Detroit Dog Bite Lawyer
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A dog bite can be devastating in many ways. Injuries are usually severe, and you will likely be terrified of the situation happening again. You have rights after an animal attack. There are penalties for dog owners, and they should be held responsible for the damages you suffer from their dog biting you.
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Michigan Dog Bite Laws
Dog bite laws in Michigan recognize three potential causes of action for those who have been injured: strict statutory liability, common law strict liability, and common law negligence.
You can sue for a dog bite based on any or all of these legal theories.
Strict Liability vs. Negligence
Strict liability is a legal theory that indicates a person (the dog owner) is entirely responsible for all damages, regardless of other factors involved.
Negligence, on the other hand, indicates that a person (the dog owner) has a legal duty to uphold and breached that duty, which caused the accident and injuries.
Statutory Strict Liability for a Dog Bite
Michigan Complied Laws (M.C.L.) 287.351 states that if a dog is unprovoked and bites a person, the owner is strictly liable for any damages suffered by the dog-bite victim. This applies to both public property and private property as long as the victim was not trespassing. The dog owner is even liable if the bite occurred on their property.
A dog owner can only use defenses specified in the law to defend against a statutory strict liability claim. For example, the dog owner might claim that the dog bite victim provoked the dog before being bitten. They may also claim that the person who was bitten was a trespasser and was not lawfully on the private property where the bite happened.
Common Law Strict Liability
Common law strict liability is not based on a statute but on case law or previous cases that courts have decided. Under common law strict liability, a dog owner is responsible for damages if:
- A person is the owner of the animal or has control over the animal
- The person knew or should have known about the animal’s abnormal dangerous propensities
- The harm caused by the dangerous propensity was known or should have been known
That means that if a person owns or possesses a “vicious dog,” and a victim is injured due to that vicious behavior, then the owner or keeper of that dog is strictly liable for damages.
This vicious dog law has elements similar to the one bite rule; however, it is somewhat different.
Does Michigan Have a One Bite Rule?
Some states have a “One Bite Rule,” commonly understood to mean that an owner may not be responsible for a bite if the dog has never bitten anyone before. However, that is not what the law means, and it does not apply in Michigan.
In Michigan, a dog owner is liable for damages even if there is no history of previous bites or viciousness. However, if a dog has a vicious history, the dog owner is strictly liable.
Liability for a Dog Bite Due to Negligence
Even if there is no legal theory holding a dog owner strictly liable, the person in possession of the dog may be held responsible if they were negligent. Negligence is a common law theory based on previously decided personal injury cases.
A person is negligent when the following elements are met: (1) there is a legal duty; (2) they breach that duty; (3) their breach of duty caused harm; and (4) the victim suffers injuries and/or other damages.
A dog owner has a legal duty to control their dog. They may be negligent if they are unreasonably careless in controlling their dog. That may include failing to put a leash on a dog or simply not paying attention to the actions of a dog.
Domesticated vs. Wild Animals
Michigan law distinguishes between liability for domesticated animals, such as dogs that are not considered vicious, and wild animals or vicious dogs.
People who own a domesticated dog that has never been vicious can be held strictly liable in certain circumstances. However, they do have defenses to that strict liability.
Owners of vicious dogs and wild animals do not have the same defenses to strict liability. They will be held responsible for any damages caused by their dangerous animals, regardless of other factors involved.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Cases
A dog bite lawsuit falls under personal injury law. There are deadlines or statutes of limitations that must be met to get the total compensation you deserve. In Michigan, you only have three years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Three years may seem like a long time, but it is not when you consider all of the work that must be done before you can file a lawsuit. Your attorney must conduct a thorough investigation, and you should receive as much medical treatment as possible to understand how much your claim is worth. It’s best to contact a dog bite lawyer near you as soon as possible after an animal attack.
How Do I Pursue a Dog Bite Claim in Detroit?
To pursue a dog bite claim against the owner or controller of the dog, you must ensure you have documented as much information as possible.
Then, contact a Detroit dog bite lawyer who can guide you through the insurance claims process.
Get Medical Treatment Immediately
The first step you should take after a dog bite is to get medical treatment. Dogs have dirty mouths that can lead to infection, even if the bite isn’t severe. You should go to an emergency room or urgent care center right away. This will establish a baseline for the injury that can help support your insurance claim later.
Document your injuries with photographs and keep a post-accident or pan journal that details how your symptoms affect your life. You should also keep all medical records and medical bills that you receive. This documentation will determine how much your dog bite claim is worth.
Report Your Dog Bite
You should report the dog bite to the authorities as soon as possible. You may call 911 to make a police report, and you should file a complaint with Animal Control.
In Detroit, you can file a complaint about a dog bite with the Detroit Animal Control division of the General Services Department. Some counties, such as Livingston County, allow you to file a Bite Report by completing a form and faxing it to Animal Control or the county Health Department.
You can find Animal Control in your area online or call your local police department for more information.
Write Down a Statement About the Incident
Memories can fade, so you should write down what happened immediately after the dog bite. Make sure you include your actions and those of the dog owner.
If you have had previous interactions with the dog and its owner, you should include that information in your statement. For example, it should be documented if the dog gets loose often or if the owner walks the dog without a leash.
Get Information from the Owner
Your emotions will be heightened after a dog bite but try to remain calm. If you can get contact information from the owner, you will save time in the future. Ask them their address and phone number.
You should also ask for the contact information of the dog’s veterinarian. Try to find out if the dog is up to date on shots, especially rabies. The police officer who arrives and your local county health department will also want this information.
Contact a Detroit Dog Bite Lawyer
The dog owner may try to avoid liability after a bite. You have rights. To protect yourself, you should contact a dog bite attorney who will help you investigate the situation and get you the compensation you deserve.
Your attorney can handle communication with the dog owner as well as their homeowner’s insurance, which may be able to cover your damages. If you have to file a personal injury claim and go to court, your attorney will draft necessary legal documents and appear at hearings and conferences on your behalf.
Defending Against a Dog Bite Claim
Pet owners are liable for damages caused by a dog bite unless the dog was provoked or the victim was trespassing. If you or a family member was bitten, it’s important to document exactly what happened before and during the dog bite to protect yourself against the dog owner’s potential defenses.
What Is Provocation?
If a person provokes a dog to bite them, then the dog owner may not be strictly liable for damages. While Michigan law does not define provocation, the courts will evaluate the situation on a case-by-case basis.
Provocation may be either intentional or unintentional. For example, stepping on a dog’s tail could be an accidental provocation leading to a dog bite.
A dog bite victim might be unable to recover compensation if they were not lawfully present on private property. That means if you were trespassing and a dog bit you, its owner may not be responsible in some cases.
Turn to a Detroit Dog Bite Lawyer for Help
If you were bit by a dog, you should immediately contact a lawyer who can handle your case while you focus on recovering.
You need a Detroit dog bite attorney familiar with personal injury claims like yours. Knowing Michigan dog bite laws and understanding how they apply to your case is crucial.
Davis Injury Lawyers, PLLC has handled countless cases where dogs attacked innocent victims. We know how to use strict liability laws, and negligence claims to get you the compensation you need to cover your medical bills and other losses.