The Michigan Dog Bite Law

M.C.L. §287.351 Person bitten by dog; liability of owner.

287.351 Person bitten by dog; liability of owner.

Sec. 1. (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.

(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.

Should I make a report of the attack?

Definitely. You should report the bite/attack as soon as possible to the police, animal control department or other law enforcement agency for the area where the bite occurred.

What is strict liability?

Michigan law makes a dog owner responsible for any damage caused by an attack by their dog regardless of its past history. You do not have to prove that the owner knew the dog was vicious.

What if the dog has no prior history of aggression?

That does not matter because Michigan is a “strict liability” state. You don’t need to prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the animal’s vicious tendencies.

Should I seek medical attention after being attacked by a dog?

Absolutely. Go directly to the nearest hospital for medical treatment. Make sure you explain the circumstances how you were bitten, the location where the bite occurred, what type of dog it was and who the owner is if you know. You are more likely to have a better recovery if your treatment is soon after the incident.

Should I take photographs of my injuries?

Yes. Even if you are not sure you want to make a claim against the dog owner, you should take photos to preserve the evidence of your injuries before they heal. That way if you later decide you wish to make a claim, you have the evidence you need to maximize the value of your case. Mark suggests taking multiple photos from varying angles and distances. He also recommends taking several series of photos as the wound heals to best depict the progression of the injuries from day one until the scarring matures. Mr. Sucher would be happy to photograph your injuries if you are unable to do so.

Are injuries from dog bites/attacks covered under insurance policies?

Yes. Generally homeowners and renters insurance policies offer coverage for dog bite injuries. Also, many policies carry medical payment coverage of at least $1,000 to pay for the cost of medical treatment related to your injuries.

I was bitten by my friend’s dog. How can I sue my friend?

First, you should never feel guilty about asserting your legal rights. Your friend likely has insurance to cover any claim you might make for dog bite injuries. That is one reason people carry liability insurance. Besides, oftentimes claims can be settled without the need to sue anyone. Also, since he/she is your friend, he/she will want the best for you and will understand your decision. You may have to live the rest of your life with permanent and/or disfiguring scars and/or emotional injuries. You are entitled to be compensated for that.

How long do I have to bring a claim for injuries suffered in a dog bite/attack?

In Michigan, generally, you have three (3) years from the date of the dog bite to make a claim. Minors have until their 19th birthday.

Should I talk to the homeowner’s insurance company if they call?

Attorney Mark Sucher generally advises clients not to discuss the incident with anyone other than law enforcement officials and medical providers. He advises his clients to tell the insurance representative only that they are represented by an attorney and to give them his name and telephone number and he will handle all such inquiries. Once they have been advised of this, they are not permitted to contact you anymore. If you don’t talk to them, you cannot provide them with information which may adversely affect your claim.

I was petting the dog before it attacked, do I still have a case?

Most likely yes, so long as you were not trespassing on the owner’s property and did not provoke the dog to bite you. Insurers frequently claim as a defense that the victim provoked the dog, particularly when children are involved. That defense is infrequently successful.

Does it matter whose property I was on when bitten/attacked?

No. If you were on public property or legally on private property, the law does not preclude you from bringing a claim.

What is the value of my case?

Each case must be evaluated on its own merits. Every case is unique. There are a number of factors which determine the value of a case. Contact Mr. Sucher as soon as possible after the dog bite incident and he will meet with you and discuss your specific case and devise a strategy to maximize the value of your claim.

How can I afford a lawyer?

Mr. Sucher accepts cases on a contingent fee basis. You will pay no attorney fee at all unless he collects money in your case. He will also advance whatever expenses are needed to prepare the case for settlement or trial. This way, you risk nothing. When your case is resolved, his fee is based on a percentage of the settlement plus any expenses that were incurred in settling or litigating your claim. Expenses in a dog bite case may include investigations, expert witnesses, medical reports and depositions, photographs, police reports and other costs specific to your case.

Have Questions?

Let attorney Mark Sucher answer your questions with a free consultation.