Every year, approximately five million people are attacked or bitten by a dog in the US. About one million dog attack victims need medical attention after being bitten. If a dog has bitten you, you probably wonder if you can file a claim and how much compensation you can get. Find out about dog bite attacks below, then speak to an experienced Michigan dog bite attorney to determine if you have a case.
How To Understand State Dog Bite Laws?
Dog bite liability falls under state laws, and each state has different rules for dog owner liability. Some states hold dog owners strictly liable for the harm their dogs cause, while others follow the one-bite rule. Other states, like Michigan, have multiple theories of liability.
For example, Michigan has three legal theories to prove liability in a lawsuit. The first is common law based on negligence. This means that the dog’s owner didn’t act as a reasonably prudent person would have in the same case. It also includes not putting the dog on a leash and not keeping it separate from visitors.
The second legal theory is common law, which is based on strict liability. This holds the dog owner liable for a dog attack if the victim was legally on the property and didn’t provoke the animal.
The third legal theory is strict liability or automatic liability. It doesn’t matter if the dog has a history of aggression. Michigan Statute 287.351 notes three elements that must exist to prove the dog owner is liable for a dog bite according to strict liability principles:
- The dog attack caused your injuries.
- You didn’t do anything to provoke the dog.
- You were lawfully on public or private property when the attack happened.
Also, the law states that the dog owner can be liable for the first bite or attack if the victim was legally on the property and didn’t provoke the animal. Under the law, the victim only must prove that the dog owner knew or should have known the dog can be aggressive.
The law governing dog bite injuries in Michigan is complex, so you should seek advice from an experienced personal injury attorney. They will inform you quickly about your possible legal options.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
Many dog bites and attacks don’t cause more than scratches, but some cases are more serious. If you have any of the following serious injuries, you should speak to an attorney immediately:
A severe dog bite can lead to bone fractures in the neck, legs, and face. The force of the bite also can damage bones in the hands, arms, and ribs. These severe injuries may require multiple surgeries, and you can suffer long-term disability.
Permanent Disfigurement and Scarring
You can have permanent scars from dog bite wounds. Wounds to the face can be especially traumatic and hard to heal. Also, some dog bite victims lose an eye, have skin tears, and even fractures to the facial bones. The most severe dog bite to the face injuries may require plastic and reconstructive surgery to repair the skin and other tissues.
A dog attack can lead to deep bites that damage the nerves, also known as neurapraxia. Symptoms of this injury include burning and numbness in the extremities. You may need extensive physical therapy to treat this condition.
When a dog’s teeth puncture the skin, you can get many infections, including sepsis, rabies, and tetanus. Even if the wound seems minor, your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent an infection from getting worse.
You also may suffer mental injuries from the dog attack. If you suffered an injury and have suffered mental trauma from the dog bite, reliable attorneys are here for you. Also, ensure you get medical attention immediately after the dog bite attack. Getting prompt medical care can be critical to prevent the bites from worsening. Also, the sooner you see a doctor, the easier it will be to connect the injuries to the attack.
How Much You Can Sue For In A Dog Bite Attack?
If a dog bit you and you have damages and injuries, you can receive compensation in a lawsuit. Dog bite attorneys can go after the following damages in a settlement or lawsuit:
- Medical costs: This compensation may include bills for hospital stays, doctor visits, surgeries, medications, etc. You also can be compensated for future treatment costs.
- Loss of income for your recovery: If your dog bite injuries mean you cannot work, you can receive money for loss of income. You also may be entitled to future lost income.
- Non-economic losses: You also can get money for your pain and suffering, mental trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life.
How much you can receive in compensation for your dog bite injuries will vary widely according to the case circumstances. While looking at average dog bite settlements is interesting, it is not the best way to determine what you can receive. Instead, you should understand the kinds of things that you can receive compensation for:
- Medical bills incurred: The more medical bills you have for your injuries, the more you can receive in a dog bite settlement or lawsuit.
- Lost earnings and earning power: If your dog bite injuries require you to be off work for months, you can receive more money. If your injuries mean you have to take a lesser job in your company, this also can affect your compensation.
