan can be confusing, as can disagreements between the victim and the dog owner. What constitutes a provocation, the degree of the injury, and the exact nature of the circumstances are all points that the dog owner may dispute to avoid liability.

In serious dog bite cases, it is important that you hire a lawyer for this reason. If your injury requires medical attention, such as an infection because the dog was unvaccinated, keep all medical bills and insurance claims to prove the extent of your suffering.

Many other areas require legal mediation to ascertain the legal nature of the circumstances, such as the following:

Were You or Your Child Bitten by a Dog?

If a dog bit your child, different circumstances may apply than if you were bitten. Children can be excitable and may provoke dogs in unforeseeable ways, particularly if the child is unfamiliar with the dog.

In this case, it may be neither the dog’s nor the child’s fault, and a close legal examination of the circumstances and history will be necessary to determine the owner’s liability and whether it was the result of negligence on the owner’s behalf, such as not having the dog on a leash or maintaining control of it.

Was the Dog Provoked?

If the dog was provoked, the owner will generally not be held liable unless the dog is deemed dangerous.

Michigan statute §281.321 defines a dog as a dangerous animal if it bites or attacks a person or causes serious injury or death to another while on the owner’s property. However, this dangerous animal clause does not hold if the dog was knowingly provoked or if the bitten person was similarly careless.

Did the Injured Person Know the Risk of Injury?

If a person is injured by a dog bite knowing there was a reasonable risk, the pet owner will generally not be held liable. For example, the person approached the dog knowing that it was dangerous or was deliberately taunting, tormenting, or harming it when it attacked.

Myself in a Dog Bite Case

Was the Injured Person Trespassing or Breaking the Law?

Michigan’s dangerous animal statute does not designate an animal or dog that attacks an individual who is trespassing on the owner’s property as dangerous.

The Michigan dangerous animal statute stipulates that a dog is not a dangerous animal if its response is evidently in defense of a person who is the subject of an assault and otherwise engaged in lawful activity.

Can I Represent Myself in a Dog Bite Case?

Yes. This is called “pro se” in legal terms for any kind of case. However, if you have no legal training, you should bear in mind you’ll likely be facing an attorney hired by an insurance company who understands applicable laws better than you. You’ll put yourself in a better position with an experienced dog bite attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., who will work to ensure the best outcome for you.

Can a Dog Bite Lawyer Help Me if I Was Bitten?

If you suffered a bite wound or some other types of dog-related injury, or if a loved one was the victim of a fatal dog attack, the personal injury lawyers and dog bite specialists at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help you to identify who is liable and other elements relevant to your case and gather the necessary evidence to bring a successful personal injury claim or lawsuit. An experienced attorney will manage all the steps in filing the lawsuit, including potential negotiations with insurance companies, and represent you in court if it comes to that.

Contact a Dog Bite Attorney

Dog bites can be traumatizing, particularly if the injuries are serious or if they involve young children. If a dog bites you or your child, you should contact an experienced dog bite lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. at 1-866-MICH-LAW or at to help with your personal injury claim . Our team will be instrumental in pursuing your claim successfully.

Attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. possess vast experience in personal injury law and dog bites and are qualified to advise on any aspect of your case and represent you fully in all claims and litigation . With attorney Eileen Kroll, who is also a registered nurse on our team, we are well-positioned to interpret and analyze relevant medical documentation.

The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits related to dog bite claims is three years in Michigan, which means these cases are time-sensitive. If you are the victim of a severe injury due to a dog bite or attack or if you are a defendant in a dog bite case, call Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. immediately at 1-866-MICH-LAW or to schedule a free initial consultation.

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.

Clark Hayward holds a Ph.D. in Critical & Political Theory from the University of London and has a background in speech writing, editing, and translation. His multilingualism provides a strong foundation for legal translation work, ensuring language specificity.



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