Dog Bite Lawyer in Michigan

The State of Michigan is known as one of the top ten states for the number of dog bites that occur in the State. According to State Farm Insurance, Michigan had over a hundred dog bite injuries in the State per a 2016 study. Dog bite injuries are commonly inflicted on children and can be devastating on top of being incredibly traumatic experiences. Some dog bites result in victims needed reconstructive surgery. Infections can lead to very serious health complications and even death. The injured victim has a statutory right in Michigan to recover against the dog owner in certain circumstances. Due to the nuanced nature of dog bite laws in Michigan, it is best to schedule a free consultation with a dog bite lawyer from our team. Call us at 419-900-0955. 

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What Should I Do After a Dog Bite Injury?

Dog bites can involve serious injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite, the absolute first thing you should do is seek medical treatment. The dog bite victim’s health is the paramount consideration. If the victim needs immediate medical attention, someone should call an ambulance. After medical treatment has been sought, it is important to photograph the injuries. This can help with the processing of your claim to make sure you obtain the compensation you deserve. You also want to make sure that all the pertinent information is gathered from the dog’s owner including the breed of the dog. This should include specific information about the dog such as its breed, age, history of treatment, history of behavior and other potential information. You will also want information about the owner such as their address, name, and insurance policy information. After all of this, we recommend reporting the dog bite to the relevant authorities such as the health department. Lastly, you need to consult with a dog bite attorney immediately to make sure you understand all of your legal rights and have representation in resolving any legal claims. 

What Law Governs Dog Bite Injuries in Michigan?

The law governing injuries caused by dog bites in the State of Michigan involve Michigan’s dog bite statute found in MCL Section 287.351. The statute states that:

(1) If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.

MCL Section 287.351(1)

(2) A person is lawfully on the private property of the owner of the dog within the meaning of this act if the person is on the owner's property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or if the person is on the owner's property as an invitee or licensee of the person lawfully in possession of the property unless said person has gained lawful entry upon the premises for the purpose of an unlawful or criminal act.

MCL Section 287.351(2)

What Type of Injuries Are Caused By Dog Bites?

Infections

Dog bites can involve a range of injuries and can even include death. One of the most serious impacts of some dog bites is the propensity for bacterial infections to spread due to the dog bite wound opening the body to bacteria infection. For example, Capnocytophaga germs are common bacteria found in the mouths of dogs and can sometimes enter the blood stream causing blood infection and serious inflammation according to the CDC. There is, of course, the serious risk of rabies from a dog bite which can lead to a fatal dog bite injury. One of the most important things to confirm after a dog bite is that the animal had received a rabies vaccine at some point due to how serious the condition can be. Pasteurella infections are also common in dog bites as are other bacterial pathogens include streptococcal and staphylococcal species, according to the American Family Physician Journal.

Reconstructive Surgey

Due to the potential deep tissue lacerations and other wounds that can result from dog bites, reconstructive surgery can be necessary to address the injuries. This is particularly true with injuries to the face. Unfortunately, children are disproportionately more likely to suffer from a dog bite attack and in a lot of cases, they are bitten on the face. If the wound or laceration is deep and serious enough, reconstructive surgery might be necessary. The CDC has recently cited a statistic that almost half of all dog bite injuries happen to children and soft tissue lacerations of the head and neck region are common consultations for surgeons.

Provocation In Michigan Dog Bite Cases

Radik v. Rouse

Whether or not a victim of a dog bite in Michigan provoked the animal is a critical inquiry. Radik v. Rouse illustrates the nuances of this issue. The case was brought to the Court of Appeals of Michigan from the Tuscola Circuit Court under Michigan’s dog-bite statute, MCL 257.351(1), on or around the beginning of 2021. The Plaintiff, Rickelle Radick (Radick or Plaintiff) was the conservator of the estate of Luke Taylor, a minor. The Planitiff was appealing the trial court’s opinion granting summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(1) ruling there was no genuine issue of material fact in favor of the Defendants Misty and Frank Rouse (Defendants, Rouse). The appellate court reversed and remanded the case for the trial court to enter only partial summary disposition in Plaintiff’s favor on the issue of liability, which is critical to a Michigan dog bite case.

In the case, members of the Taylor family were walking down their street and approached their neighbor, Misty Rouse. The Taylors walked onto the neighbor’s property and saw the dogs involved in the dog-bite by the neighbor’s car. One of the dogs was excited to see the Taylors and jumped onto them. The dog was pushed off and in response lunged back and bit Luke Taylor. Luke was bitten and then dragging on the ground to a tree. The Rouses told animal control that the dog was pushed off into an electric fence which then resulted in the attack. A lawsuit was filed in 2018 alleging that the Defendants were liable under MIchigan’s dog-bite statute. A motion for summary disposition was filed as well that the claim failed under this same statute due to provocation (namely, being pushed off into an electric fence provoked the dog and as such, the elements of the statute were not met). The issue for the court was whether or not the dog was provoked prior to the attack. The trial court determined that the dog was provoked and the Defendants thus had a defense to the claims under MCl 287.351(1). The Plaintiffs then appealed the ruling.

The appellate court reviewed the trial court’s order under a de novo standard. The appellate court agreed with the Plaintiff that the provocation defense in Michigan only applies to provocation of a dog by the victim of the dog bite and not external factors such as an electric fence. The appellate court reasoned that interpreting the word “provocation” should be done in accordance with the intent of the legislature. The purpose of the Michigan dog-bite statute was to hold the owner liable for bite injuries to a lawful victim who did not provoke the dog. In Kovisto v. Davis, along these same lines, the court held that provocation defenses were not available to Defendants when victims only responded in defense to a dog which was already provoked. It had to be an action by the victim that provoked the dog in the first place. The court reasons that “the provocation defense assumes that the offending dog was not already in a provoked state or a state of attack and that the victim did something to provoke the dog.” Ultimately, the appellate court felt the trial court was wrong to grant summary disposition to the Defendants based on the provocation defense because the victim did nothing to provoke the dog. The dog was otherwise provoked by the electric fence. The appellate court held that the record was undisputed that the victim of the dog-bite did nothing to provoke the dog and simply because there may have been some other factor that provoked the dog, the case should not have been decided this way.

DPS-1

Dennis P. Sawan

Partner

Licensed in Ohio and Georgia

CAS-1

Christopher A. Sawan

Partner

Licensed in Ohio and Michigan

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