Michigan Dog Bite Laws: Your Rights and Representation
While we like to think our pets are perfect, it’s true that even the most docile dog can unexpectedly bite and cause serious injury.
And it doesn’t matter if the bite was an accident. Most dog bites, in fact, are accidents. It’s still likely compensable under Michigan dog bite laws.
Michigan’s strict-liability dog-bite statute places absolute liability on a dog owner for a dog bite. The only exception is if the dog was provoked.
Michigan dog owners should understand that if their dog bites a person without provocation while the person is on public property or lawfully on private property, including the property of the dog’s owner, the dog owner is liable for any damages suffered by the person who was bitten. That’s regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of that viciousness.
The Michigan dog-bite statute’s purpose is “to hold the owner of the dog liable for bite injuries to a lawful victim who did not provoke the dog.”
The dog-bite statute is interpreted as placing “almost absolute liability” on a dog owner, except where there is provocation.
Simply put, the temperament of the animal, the fault or negligence of the dog owner, a third person, or the victim is irrelevant. Provocation is the only defense.
Under Michigan dog bit laws, provocation is the only defense. Provocation is defined as “something that provokes” by inciting, instigating, angering or irritating a dog.
Notably, provocation does not need to be intentional. Even an unintentional act can provoke a dog to bite. For an unintentional act to constitute provocation, it must:
- Be directed at a dog or
- A dog’s response must be proportional to the victim’s unintentional act
Proving or disproving provocation can be difficult, especially if there aren’t additional witnesses present at the time of the bite.
Some cases are easier to determine than others. For example:
- If a plaintiff gets bit after putting his or her hand near a dog’s food bowl while the dog is eating, a judge or jury could determine the dog was provoked.
- If a dog owner knows prior aggressive behavior by his or her dog, the provocation defense is less likely to hold up.
If you or your loved one is attacked by a dog, try to remain calm and:
- Remove yourself from the area. Even if the dog is done biting you, there’s nothing stopping the animal from coming back and attacking again.
- Seek any medical attention you may need to treat the bite wound.
- Call your local police to report the incident. Make sure to have as many details as possible about the nature of the bite incident, in addition to information about the owner.
- Call your local animal control and provide officials with similar information you gave to the police.
- Call Dingeman & Dancer, PLC.
While it’s rare, out of the millions of dog bites reported each year in the U.S., dozens result in a fatality. If a dog bite causes injury or proves fatal to one of your family members, call the dog bite experts at Dingeman & Dancer, PLC.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an unprovoked dog bite, call Dingeman & Dancer, PLC. Our Michigan dog bite lawyers are here to protect your rights and recover your losses. Call (231) 929-0500 or contact us online to get started.