July 1, 2019

4 Dog Owner Liability Rules in Michigan

Whether you are a dog owner wondering about your legal rights if your dog bites someone, or you are not a dog owner but are wondering whether you have grounds to file a claim against the owner of the dog that bit you, it is important to understand the Michigan law and dog bites. If you or someone you know has been injured by a dog bite, hiring a dog bite lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help you understand the legal system and rules surrounding being bitten by a dog in Michigan. Here is a rundown of some of the more important rules to be aware of.

1. Dog bite statute

Michigan is one of several states that have developed specific statutes regarding dog bite injuries. In Michigan, MCLA 287.351 states that to prove a dog owner liable under Michigan’s dog bite law, the person bitten by the dog must demonstrate three things.

First, the injured party must show that their injury was caused by a bite. Then, they need to prove that they did not provoke the dog into biting them. Lastly, they have to demonstrate that they were either in a public place or lawfully in a private place when the dog bit them.

This means that the statute does not apply to injuries caused by, say, running away from a dog that you believe attempted to bite you. In cases like this, however, you may still be able to file a claim against the dog’s owner for negligence if they did not control their dog properly and with a reasonable amount of care.

2. Michigan law and “strict liability”

Of the states that have specific legislation for dog bite cases, most fall into two different categories: strict liability states and negligence states. Michigan is a strict liability state, which means that the owner of a dog that bites someone cannot escape liability by claiming that they did not have any warning that the dog was dangerous.

If a dog bites someone in a state with strict liability dog bite laws, then the owner is liable even if the dog may never have bitten anyone or acted aggressively towards someone before.

Michigan does use a negligence rule for other forms of dog-related injuries, but when it comes to dog bites, strict liability law is practiced.

3. Statute of limitations

As with most cases, there is a deadline within which you are legally allowed to bring a personal injury case to court called the statute of limitations. In Michigan, the statute of limitations for dog bite injuries says that you have three years from the date of your dog bite to file the suit.

Your legal counsel can help you determine whether your statute of limitations window is open or closed, and can, therefore, help you decide whether to file a claim or not.

4. Dog liability defense

If you are a dog owner in Michigan whose dog has bitten someone, you usually will have two potential defenses to a dog bite claim filed against you: trespassing and provocation.

Michigan’s dog bite statute requires the person bitten to be on public property or lawfully on private property for a claim to be valid. If the person is trespassing, then the dog’s owner may not be liable for that person’s dog bite.

Dog bite laws in Michigan also invalidate dog bite claims when the person who was bitten provoked the dog in some way. If the bitten person teased the dog, for example, and then was bitten, they cannot file a claim against the dog’s owner.

If you have more questions about dog bite liability or defense, contact an expert attorney from Cochran, Kroll & Associates P.C. at 1-866-MICH LAW (1-866-642-4529) to schedule a free consultation today.

Tim is a writer and editor who earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland and calls Washington, D.C., home after spending most of his adult life in the country’s capital. Although Tim spent most of his post-college years in the restaurant industry, he became interested in writing about legal matters after he recently moved to Colombia. Today, Tim writes professionally about medical malpractice, drug policies, and workplace injuries. Tim is focused on curating his freelancing career and plans to work remotely for as long he can.

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