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Can I Receive Compensation for Mental Health Issues by Dog Bite?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Michigan is a strict liability state for dog bites, and one of the few states that have a specific dog bite law. This means the owners or keepers of a dog is held liable for dog bites even without having to prove negligence unless you were trespassing or provoking the dog. In addition to physical injuries, the experience can be extremely traumatizing, so it is a good idea to speak to a trusted dog bite attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., to craft a claim on your behalf for compensation.

Michigan Dog Bite Law

Did you know that there are more dogs in the USA than cattle? There are more than 90 million dogs in the USA, living in about 50 million households. With more than 4.5 million dog bites a year and over 5.5 million ER visits in the last 15 years, several states have implemented specific dog bite laws.

The Michigan dog bite law is covered by MCLA 287.351, which requires that you must prove a dog bite caused your injury, that you did not provoke the dog, and that it occurred in a public place or lawfully in a private place. It only applies to actual bites, not just aggressive behavior. If a big dog, for example, knocks you over in a park and you break a leg, you can still claim negligence on behalf of the owner.

Dog Bite Statistics

If a dog bites an intruder, or the dog was provoked, the owner is not liable for damages, but in many cases, the dog that attacks and bites a person is actually known to the victim, and those are special cases that require expert help from dog bite lawyers in Michigan.

Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds top the list of the most likely to bite, with Pit Bulls being responsible for more than 7 times the number of attacks than any other breed.

Of the 433 people killed by dogs in the last 15 years, 19 were in Michigan. Two percent of dog bite ER visits result in hospitalization – that is nearly a hundred thousand people in the last 15 years.

That represents a staggering number of people who may be scarred for life, not just physically, but mentally and psychology by their experience of being bitten by a dog.

Dog Bites and Children

Sadly, 55.6 % of all dog bite fatalities occur in children less than 10 years old. Young children under the age of 6 are more likely to unintentionally provoke a dog by trying to play with it, for example, pulling its tail. The law exempts them from the provocation rule as they do not have the capacity for evil intent and do not understand that play may provoke the dog.

Many of them, even when not physically scarred, will carry a life-long fear of dogs due to the traumatic experience. The highest rate of dog bite injuries is with children 5-9, followed by 0-4 and 10-14.

Even worse, the Humane Society of the United States’ data on animal abuse cases shows that there is a correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. As many as 71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted pets, and in a study on child abuse, they found animal abuse in 88% of families under supervision for child abuse. Those children grow up thinking chaos and hurting animals is normal and are at much higher risk for dog bites.

Injuries from Dog Bites

The bite of an adult dog can exert pressure of up to 200 lb/square inch and do immense damage. Injuries may include:

  • Scars and disfigurement
  • Infections
  • Tissue and nerve damage
  • Broken bones
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Death

Mental and Psychological Injuries

Mental and psychological injuries can occur immediately and, in some people will only show up years after an attack.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fear, restless sleep, withdrawal, or depression.
  • They may be scared to go out in public or visit family and friends due to their fear of dogs, and some develop an intense fear of dogs (cynophobia).
  • The physical scars may leave them disfigured for life and struggling with self-esteem and prolonged grief caused by the disfigurement.
  • Plastic and other surgeries to repair the physical damage may cause further mental anguish.
  • Several forms of nerve damage may render you unable to perform specific activities, which could lead to severe depression or loss of interest in life.
  • Social isolation is a major problem post a severe dog bite injury and can create down-stream effects especially for children and deepen depression or PTSD

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD After a Dog Bite:

  • Irritability and irrational anger.
  • Flashbacks of the trauma.
  • Serious anxiety and distress, feelings of guilt.
  • Irrational and fearful thoughts.
  • Emotional unresponsiveness and lack of concentration.
  • Startled reactions or intense emotions in relation to normal events.
  • Night terrors and nightmares which could lead to confusion.
  • Avoidance of other people or activities.
  • Paranoia.
  • Physical manifestations like headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, or bedwetting in children.

More than half of children experiencing a serious dog bite attack develop symptoms of PTSD within 2-9 months after the attack. Some children may require MDR treatments after a dog bite which can take a long time and be very costly, and the same applies to adults that find their PTSD interfering with their ability to live their everyday life in a normal fashion.

Can I Claim for Mental Injury After a Dog Bite?

Apart from claiming economic damages such as medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses, you can claim non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish due to PTSD or cynophobia, depression and humiliation due to scarring or loss of quality of life due to disability. Mental health treatments such as psychological testing, counselling, MDR for PTSD as well as intangibles can be claimed for.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite?

Dog bite cases can be very complex, and you will need an experienced dog bite attorney in Michigan who can help you collect evidence and documentation to build your case for claiming serious mental issues following a dog bite incident. This is even more important when you deal with a child who was attacked.

You can call Eileen Kroll, a registered nurse, and personal injury trial attorney, at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., at 866-MICH-LAW for a no obligation consultation. Eileen has a unique perspective on injuries and mental health issues, as well as the law. Be sure to note the statute of limitations is three years so that you do not miss your opportunity to file. Our law firm never charges a fee unless we win your 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.

Nikole has a special interest in medical-legal issues and holds post-basic degrees in medical law and business. She has developed quality improvement and safety plans for many practices and facilities to prevent medical-legal issues and teaches several courses on data protection and privacy, legal, medical examinations and documentation, and professional ethics. She has been writing professionally on legal, business, ethics, patient advocacy, research and medico-legal issues in articles, white papers, business plans, and training courses for over thirty-five years.



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