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An Overview of Michigan Dog Bite Laws


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Each year in the United States, approximately 850,000 people receive medical attention for a dog bite, with the CDC estimating more than 4.5 million dog bite victims per year. Dog bites can be extremely painful and, in the worst cases, can be fatal. Dog owners who knowingly keep a vicious or dangerous animal not only face civil liability but may also face criminal charges as well. Dog bite victims are encouraged to seek legal aid as soon as possible after an injury to pursue the financial compensation they need to recover from their incident.

What Does Michigan Law Say About Dog Bites?

Section 287.351 of Michigan state law states that if a dog bites a person without provocation, the owner is responsible for all damages. This is true in all cases except those in which the bite happened on the owner’s property and the victim was a trespasser or there to commit a crime.

Do I Need to Prove Negligence in a Dog Bite Case?

There are multiple states that do not require a dog bite victim to prove negligence as a factor in the attack. Called “strict liability” laws, these statutes establish the precedent that people who are bit by dogs only need to prove that the attack occurred unprovoked. Michigan follows strict liability laws, so residents in the state do not need to prove fault to receive benefits in a dog bite case.

What if the Dog is Owned by Someone I Know?

As previously stated, even a dog you know can attack if it feels threatened. In addition to the injuries and expenses, attacks by a familiar dog carry another hardship: The question of whether filing a claim is appropriate. Yes, you want to recover compensation, but do not want to sue your family member, friend, or neighbor to get that compensation. Michigan law accounts for this potentially uncomfortable situation by allowing dog bite claims to be paid through homeowner’s insurance.

In order for a personal injury claim for a dog bite to be successful, it must be shown that:

  • The person’s injury was caused by a dog bite (in other words, any injury caused by other dog behavior is not covered under this law)

  • The person who was bitten did nothing to provoke the dog

  • The person was either in a public place or lawfully in a private place when the injury occurred

Dog bite laws

Dog owners have a responsibility to control their pets, especially when guests are around. While some states handle dog bite cases by placing them under the category of “negligence,” Michigan is a “strict liability” state. This means that a dog owner cannot escape liability by claiming that they had no warning or way of knowing that the dog was dangerous or likely to bite. Regardless of whether or not the dog has displayed aggressive behavior in the past, the owner can still be held responsible for any damages.

It is important to note that the statute does not apply if the bite resulted from the victim’s provocation. This means that an injured person cannot demand that the dog’s owner pays damages if the victim teased or bothered the animal and made it angry enough to attack. Trespassers or would-be criminals also cannot demand compensation if they were bitten on while illegally on another person’s property.

When there is a valid claim filed and won against a dog owner, compensation is typically collected from the dog owner's homeowner's insurance, not out of pocket. Knowing this can provide a sense of relief to victims who are uneasy about filing a claim against the dog owner since more often than not the dog owner is the victim's friend, neighbor, or family member.

Time is of the Essence – Begin Your Dog Bite Claim Now!

The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim for a dog bite in Michigan is three years. After this window closes, a dog bite victim will no longer have recourse for their injury. If you have been injured by a dog, do not hesitate to contact a Detroit personal injury lawyer at Goodman Acker P.C. to consult with an experienced dog bite lawyer. If we agree to take your case, you may be able to collect compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and more.

Our law firm has been representing victims of dog bite injuries for over 30 years and we have the dedication, expertise, and skill to provide you with the best possible legal services. With a track record of success in obtaining fair compensation for our clients, we use the correct tools to get the maximum amount of compensation that you deserve.

Call Goodman Acker P.C. today at (248) 286-8100. Case reviews are free of charge!