A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You in a Dog Bite Claim?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Man’s best friend: a faithful companion, protector, and hunting tool for thousands of years. In fact, could we imagine life without dogs? Not only are they pets in the modern era, but they also serve a wide variety of working roles, from guide dogs to search and rescue dogs.
But sometimes things can go wrong. Because of poor training, provocation, or other factors, a dog will sometimes turn on someone and bite them, often inflicting severe injuries or even, in the worst case scenario, death. So what happens if your dog bites someone? Or if you have been bitten by a dog? What protection do you have and how can you recover compensation if a victim? And can a dog bite attorney be of any real use?
Is it Much of a Problem?
According to figures from 2017, there were around 90 million dogs in the U.S. That’s approximately one dog for every 4 people. The CDC states that around 4.7 million dog bite incidents happen across the nation every year. Of that number, some 800,000 require medical treatment. So, roughly speaking, you have around a 1 in 69 chance of being bitten by a dog in any given year.
As far as Michigan is concerned, we rank 6th in the nation for the number of dog bite cases with $4.4 million paid out in damages in 2016.
What are the Laws on Dog Bite Incidents?
In all 50 states owners of the dog hold strict liability for any aggressive behavior, including bites. The exception to this is where the attack happens on a rented property with other tenants. If the landlord of the property – or owner or caretaker – was aware that the dog had previously attacked anyone, then they too may be held liable.
As with any personal injury law, there are certain things you must be able to prove when submitting injury claims:
- You must be able to prove that you received a bite from the dog whose owner you are filing a claim against.
- You must be able to show that all injuries listed in the claim were caused by those bites.
- There must be some proof that you in no way provoked the dog.
- The attack must have happened on public property unless you had a legitimate reason for being on the private property where the attack took place. So, for example, if you were a repairman from the electricity company, then you would have a legitimate reason for being on private property.
Until recently, Michigan was what is known as a “one bite state.” This meant that an owner could escape any action for a first bite but this is no longer valid. Our state also has strict leashing laws: if not on its owner’s property, a dog older than 6 months should be collared and leashed at all times.
As a Dog Owner, What Action Might I Face?
Once a dog bite has been reported, Animal Control will take the dog and hold it in quarantine for a period of 10 days. The owner must pay the costs for this period. In rare cases, your dog may be held in quarantine at a nominated veterinary clinic or in even rarer cases, at your home under special conditions.
Unless your dog is a repeat offender with a previous history of inflicting dog bite injuries, then it is unlikely that the court will order it to be euthanized. However, if the dog bite victim suffered severe injuries or death, then euthanasia is likely.
If a bit occurred, then as the animal’s owner, you may also face criminal charges:
- Where serious injuries were caused by the dog bite, then you may face felony charges that can result in any combination of a maximum 4 years in prison, up to a $2,000 fine, and a maximum of 500 hours of community service.
- If wrongful death happens as a result of a dog bite incident, then you may face charges of involuntary manslaughter. If found guilty, you could face any combination of up to 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $7,500, and a restitution award to the victim’s family.
- For a non-serious injury, you may in some cases still face a misdemeanor charge which can result in any combination of 90 days in jail, a fine of $250-500, and a maximum of 240 hours of community work.
- If your dog has previously exhibited dangerous behaviour and you allowed it to run loose, then you may again face a misdemeanor charge with the same punishment schedule as the non-serious injury misdemeanor.
As well as the criminal charges listed, the court may hold you liable for prosecution costs and may also order a restitution award which would be independent of any civil liability claim.
Will My Insurance Cover Any Claim?
If you have specific coverage in case of your dog biting someone, then yes, any claim will be covered. Given that the average amount in dog claims in 2017 was $39,017, then not being covered could prove to be an expensive decision. If you do make an insurance claim, be aware that your insurance company may increase your premium or add special clauses one a first bite has occurred.
As with any personal injury case, there are several expenses that may be awarded to the victims of a dog bite. These include any medical expenses, loss of wages, and also non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
How Will a Lawyer Help?
In cases where you are the dog owner, an experienced dog bite lawyer can examine a number of defense options such as whether the victim provoked the dog in any way or whether they were legitimately on your property (where the bite did not occur on public property).
If you were the victim of a dog bite, then Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will look to prove all the conditions needed to pursue a claim. They will also present evidence as to the extent of your injuries and how they have impacted various aspects of your daily life. Where there is proof of pain and suffering, or proof that your quality of life has suffered, then they will also look to claim non-economic damages.
A dog bite can result in various degrees of seriousness as far as injuries are concerned. While deaths from dog bites are relatively rare – 36 in 2019 – they can happen, and this can have a devastating effect on the victim’s family.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have specialized in all aspects of personal injury law, including dog bite cases, for many years. We will fight to ensure you receive a fair settlement from the court or insurance company. To evaluate your case, we offer a free consultation. This also allows you to ask any relevant questions. You can schedule your free appointment by calling our law firm today at 866-MICH-LAW.
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.