Bitten By a Dog in Michigan - When Should I Call a Lawyer?

Man being Bitten by Dog

Dog and animal bites can cause serious, life-changing injuries, like puncture wounds, scarring, facial scars, infection and, in some instances, even death. These types of injuries often often require expensive medical procedures, often including plastic surgery, which result in large medical bills. Dog bites often cause extensive pain and suffering that accompanies a long healing process. People who have been bitten by dogs or other animals may also experience psychological trauma, and a lifelong fear of animals.

What should I do if I was bitten by a dog?

If you or someone you love was bitten by a dog, it is important that you seek medical attention. If your initial treatment is in the emergency room, follow-up with your primary care physician. Sometimes, in an effort to treat the most serious injuries, emergency room physicians may miss some of the less severe injuries.

Report the dog bite incident to the police department, fire department, or animal control agency. It is important to document that the event took place. If the animal has bitten or injured other people, the city might want to take action against the owner or the dog.

You should also get as much information as you can about the dog that bit you. Try to get the name, address, and other contact information for the owner of the dog. If you don't have this information, a neighbor or witness might be able to give it to you. If there were any witnesses to the event, get their name and contact information, too. Use your phone to take pictures of the scene of the incident and, if possible, the animal itself. You should also remember to document your injuries. Take pictures of any wounds, including bruises and cuts, and document the healing process.

You should also contact a Michigan dog bite attorney. For most dog bite injuries in Michigan, you have three years to bring a claim against the dog owner. However, it is important that you contact a lawyer as quickly after the incident as possible. An experienced Michigan personal injury attorney will act quickly to preserve as much evidence as possible and document your injuries to maximize your likelihood of success.

Who is responsible for my injuries if I was bitten by a dog in Michigan?

In Michigan, dog owners are responsible for any physical injury their dog causes by biting a person. This is called strict liability. Michigan statute MCL 287.351 says:

Sec. 1. (1) If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

(2) A person is lawfully on the private property of the owner of the dog within the meaning of this act if the person is on the owner’s property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or if the person is on the owner’s property as an invitee or licensee of the person lawfully in possession of the property unless said person has gained lawful entry upon the premises for the purpose of an unlawful or criminal act.

Under Michigan's strict liability theory for dog bite injuries, the owner does not need to know that the animal had "dangerous tendencies" or was of a particular breed. You do not need to prove that the animal had bitten someone else before. If the animal bites someone, as long as the victim was not tormenting the dog, the dog owner is responsible.

People who were bitten by a dog may be able to recover damages for:

  • medical expenses
  • lost wages
  • pain and suffering
  • property damage
  • punitive damages, in some cases

But what if it's a family or friends' pet?

A common and understandable concern for people who have been bitten by a dog is that they do not want want to sue their friends or family, and are concerned about what might happen to the animal if it's a family pet.

While the Michigan statute states that the dog owner is responsible, dog bite injuries are almost always covered by a homeowner's insurance policy. Also, in most cases the pet will not be put down as a result of a bite, unless there is a history of violent dog behavior.

If you were bitten by a dog or other animal, it is important that you get the name and contact information for the dog's owner, but also ask about their homeowner's insurance policy. When you meet with a Michigan dog bite / personal injury attorney, we can answer your specific questions about who would pay for the damages, and what might happen to the dog.

What if I was "trespassing" or provoking the dog?

Owners of dogs that bite people have two basic defenses available. First, the dog owner might suggest that the injured person was not legally on the property. Because trespassing has a specific, technical legal definition, the success of this defense will depend on the circumstances. Contact a lawyer to discuss the specifics of your situation. The lawyers at Muth Law, P.C. can usually assess whether the injured person was trespassing during your initial, free consultation.

The second defense is that the victim was provoking the dog. Provocation may include hitting dog, pulling its tail, or some other type of conduct that would provoke a dog into biting and attacking. However, small children may not understand that they are provoking the dog, or might think the animal is having fun with them. Often, the child's actions were minor when compared to the ferocity of the attack.

Contact An Experienced Ann Arbor, Michigan Dog Bite Attorney Today

From our office in Ann Arbor, the experienced dog bite attorneys at Muth Law, P.C. represent people throughout Michigan. If you or someone you love was bitten by a dog or other animal, contact us today for a free initial consultation. Call Muth Law at 734-481-8800, email us at Info@muthlawpc.com, or complete our online form.

Categories: Dog & Animal Bites

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