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Owner Liability for Michigan Dog Bites

WRITTEN BY:
Steven Matz
November 27, 2023 | Dog Bite

Dog owners in Michigan must be acutely aware of the legal implications that arise when their pet is involved in a biting incident. Beyond the immediate concern for the injured party, owners must consider potential medical costs, possible legal claims, and the stringent Michigan dog bite laws that could dictate their pet’s future.

Can you Sue For Medical Bills and Emotional Distress Caused by a Dog Bite?

Under Michigan law, victims of dog bites might pursue compensation to cover medical bills and, in certain cases, additional damages for emotional distress or long-term care requirements. The social implications, from community perceptions to strained relations, further complicate the situation. In the most severe instances, a dog’s future may be questioned based on the severity of the incident.

Given these complexities, a dog owner whose dog bit you will likely consult with legal counsel. If you were bitten by a dog, knowing who is liable is crucial if you plan to file a claim. An experienced Michigan dog bite attorney can provide you with the necessary guidance through your legal journey. Contact the compassionate attorneys at Matz Injury Law today at 1-866-22Not33 for a free consultation.

What Are the Dog Bite Laws in Michigan?

Michigan’s dog bite statute (MCL 287.351) outlines the law regarding dog bites. To potentially receive any compensation from a dog owner, the dog bite victim must provide proof the injury was due to a dog bite, the victim did not provoke the dog, and the injured party must demonstrate they were lawfully on private property with the owner’s knowledge or public property at the time of the bite. Other dog behavior that is not a bite does not meet the criteria for this rule.

Does Michigan Have a One-Bite Rule for Dogs?

Some states have a “one-bite rule” for dogs, which essentially gives an owner a “one bite free” pass (depending on circumstances). Michigan is not one of these states. Instead, Michigan uses a strict liability law that covers dog bites. This means the owner of the dog is responsible in any case where a bite victim was not trespassing or provoking the animal. It does not matter if the dog owner knew their dog was dangerous or if they could have taken steps to prevent it from attacking.

There are two theories of liability in the state of Michigan. The first is statutory and implies a dog owner is liable for the first bite as long as the victim was lawfully on the property and did not provoke the canine. The second stems from Michigan’s common law. It includes negligence and liability, indicating the victim only needs to prove the dog’s owner knew or should have known the dog possesses an inclination to bite.

What Are Michigan’s Leash Laws?

Michigan requires all dog owners to leash, collar, and tag their dogs in public once the canine is six months old. The only exception is if the dog has an involvement in a training activity. Unfortunately, many people ignore laws and let their dogs run freely in public places. Owners who do not follow leashing laws may be responsible for any injuries another person suffers and find themselves named in a Michigan dog bite lawsuit.

What is Considered a Provocation in a Dog Bite?

Michigan defines the word “provoke” as an action or activity, regardless if intentional or unintentional, that would cause a dog to react in a way similar to that shown by the injured person’s evidence. Examples would be pulling a dog’s tail, teasing the dog, stepping on it, or other actions that would incite or encourage a dog to bite.

What to Do If You Are Bitten By a Dog in Michigan

If you experience a dog bite in Michigan, the first thing you should do is get away from the dog and then seek immediate medical attention to prevent infection of your wounds. Obtaining a medical exam from a physician also reduces other risks or complications from secondary injuries. This also creates documentation of the dog bite, which will prove to be extremely important down the road.

Other actions to take:

  • Call the police to report the dog bite and prepare to give as many details as possible so it is officially on record.
  • Call animal control and give them the same information you provided to the police.
  • Obtain the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. Their testimony will confirm what happened.

We also advise dog bite victims to seek legal help from a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Dog bites can be a serious injury depending on the bite’s location and the dog’s strength, and dog bite victims deserve adequate compensation for those injuries.

Dog Bites Involving Children

small dog biting a child on the arm

When a dog bites a child, it may cause more significant damage. In most cases, a dog owner will likely try to say the child provoked their dog. In this case, having eyewitnesses and knowing the child’s location will prove very important to your case.

Compensation you can pursue on behalf of your child includes money to pay for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and psychological trauma to your child. It is common for people, particularly children, to suffer severe fear of dogs after surviving a dog bite or attack. A fair settlement will include compensation for the lasting psychological impact of the attack.

Can You Sue in Instances of Trespassing?

If someone was trespassing on your property, you may be able to sue them. If your dog injured the intruder as they were trespassing, it is unlikely you can be held liable for the injury, even with Michigan’s strict liability rule. Speaking to a Michigan dog bite lawyer as soon as possible is essential. This way, your lawyer can build a strong case if someone intrudes on your property and is hurt.

Consequences For a Dangerous Dog in Michigan

You may consider your dog man’s best friend, but the state of Michigan may consider your dog dangerous if it meets certain criteria. In a court hearing, depending on the circumstances of your situation, your dog may be ordered to be euthanized, or you may need to take steps to keep the public safe from your dog. You also may face misdemeanor or felony criminal charges, depending upon the situation.

Why a Dog Should Be Added to the Owner’s Insurance in Michigan

Due to Michigan’s strict liability rules regarding dog bite laws, you may want to consider adding your dog to your renter’s or homeowner’s policy. Obtaining coverage from an insurance company will help reduce out-of-pocket financial liability should an incident with your dog occur that leads to injury. If your dog has a tendency towards viciousness, you want to be covered in case someone someday brings a dog bite claim against you. You want to protect yourself, just in case.

Man with dog on a leash in a pen.

Know Who to Hold Liable After a Dog Bite in Michigan

The aftermath of a dog bite can be traumatic for victims and their family members. If you, your child, or another loved one suffered a dog bite in Michigan, Matz Injury Law understands the trepidation you face and is here to help you through this difficult time. We will help you with your dog bite case and advocate for your best interests while keeping you from missing any statute of limitations for filing a dog bite injury lawsuit.

Our experienced Michigan law firm is fully committed to helping dog bite victims recover compensation for their injuries, pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, disfigurement, and other damages. You suffer enough after experiencing a traumatic dog attack, and you should not also be saddled with high medical costs and other losses.

Why Work with Matz Injury Law For Your Dog Bite Claim

To date, our caring and knowledgeable lawyers have earned more than $300 million for our clients. If you want someone with experience in personal injury cases to support and advocate for you, call Matz Injury Law today at 1-866-22Not33. We are happy to provide you with a free case evaluation. For your convenience, you can also reach our personal injury attorneys through our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

steven matz headshot

Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

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