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What You Should Know About Dog Bite Liability

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

A dog bite can result in broken bones, lacerations, amputations, and disfigurement. The bites of some dogs can result in serious illnesses, and dog attacks can be fatal in some cases. Michigan has stringent legislation to protect its residents from the harm caused by dog attacks.

Michigan is a Strict Liability State

The dog owner cannot escape legal consequences by claiming their dog was not dangerous. As a strict liability state, Michigan law has three requirements that allow someone bitten by a dog to hold the owner liable for the injury under the one-bite rule if proven:

  • The injured parties must prove that the bite was responsible for their injuries.
  • They must then prove that they did not provoke the dog to bite them.
  • They must prove whether the dog bit them while they were in a public place or private property.

If the injured party can prove all three requirements, the dog owner is liable, and the wounded party can work with a law firm to seek justice.

The Injured Party Must Prove Their Injury is From a Dog Bite

You need to exchange information with the dog’s owner or handler. You need to get their name, address, phone number. Your attorney will want to speak to witnesses to support your claims about the incident.

If a dog is not vaccinated, a dog bite can become seriously infected. If your injury requires any medical attention, keep all medical bills and insurance claims for your case. The evidence will be useful if it is necessary to submit an insurance claim or if the owner refuses to pay your medical bills. If you fail to keep records, it may be challenging to prove the damages the injury incurred.

Dog bite injuries are covered by most homeowners and renters’ insurance liability claims. In 2020, homeowners insurance companies paid $854 million in homeowners insurance liability claims related to dog bites and attacks. An insurance company may go forward with a settlement that includes compensation for damages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

The Injured Party Can Hold a Dog Owner Liable for Negligence

For strict liability to apply, a dog bite must be the cause of harm, not another dog-related injury. For example, if a dog jumps at you and breaks your nose through force, the Michigan dog bite statute does not apply to you.

Generally, an injured party must prove in court that the dog owner knew their dog was dangerous, aggressive, and prone to causing harm. A dog’s owner may be held liable for negligence if they fail to take reasonable care of the animal.

A dog owner can also be found negligent if they broke a dog-related law that does not allow dogs off leashes, known as “common law negligence per se.” Violating a public safety statute meant to protect the public from dog-related injuries will be used to illustrate that the dog owner had a responsibility to the public and that, by breaking the law, they neglected that responsibility.

Dog Bite Liability

Landlords Can Be Liable for Dog Bites

If a dog bite occurs on a rental property, a Michigan landlord can also be held liable if the landlord was aware of the dog’s dangerousness and could have enacted measures to remove the dog. A dog bite that occurs far away from a property can make proving liability challenging.

In general, if the landlord is found at fault, an injured claimant can receive payment from the homeowner’s insurance liability. This means that the injured party does not have to worry about a landlord paying out-of-pocket expenses.

Three Year Statute of Limitations in Michigan

The statute of limitations defines the amount of time during which you can file a personal injury complaint. Michigan law has a three-year statute of limitations. Once the bite and injury occur, the three-year time limit for filing begins. If the statute of limitations runs out, the possibility of pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is gone.

The time-sensitive nature of these cases means it’s critical to hire a skilled dog bite attorney in Michigan to work on your claim soon after the incident occurs.

A Dog Can Be Labeled a “Dangerous Dog”

Under Michigan law, a dog can be considered a “dangerous dog” under certain circumstances. When a dog bites or attacks a human or another dog, resulting in severe injury or even death, it is deemed dangerous.

The judge can order a dog owner to turn over their dog to an animal control authority, local veterinarian, or a boarding kennel until the hearing date. If a dog bite is present, but there are no serious injuries or deaths, the judge may order the owner to tag and sterilize the animal or take other steps to correct the problem. A judge might order the euthanization of a dog that caused serious injury or death.

In cases where the dog bites a person because it’s provoked or due to someone trespassing on private property, the dog is not considered dangerous. Dogs that respond in an ordinary way are not dangerous dogs. An ordinary response is one that reasonable people would perceive as attempting to defend an innocent person or during a legitimate activity.

A Dog Owner Has Certain Liability Defenses

The dog owner is liable unless the injured party provoked the animal or was unlawfully trespassing on the owner’s property. Dog owners may not be liable for dog bites if the person is trespassing on private property and the dog has bitten them. If a person provoked or antagonized the dog and then got bit, they cannot file a lawsuit against the dog owner.

Seek Professional Support

There can be a lot of confusion regarding the laws concerning dog bites and dog injuries. If you were involved in a case as the dog owner or as the victim of a dog bite, it’s a good idea to speak with a personal injury lawyer

Call Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. at 1-866-MICH-LAW to schedule your free consultation and find out more information about a potential dog bite case. 

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.

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.

Jasmine Holt is a freelance writer specializing in legal content marketing for attorneys and law firms. She hopes to provide better legal advice to the general public using her previous experience working with a franchise company and a law firm. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.



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