Dog Bites

Damages recoverable for scars, plastic surgery, pain suffering, psychological injuries

The Michigan dog bite statute holds the owner of a dog (including other animals) liable for injuries to a person that sustains injuries provided that the injured person did not provoke the animal and is on public property or lawfully on the property of the owner of the dog. In addition, the viciousness of the dog is not relevant provided that the injured person did not provoke the dog.

Most dog bite cases that we handle are based upon claims against neighbors or relatives of the person who is injured. In addition, the homeowner’s insurance company of the owner of the dog will step up to defend the claim and be the entity that eventually pays damages to the injured party. However, an uninsured owner of a dog faces personal liability in this scenario.

The ABDO LAW FIRM believes you should be well informed. The following links provide excellent information regarding dog bite statistics and issues facing insurance companies:

The Michigan dog bite statute, liability of owner (MCL287.351)

(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.

Provocation and trespassing is a defense to dog bite cases

It is a defense to dog bite claims if the injured party provoked the dog. Teasing or hitting a dog constitutes provocation. In Michigan, the Court of Appeals held that a person may unintentionally provoke a dog, too. For example, accidentally stepping on a dog's tail may constitute provocation. (Brans v. Extrom, 266 Mich. App. 216 (2005).

In addition to provocation, a person injured by the animal or dog of another may be precluded from recovery (monetary damages) if he or she is a trespasser or illegally on the property where the animal is located.

Some states have adopted dog bite laws which contain the “one bite rule.” There is no law in Michigan. An owner of a dog or other animal is liable to others for the first bite regardless of the viciousness of the animal or whether the owner has knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities.

Dog bite cases to children are handled with special care

Dog bite cases are always most disturbing when an unsuspecting child is attacked. Children are susceptible to attacks by large dogs and pit bulls which can cause horrific injuries or death. Injuries to children may require plastic surgery and/or psychological attention. When this occurs, we will employ medical and psychological experts as necessary to assist in obtaining maximum damages. Our claim for damages may include pain, suffering, psychological trauma, permanent scarring, disfigurement and the need for future corrective surgery as the child matures.

The ABDO LAW FIRM will aggressively seek all monetary damages for physical and emotional injuries as a result of a dog bite or animal attack.

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