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Detroit Dog Bites: The Basics

Dogs are truly man's best friend. One study suggests that over 56 million U.S. households own a dog. That's a lot canines out there in the world. Some are friendly. Some are goofy. Some are affectionate. Alas, a small number are downright vicious. What if one of these "pups" bites you in Detroit?

While many dog attacks may cause only minor injuries, it is not uncommon for dog bites to result in serious injuries, particularly in cases involving attacks on children or the elderly. In the worst instances, dog attacks may even result in death.

Michigan dog owners are responsible for keeping their animals under control. In most cases, if a dog attacks another person, the owner is legally responsible for that attack. Here's some information on Detroit dog bites.

Is Michigan a One-bite State?

This one is simple. Michigan is not a state that is covered by what is sometimes referred to as the "one bite" rule. Where it applies, this rule says that the owner won't be liable if their dog has never previously attacked someone and the owner wasn't otherwise negligent. Hence, the dog and owner may get "one free bite." Thankfully, you won't have to worry about that here in Detroit.

How Will a Dog Owner Be Liable?

Under the Michigan Dog Bite Statute (MCL § 287.351), dog owners are held strictly liable for any injuries their pets may cause, meaning that they do not have to be aware of any dangerous tendencies on their dog's part in order to be held liable for injuries. Fido could have been well behaved his entire life, never biting or growling at anyone, including the cat. It doesn't matter. However, the victim must have been lawfully on the property and cannot have provoked the dog.

Another way to put it, if you've trespassed, taunted the dog, or both, you might not be able to recover for your injuries.

Can You Give Me An Example of Provoking the Dog?

Why, yes we can. An example of provoking a dog can be pulling the dog's tail, hitting the dog with a stick, or continuously pulling on a dog's leash.

Keep in mind, provocation can be completely accidental. You don't have to intend to anger the dog. If your act would have caused a regular dog to bite, then it could be considered provocation under Michigan law, barring your claim. If you accidentally step on a dog's tail and he bites you, Michigan courts consider that adequate provocation.

Can You Give Me An Example of Lawfully Being on the Property?

If you were invited onto the dog owner's property as a guest or a potential customer, then you were lawfully on the property and can likely recover for your injuries -- friends, family, social guests, contractors, postal employees, utility workers, newspaper carriers, and anyone else invited onto the property.

But if you're committing a crime, you may not be able to recover. Sorry, all you burglars out there. If dog bites you while breaking and entering into a residence, you can't recover.

Is There Another Way a Dog Owner Can be Held Liable?

Yes, the second way an owner can be held responsible is under the Michigan common law. Basically, the dog owner can be liable if he or she knows (or has reason to know) that the dog can be dangerous. This dog owner will then be liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was careless by not putting a leash on the dog, failed to adequately supervise the dog, or did not use a proper sign to warn of the dangerous dog.

Is There a Time Limit to Pursue My Detroit Dog Bite Case?

Yes, you have three years from the date of the dog bite to file a lawsuit. If you don't, you won't be able to pursue your lawsuit. There are special rules for minors who were bitten before the age of eighteen. Minors have until their 19th birthday to file a lawsuit.

What Should I Do if a Dog Bites Me?

1. Seek Medical Attention

Don't wait. Animal bites are very serious and can result in lacerations, disfigurement, tissue damage, and lasting psychological trauma. Fortunately, online resources provide plenty of information on treating dog bites.

2. Report the Attack Right Away

While pursuing legal action cannot undo the injuries and emotional trauma resulting from a dog bite, it can help victims secure the compensation they need to cover their injury-related losses. Additionally, it sends an important message to dog owners that negligence that results in injury to innocent people will not go unpunished.

Report the bite to the Michigan Humane Society or the Detroit Police. Tell the official everything you know about the dog, including the owner's name and the address if you know it. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw it, whether you've seen the animal before, and in which direction the dog went.

3. Gather Evidence

Some things to gather before speaking to an attorney are all the records regarding your attack, including animal control records, medical records, police reports, and any other records/reports regarding what happened. Also, take pictures of any injuries. It is easier to show a picture of an injury than to describe it verbally.

If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury because of a dog bite or attack, you may want to consider speaking to a qualified legal professional and learn more about what your options are in Detroit.

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