Under Michigan’s dog-bite statute, a dog owner is strictly liable for any damages caused when his or her dog bites another individual. Importantly, this particular law applies regardless of whether the dog has previously bitten anyone or otherwise indicated it may be vicious.
However, there are some limited exceptions to this law. For instance, if you, the dog-bite victim, provoke the dog ― either intentionally or unintentionally ― you may be barred from recovering damages for your injuries.
Also, in order to hold the dog owner liable, the dog bite must occur on public property or while you are lawfully on private property. If, for example, you are invited onto the dog owner’s property, either as a guest or a customer, you will likely be able to collect damages if you are bitten by his or her dog. Alternatively, if you are trespassing on private property or gaining access to the property to commit a crime, damages will likely be unavailable.
Other Ways to Establish Liability Following A Dog Attack
While the dog bite statute is an effective way of seeking damages following a dog bite, it is important to remember old common-law liability theories still apply in. For instance, if the dog owner knows his or her dog is vicious, prone to attacks and/or fails to restrain the dog sufficiently, he or she may be liable for injuries caused by the dog.
These liability theories are broader because they allow victims to recover damages when the dog attack does not involve an actual bite, such as when the dog knocks a victim to the ground or the victim is injured while trying to run away from the animal.
As with other personal injury actions in Michigan, dog attack injury claims can be quite complex and confusing, especially given the multiple theories of liability. Therefore, it is always best to seek the legal guidance of an experienced attorney if you are bit by a dog and wish to learn what your rights and options may be.