Dog bites can leave the victim with serious, even life-threatening, injuries. Even a relatively minor bite can often become infected and put the victim at serious risk for permanent injury. If you are a dog owner, it is important to know what the Michigan laws are regarding your liability should your dog attack someone on your property or in a public place. Failing to know or understand the law is not a defense should your dog injure someone. One question dog owners often ask is “ What if my dog bites a trespasser – am I still responsible? ”
The State of Michigan is one of many states that have a “strict liability” dog bite law. For an injured party in any type of personal injury accident to be entitled to compensation the law must first provide a basis for that compensation. Typically, the law requires the injured party to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of (or a contributing factor) the accident. Negligence requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and that the duty of care was breached, resulting in injury. Intentional conduct can also be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. When strict liability is used it basically means that the plaintiff (the injured party) is not required to prove anything other than the fact that the defendant’s conduct injured the plaintiff. The defendant’s state of mind is irrelevant as are any steps taken by the defendant to try and prevent the harm.
Mich. Comp. Laws Ann., sec. 287.351 states:
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.
Note that the statute specified “lawfully on private property”. A trespasser, by definition, is not on your property lawfully. Therefore, you are not held to a strict liability standard with regard to injuries sustained by a trespasser as a result of a dog bite. This does not necessarily mean you are completely out of the woods as far as liability goes. Some courts will still find a dog owner liable if the owner failed to take even the most basic precautions to prevent harm to anyone who enters the property.
If you have been injured in a dog bite attack, or you are the owner of a dog who caused injuries, consult with an experienced Michigan dog bite attorney immediately.
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