What to Expect in a Michigan Dog Bite Settlement

A dog bite is a very serious personal injury, and in Michigan dog bites are treated as some of the most serious. The services of a dog bite attorney like the lawyers at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will be a very important component of any case against the owner of a dog that bites someone because of the specifics of the law and how it applies in a variety of circumstances. In most cases, the insurance companies that pay the claim will do everything they can to pay less than a fair amount of compensation.

Average dog bite settlements

The average dog bite settlement payout nationwide was $39,017 in 2018.

In 1994, the US Center for Disease Control reported that there were an estimated 4.7 million dog bites in the United States. Approximately 799,900 persons required medical attention, and about 6,000 people were hospitalized. The largest segment of the population bitten by dogs were children between the ages of 6-9.

In 2018, there were about 760 dog bites in Michigan, with a cost to homeowners and insurance companies of about $35,000 per claim and a total payout of over $27 million. This ranked Michigan 7th in the nation for the states with the most dog bites. Michigan law prohibits insurance companies from denying claims based on the breed of the dog.

Types of dog bite settlement

The law for dog bites in Michigan is Law MCLA 287.351 which states that a dog owner is liable for a dog bite when the person who is bitten can prove that 1) the injury was caused by a bite, 2) the person bitten did not provoke the dog or put the animal in a fearful position, or 3) the person was in a public place or on private property with the permission of the owner. The law also stipulates the definition of a “dangerous dog,” and this designation can occur after the only instance where a dog has bitten a person.

Dog bite claims are treated as either a strict liability where the owner is liable, or it can also be treated as a claim of negligence by the owner. In both cases, the owner is responsible for the behavior of the dog, and if the dog happens to be in the care of a relative or friend, the owner is still responsible.

Strict Liability

States differ in their interpretation of the liability for dog bites. In Michigan, the owner is held liable for just one bite whereas in some states the owner is given leeway to allow for one to three bites depending on the circumstances. Under the strict liability provision, the owner cannot claim they were unaware of the fact that their dog might bite someone. This means that the owner is liable whether the dog attacked or bit someone before.

In most dog bite cases, the defendant will usually claim that the dog had no history of being aggressive or biting anyone, and they will try to establish this fact. The defendant will also try to establish that the dog’s behavior had never led to a bite, and they will attempt to discredit the elements of the event. This is one reason why it is necessary to have guidance and representation from a dog bite attorney at our law firm. The attorney will make sure that the correct components of the claim are met and the attorney will be able to refute the position of the defendant after a complete investigation of the circumstances surrounding the incident.

In most cases, the insurance company for the owner of the dog will be contacted to investigate the dog-biting incident, and the dog bite lawyer will also need to be part of the discussion while a claim is being prepared and when it is presented.

Negligence

Negligence, in the case of a dog incident causing injury without a bite, can also be claimed with the owner being liable. Michigan has had a leash law on the books for over a hundred years, and if this law is ignored, negligence claims can be brought against the owner. Other injuries that can occur to victims are instances where the dog, usually a large dog, has the freedom to run at the victim and jump up pushing the victim to the ground, causing injuries. Dogs that run loose find a way out their enclosed kennel or yard, and ultimately end up hurting someone can lead to a negligence case against the owner.

In addition to the owner of the dog being held liable, the owner of the land and/or the landlord can also be held accountable. If a dog is housed in an apartment complex and the dog chases after a ball thrown by a child in the yard, any injury to the child by the dog could lead to a claim.

Injury to Another Dog or Another Animal

Many times, a dog may get loose from a leash or just run away from home with the result being a fight with another dog or another animal. In some cases, a dog can die as a result of the injuries or lose the use of a leg or legs. The owner of the dog, which causes the injury is still liable for the injuries to the dog, but usually, the amount of compensation is limited to the “Fair-Market-Value” of the Injured dog. Even though in the injured dog’s owner’s mind there could be a degree of pain and suffering, usually the decision treats the animal as if it was property, and they do not allocate any other attributes to the animal.

A dog killed by a car or a human is also treated in the same way. The courts will take into consideration the pedigree of the animal, the purchase price of the animal, the special uses of the animal, whether the dog was pregnant, and the general health of the animal.

When to accept a dog bite settlement?

