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Role of the Attorney in Dog Bite Lawsuits, Claims and Litigation

Dogs, man’s best friends and our protectors and companions for thousands of years. But sometimes, incidents happen; your dog bites someone – or another dog – or you are bitten by a dog. When this does happen, you need to know your rights under the law. Who is held liable? What are your legal options? Is the incident covered by your, or the dog owner’s insurance company?

Strict Liability

Michigan laws have strict guidelines when it comes to incidents involving a dog or dogs. This dog bite statute sets out the conditions under which a dog owner would be liable for any injuries suffered.

  • The victim must be able to prove that the injury was caused by a dog bite.
  • The victim must be able to prove that they at no point provoked the dog.
  • The incident must have taken place when the victim was in a public place or when they were lawfully in a private place,

This statute only applies to injuries suffered as a result of a dog bite. If an exuberant dog knocks you to the ground and causes an injury then the owner is not liable under this law though you may still pursue a claim for negligence if you can show the dog’s owner did not exhibit reasonable control of the animal.

Dogs With Dangerous Propensities

The idea of dangerous propensity was developed under common law to refer to any domestic animal – not just dogs – which has shown a tendency to bite people or other animals. The intention of the animal is irrelevant, its actions are all that matter under law.

Where a dog has shown previous dangerous propensity, then the owner should take reasonable precautions to prevent such incidents occurring.

Negligence

In the U.S., most of the states either follow negligence or strict liability laws. Michigan is a strict liability state so an owner cannot deny liability because they did not think the dog might bite someone.

However, this liability rule only applies for bites. If, for example, your neighbor’s large dog knocks you over while you are standing in your driveway, then the owner can be found to be negligent.

Holding Someone Else Liable if the Owner Has No Insurance

Primary liability lies with the dog’s owner. If they have no homeowner’s insurance, they can still face incurring paying damages and legal costs. However, in some circumstances, a landlord may be held liable if a tenant’s dog attacks someone. This could happen if the landlord knew the dog had a propensity to bite or attack.

Can a Lawyer Help Me if My Dog Was Attacked?

Yes, attacking and injuring another dog can also define a dog as a ‘dangerous dog’ under Michigan’s laws.

The Quarantine and Euthanasia Process

Any dog which bites a person in Michigan has to be quarantined at the Otsego County Animal Shelter for a period of 10 days. The costs for this quarantine period must be paid by the animal’s owner. In exceptional circumstances, which must be approved by Michigan’s director of public health, the dog may be held in quarantine at the owner’s home or at a veterinary clinic.

The court is unlikely to order euthanasia for a first bite, unless the attack led to serious injury or death. If the animal is a repeat offender, then the court may order it to be euthanized.

Insurance Coverage Issues

One problem that seems common in recent years is that many homeowners have either stopped having homeowner’s insurance or have reduced coverage to only cover dwelling damage or fire insurance.

And if your dog has already bitten someone, your insurance company will likely drastically increase any premiums or even ask you to sign a waiver which excludes dog bites from your premium.

How Would a Lawyer Prove My Case?

You have three years from when the incident happened to file any lawsuit. There are four primary factors needed to underpin a dog bite case:

  • Proof that the dog caused your injury.
  • Evidence that you were legally entitled to be in the location where you were bitten.
  • That there was no provocation to make the dog attack
  • The claim is made against the dogs owner. In some cases, the claim may be made against a landlord.

The factor most commonly argued over is provocation.

 

What Should I Do If a Dog Bites Me?

As with many issues where liability and a claim for any pain and suffering endured could follow, there are certain steps you should take immediately after a dog attacks you.

  • Immediately seek medical attention, whether with your doctor or at a hospital.
  • Record your injuries or ask medical staff to take pictures on your behalf.
  • Report the incident to the police or to animal control.
  • Contact your local personal injury lawyers to find out if you need to take any form of legal action.
  • Avoid any discussions or negotiations with the owner of the dog or their insurance company as this could affect any claim you later make.

