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Dog Bites and Other Injuries: A Dog Owner’s Legal Defenses in Michigan

Pet owners have an obligation to control their pets, and can be held liable for any dog bite cases a dog is involved in. Dog bites can cause very serious injuries or even kill someone under the right circumstances. Medical bills can add up quickly and scars can be emotional as well as physical. In severe cases, you may even require repeated surgeries in order to restore the appearance and function of the bitten area.

Dog bite laws give owners certain legal defenses, though. Depending on the facts of the case, even severe dog bite lawsuits may be thrown out entirely. The injured person must work closely with a lawyer to ensure the dog owner is held accountable for their pet’s aggressive behavior.

Your best option is to work with a law firm that specializes in dog bite cases and other personal injury law. They will know the best way to deal with the owner and any insurance companies who are involved in the case.

Changes to the Law

Michigan used to have a “one bite” rule, which allowed dog owners not to be held responsible for a dog attack if their dog had never been aggressive before. However, now Michigan imposes strict liability, meaning that owners can be held responsible even if their dog has never attacked anyone in the past.

The new law makes it easier for dog bite victims to get compensation. It also increases the importance of following all Michigan dog laws, including requirements that dogs be leashed in public.

Provoking the Dog

Under Michigan law, dog owners cannot be held responsible for bites if the injured party provoked the attack. This is because the victim would have assumed the risk of being bitten, based on his or her actions.

The definition of provocation generally acknowledges that actions like gentle petting and playing, even when done by a child, do not count as provocation. As long as the victim was taking actions that were reasonable and did not involve taunting or harming the dog, the provocation defense will not hold up.

Trespassing on Private Property

If a dog bite occurs in a public place or on your own property, then the owner of the dog can usually be held liable for the attack. The owner can also be held liable and a claim filed with their homeowner’s insurance if the victim had authorization to be on their property. This includes delivery drivers, party guests, and other individuals who can reasonably assume permission to enter.

In cases where the victim was knowingly or unknowingly trespassing, the dog owner might not be held responsible for injuries. Trespassing carries an assumption of risk, and the owner cannot be held liable for their dog’s reasonable efforts to defend the property against an intruder.

If there is any dispute over exactly where the attack occurred, both sides may present evidence such as witness statements or cell phone records establishing the location. An attorney can help you assemble the evidence you need to win your claim.

Lack of Medical and Police Documentation

If the dog bite victim does not file a police report about the attack or go to the emergency room for treatment, it may be more difficult to win in court. Typically, a dog owner can use a lack of evidence to contest the victim’s claims, especially if the location or timeline of events cannot be established.

It’s very important for dog bite victims to collect contact information for witnesses, medical evidence, photographs, and a copy of a police report. Getting this information as soon as possible after the attack undermines the defendant’s ability to twist the truth in their favor or not be responsible for the attack.

How to Win Your Case

If a dog bit you hard enough to require an emergency room visit or other medical care, you deserve financial compensation. Michigan dog bite statutes are clear that when a dog bites a person, the liability lies with the dog’s owner.

You need an experienced dog attack attorney in order to maximize your chances of winning. Homeowners’ insurance companies will often go to great lengths to contest claims, and you need expert counsel to win the compensation you need.

Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. has extensive experience in dog bite and other personal injury cases. Our office is proud to serve the greater Detroit Metro area and can help you get the damages you deserve under Michigan law. Call us today at (866) 868-3779 for a free consultation and before the statute of limitations runs out.

Hannah Johnson has her Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs with a specialization in civic engagement. Her career has focused on labor-related research, including unions, workers’ compensation, and contract law. She is now broadening her career to include research and policy analysis in East Asia, specifically in countries like South Korea and Japan where the aging population is creating a new frontier in economic trends and public policy innovation.

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