In most cases, the insurance company for the owner of the dog will be contacted to investigate the dog-biting incident, and the dog bite lawyer will also need to be part of the discussion while a claim is being prepared and when it is presented.

The dog bite attorney will help you evaluate all settlements that are put on the table and will be able to explain whether or not the proposed compensation matches the severity of the dog bite injury. The dog bite lawyer will review the pros and cons of accepting the settlement or taking the dog bite case to court.

Accepting the settlement will expedite the process immensely. Settlement money is accessible much sooner than winnings achieved in a court case. Going to court will also result in more bills and fees that must be paid at the defendant’s expense. The downside to accepting the settlement is that the potential financial reward may be less, but again, you have to match this with the expense of attorney fees if you went to court.

Collect Information

All the information that you collect about the dog attack should be in writing whether you are the dog bite victim or it is friend or relative. Just like in a car accident, it is necessary to exchange information with the owner or the dog’s handler. Names, addresses, telephone numbers, and the name of the owner’s insurance carrier should be documented and written down.

Witnesses are also key to making sure that any claim you have will be seen as legitimate. Try to get a written statement from anyone who saw what happened or who may have assisted you in protecting yourself or who may have provided first aid. The incident should also be reported to the dog control authorities to ensure the safety of others.

Document the Bite Itself

If you are a victim or you are assisting a victim, take time to record and evaluate the injuries and pay particular attention to the amount of pain suffered, lack of mobility, or an inability to physically complete some tasks that you normally could have done. This documentation can be photos, journals, written notes, or videos taken by witnesses. Try to keep, in writing, as many notes as possible that deal directly with the wound and the ongoing status of the wound. Doctor’s reports, hospital records, and copies of medications and medical bills should all be kept on file.

Contact an Attorney

The more serious the dog bite or, the more serious the injury because of negligence the more the victim should reach out to get the advice and guidance of a dog bite lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. Because dog bites are common in Michigan, the attorney you hire from our law firm will have extensive experience working with all aspects of the claim. Your dog bite attorney will have the ability to accurately estimate the amount of compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and claims for pain and suffering.

What kind of compensation to expect

The attorney dog/animal attack calculator is a proven method of determining the compensation that should be awarded to a victim. This model can be instituted very quickly and can start you down the path of a full recovery for your injuries. However, every accident with a dog is different, and a personal consultation is highly recommended to guarantee the best results.

Your attorney will also be able to deal with the insurance company. Insurance companies, unfortunately, try to get the claimant to accept less of a settlement, and a good attorney knows how to negotiate with the insurance companies to make sure the compensation is fair for all parties.

Time Statutes

There is a limit, in Michigan, to the amount of time, a plaintiff has to file a claim against an owner if they are either bitten or there is a case for negligence. The person filing the claim must do so within three years of the date of the incident, and if the person is under 18, the victim has until their 19th birthday to file the claim.

How to negotiate a dog bite settlement

The laws in Michigan make it very clear that the victim has to establish three very important elements to make a claim for a settlement for compensation. The first of these is that the victim must establish that they were actually bitten by the dog and that the bite caused injuries. The victim must also provide evidence that they did not provoke the dog in any way. Lastly, the victim must provide proof that the incident occurred in a public place, or that they were invited on to a person’s private property.

Michigan is a strict liability state in that the victim needs to prove that there was one bite. The owner is liable to pay compensation after only one bite, and there is no recourse for a claim by the defendant that the dog was scared, protecting the owner, or playing too roughly with the victim. Owners and insurance companies will attempt to strenuously refute any of these claims so the victim must be prepared with firm documentation and the services of a dog bite lawyer from our law firm to receive a fair settlement.

Conclusion

The law offices of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-308-6261) handle many dog bite cases that occur in Michigan. It is this expertise and thorough knowledge of the tactics that insurance companies use to deny fair compensation to victims that places them on the side of the victim. Our team is available for a free consultation by just picking up the telephone, and best of all we will not charge you until the case is settled.

Ms. Barry is studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won multiple awards both for her persuasive and creative writing and has written extensively on the topics of medical malpractice law, personal and birth injury law, product liability law. When she’s not researching and writing about these topics, she edits a literary magazine and tutors students at Penn’s writing center.

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