- Pain and suffering: Deep dog bites that damage deep tissues can be immensely painful. Your attorney will rely on your medical reports and physician statements to prove the degree of pain and suffering.
- Emotional anguish: Being severely injured by a dog can be traumatic, especially if you suffer a bite on the face. You can receive more compensation if you have severe injuries to the neck and face that cause depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
Other factors can influence how much money you get for a dog bite:
- Insurance coverage: Renters’ or homeowners’ insurance often pays for dog bite injuries. However, the insurance policy for the owner or landlord will only compensate the injury victim up to policy limits. If the owner has minimal or no insurance, it can be difficult to obtain a fair settlement.
- Liability: The owner or landlord is only liable if you prove they are responsible. If evidence is lacking, you may not get as much in the claim or lawsuit.
The above factors are most important to determine how much you can sue for after a dog attack. Also, the Insurance Information Institute reports that the average insurance payout for dog bites in recent years was in the tens of thousands of dollars. But your claim can be worth more or less than that, as everyone’s injuries are unique. Your attorney will advise you regarding any settlement offers you receive.
Why Retain A Dog Bite Attorney?
If a dog bit you and you have significant injuries, it’s important to hire an experienced attorney today. A skilled attorney can explain your legal rights and seek compensation in a lawsuit. Also, an experienced dog bite attorney will empathize with your situation and offer critical legal advice during the claim or lawsuit. More reasons to hire a trusted dog bite attorney are:
- Our lawyers know how to handle insurance companies: After a dog bites or injures you, it’s probably necessary to talk to the owner’s insurance company. Insurance companies for the defendant can be difficult to deal with, and you can expect them to lowball or deny your claim outright. Dog bite attorneys know insurance company games and will negotiate aggressively for you.
- Our attorneys have years of experience with dog bite cases. Dog attack cases are often complicated, and several parties can be involved. You may need to sue the dog owner, landlord, and others. Experienced attorneys know how to deal with these complex cases so you can get the most money.
- Our lawyers are ready to go to court if necessary. Most dog bite cases end in a settlement, but your lawyer can take the case to a jury if the insurance company doesn’t pay fairly.
- Our attorneys will handle all legal details for you. You shouldn’t worry about all the legal ins and outs when you’re hurt and out of work. An attorney will deal with all of it for you.
Insurance companies use a common tactic in dog bite attacks called the provocation defense. They may use this argument to claim you provoked the dog and are responsible for the attack.
To use this defense effectively, the insurance company has to prove that the attack’s aggressive nature was proportional to how you provoked the dog. For example, striking a dog with a branch until it bites can be considered a proportional provocation. But if you gently petted the animal and it bit you, this should be considered disproportional.
Our experienced dog bite attorneys know this legal strategy and can refute the provocation defense. They can prove who was liable for the attack and use attack evidence, such as medical records, videos, pictures, and eyewitness testimony, to prove the animal attack for no reason.
Personal Injury Statute Of Limitations
Every state has a statute of limitations that limits the time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit after an accident or attack. For instance, in Michigan, you have three years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. If you don’t do so within three years, the court will probably refuse to hear the case. So, speaking to a dog bite attorney as soon as possible is important.
Possible Dog Bite Attack Defenses
You can expect the defendant and their insurance company to fight against liability if someone's dog bites you and you're seeking significant compensation. If you sue under the strict liability law, there are two potential defenses:
- If the dog bites you because you provoked it, then the owner cannot be strictly liable for medical expenses and other damages.
- If you were trespassing and didn’t have a legal reason to be on the property, the strict liability rule doesn’t apply.
If you sue the dog owner for negligence, they can also defend themselves by arguing that you were partially at fault. You need a skilled attorney who can challenge any claims that you were to blame at all for your dog bite or other defenses. This ensures you do not lose the compensation you need to cover your losses.
Speak To a Dog Bite Attorney Today
If a dog bites you, you may have severe injuries, pain, and suffering and cannot work. You can file a personal injury lawsuit when another party is liable for the dog’s aggression. Consult an experienced personal injury attorney in Michigan today to find out if you have a case. You will not have to pay any legal fees unless they obtain compensation for you in a claim or lawsuit.