Can I Represent Myself in a Dog Bite Case?

Yes, you are allowed to represent yourself – called “pro se” in legal terms – in any type of case. However, you should remember that the defendant will be probably be represented by lawyers hired by their insurance company who will have a very good grasp of applicable laws. Having an experienced dog bite attorney from Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can ensure the best outcome for your case.

Negligence Laws

Michigan is a strict liability state as far as dog bites are concerned. Negligence laws may be applicable for other dog-related injuries.

Claims Against Landlords for Damages Caused by Dogs Owned By Their Tenants

If a landlord knew that a tenant’s dog was dangerous or had a propensity to bite or attack, then a claim may be made against the landlord where the bite occurred on the property they own.

Wrongful Death and Criminal Penalties

If your dog causes serious injury, then you may be convicted of a felony which is punishable with a maximum of four years in prison, a maximum fine of $2,ooo, a minimum of 500 hours of community service, or any combination thereof.

If your dog’s bite(s) result in the wrongful death of the victim, then you may be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and can face up to 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $7,500, and possible restitution to the family.

Damages Available to Victims

There are two main types of damages available to victims of a dog bite in Michigan:

  • Special Damages. These cover any financial damage or costs incurred by the plaintiff. They can include all medical expenses and any lost income as a result of the bite.
  • General Damages or Pain & Suffering Damages. These may be more difficult for a court to assess but could include psychological trauma, scarring, any physical impairment as a result of the bite, or a decreased quality of life.

In some cases, for example, if the dog owner ordered the dog to attack, the court may award further punitive damages or exemplary damages.

Possible Defenses Against Dog Bite Claims

There are two primary defenses against dog bite liability. The first is trespass where the victim had no lawful right to be on the dog owner’s property. The second, which can be more difficult to prove, is provocation. If the victim did anything to provoke the dog, even teasing, then it is likely the owner will not be found liable.

Statute of Limitations for a Dog Bite Case

Michigan’s statute of limitations for dog bite cases states that you have three years from when the incident happened to file any lawsuit.

Need Help with a Dog Bite Injury Case?

If you have been bitten by a dog, have had your dog accused of biting, or your dog has been involved in any sort of dog on dog attack, then you should hire a competent dog bite lawyer.

Dog Bite Lawsuit

You have three types of lawsuit open to you:

  • A lawsuit under Michigan’s dog bite statute.
  • A lawsuit under common law strict liability.
  • A lawsuit claiming basic negligence on the part of the dog owner.

Who is Liable for a Dog Bite Injury?

In almost all cases, the owner of the dog will be liable. In some circumstances, the landlord of the property where the dog lives and where the incident took place may be held liable.

How Do I File a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

Personal injury lawyers at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help identify and gather the required evidence to bring a successful lawsuit. They can assist with all steps in filing a dog bite lawsuit, identifying who should be held liable, carry out any negotiations with insurance companies, and represent you in court.

The Takeaway

Incidents involving dog bites can often be traumatizing, and can sometimes have tragic consequences, especially when young children are involved. Hiring an experienced dog bite lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can be a crucial step in pursuing any claim.

With our vast experience in this area of the law, we can advise on all aspects of your case and fully represent you in all claims and litigation. And with a highly experienced nurse attorney, Eileen E. Kroll on our team, we have a unique advantage of having an attorney who is also a registered nurse and who can help understand and interpret any relevant medical documents.

We work on a no-win no-fee basis and we offer a free initial consultation to evaluate your claim. To book an appointment, please call us on (866)-308-6261.

Steve is a former criminal justice worker. With degrees in psychology and social work, he spent most of his life helping those with addiction issues before switching to criminal justice. He was responsible for writing court reports and advising judges on sentencing. He also supervised offenders, including sex offenders, in the community and carried out risk assessments and probation appraisals. He now lives in SE Asia and is working on his 5th novel.

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