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Dog Bites and Michigan Law – Man’s Best Friend

November 24, 2009

For thousands of years, dogs have been referred to as ‘man’s best friend’. Why? It’s simple – because dogs are well known for their ability to be loyal, loving, playful, and a great source of companionship for both the young and the old. Dogs even serve some of the most important roles for humans such as being the eyes for the blind and drug and human trackers for police. There is no denying the fact that dogs bring a lot of joy to many and because of the deep bond that is established with humans, they are often considered and treated like part of the family.

Unfortunately, the staggering number of dog attacks every year tells us that it is not always safe or wise to trust ‘man’s best friend’. The statistics reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that the number of dog attacks each year are in the millions, that medical attention is necessary for one out of every six attacks, and that dog attacks are in the top five reasons that children are sent to the hospital each year. These are facts that should not and cannot be ignored. Although cute, cuddly and furry, dogs of all types can be very dangerous causing severe injuries up to and including death. Granted, not every dog is prone to or has a reputation for biting or attacking, but the statistical data speaks for itself – ‘man’s best friend’ has been the root cause of many horrendous and life altering injuries for a lot of innocent people.

This law firm has represented many victims of dog attacks that have resulted in significant injuries requiring prolonged hospitalization and surgery for skin grafting and/or reconstructive surgery. Varnum attorneys know excellent plastic surgeons and other specialists and work with them to understand the injuries and help obtain compensation to pay for future surgeries and other needs. In some cases, the injuries are such that the scarring can be reduced and improved, but not eliminated. A dog bite can be very traumatic and result in not only long-term or permanent physical injuries, but also emotional and psychological issues that must also be addressed medically. This law firm has successfully handled dog bite cases in which a neighborhood dog has attacked a child that caused puncture wounds requiring stitches to more catastrophic cases in which a woman was savagely attacked by three escaped dogs causing hundreds of puncture wounds that required multiple skin grafting surgeries due to the depth and severity of the wounds.

Thankfully, Michigan law is harsh on dog owners forcing them to be responsible pet owners and responsible to the victim of a dog attack. The dog bite statute in Michigan imposes strict liability (absolute or complete responsibility) against the dog owner(s) where it is shown that (1) there was a dog bite or attack of a person, (2) there was no provocation (i.e., taunting, hitting, or other action that might cause an ordinary dog to react by biting), and (3) the dog bite victim was lawfully at the location where the bite occurred (MCL 287.351). The key to establishing strict liability is developing the factual evidence to show an absence of provocation on the part of the victim. Even if provocation is involved, however, there are other theories of liability for which a claim can be brought against the owner or keeper of a dog responsible for the attack that results in injury.

The owner of a dog may also face criminal charges if the dog is determined to be a “dangerous animal” that has caused serious injury or death to a person. Depending on the factual circumstances of the dog bite or attack, the owner can be fined, ordered to perform community service, and/or sentenced to jail time. Generally, after a dog bite or attack is reported, the dog is required to be quarantined either at the owner’s home or the local Animal Control Department. Under Michigan law, however, many dogs have to be put down to avoid future harm to others (MCL 287.321).

Varnum attorneys have been successfully representing dog bite victims for many years. This law firm has obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation on a single case and millions in total over the years. We believe strongly that just like all the other types of personal injury claims we handle, a skilled and experienced trial lawyer is crucial to obtaining the best possible recovery to take care of medical bills incurred, future medical bills and treatments, therapy as well as compensation for pain and suffering, disfigurement, and any other long-term or permanent implications a person is forced to live with as a result of being bitten or attacked by a dog.

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