Dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year. In 2017, 39 Americans were killed by dogs, 29 of whom were killed by pit bulls. Each year, more than 350,000 dog bite victims are seen in emergency rooms, and approximately 850,000 victims receive medical attention.
Under Michigan’s dog-bite statute, a dog owner is strictly liable for any damages caused when his or her dog bites another individual. Importantly, this particular law applies regardless of whether the dog has previously bitten anyone or otherwise indicated it may be vicious.
Also, in order to hold the dog owner liable, the dog bite must occur on public property or while you are lawfully on private property. If, for example, you are invited onto the dog owner’s property, either as a guest or a customer, you will likely be able to collect damages if you are bitten by his or her dog. Alternatively, if you are trespassing on private property or gaining access to the property to commit a crime, damages will likely be unavailable.
Other Ways to Establish Liability Following A Dog Attack
While the dog bite statute is an effective way of seeking damages following a dog bite, it is important to remember old common-law liability theories still apply in Michigan. For instance, if the dog owner knows his or her dog is vicious, prone to attacks and/or fails to restrain the dog sufficiently, he or she may be liable for injuries caused by the dog.
There are some limited exceptions to Michigan's Dog Bite Statute. For instance, if you, the dog-bite victim, provoke the dog ― either intentionally or unintentionally ― you may be barred from recovering damages for your injuries.
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Although sometimes difficult, the dog owner usually can be identified by licensing and vaccination records, as well as the testimony of witnesses. In most cases, the second element can be established with photographs, medical records, witness statements or other evidence that the dog caused substantial physical harm.
Under Michigan law, a dog’s “good behavior” before an attack does not shield the dog owner from responsibility.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury as a result of a dog bite, contact the law firm of MUSSIN & SCANLAND, PLLC as soon as possible.