We love our furry friends and often treat them as members of our families. However, dog bites are a common cause of injury in the United States. Approximately 4.5 million people suffer from dog bites every year, according to the Center for Disease Control. Luckily, Michigan law provides protections for these individuals and allows recovery for injuries, medical treatment, pain and suffering, fright and shock, disfigurement, and embarrassment.
While some states give dogs a “free bite” – meaning a dog owner is not liable for their dog’s first bite – Michigan law holds dog owners strictly liable. This means you are responsible if your dog injures another person, even if the dog usually exhibits good behavior. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. For example, if you can prove your dog was provoked, there is a chance you may not be held liable. Instances of provocation include hitting, trapping, or causing the dog pain. Another exception is when the dog bite victim was illegally trespassing on your property when the bite occurred. Aside from those instances, dog owners are typically held liable.
These cases can become complicated quickly, depending on where the bite occurred, who was in control of the dog at the time of the incident, and the actions of the victim. For example, the law treats dog owners differently than dog keepers. The owner of private property on which a child is bitten by a dog may be liable to the child even though the property owner is not the owner of the dog. Every situation is different and requires an in-depth analysis of the facts surrounding the accident to ensure a fair outcome for both the victim and the dog owner.
Errick A. Miles is a Saginaw personal injury lawyer at SMITH BOVILL, P.C. These articles are intended to introduce various issues arising within this field of practice and are not intended to replace individual legal advice. If you have questions, please contact Errick at the firm’s Saginaw office.