How Bad Does A Dog Bite Have To Be To Sue?

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How Bad Does A Dog Bite Have To Be To Sue?

Dog bites can be terrifying experiences, often resulting in injuries and emotional trauma for the victim. If a dog bites you, it can be distressing and potentially serious. With over 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year, it is important to know that there are laws to address such incidents and provide recourse.

Determining when a bite is severe enough to warrant a lawsuit can be complex. Understanding the specifics of Michigan’s laws can help you know when you might have grounds to pursue legal action.

What Are Michigan’s Dog Bite Laws?


The state’s dog bite laws aim to protect the public and the animals. Understanding these laws is crucial for dog owners and victims, as they outline responsibilities, liabilities and potential consequences in a bite incident.

Liability for Bites

In some states, owners may get a “one-bite rule” allowance. This rule says an owner is not liable if the pet has never attacked someone. However, in Michigan, there’s no leeway for the first offense. The state operates under a strict liability law regarding dog bites.

This civil code holds owners responsible when their pets cause injuries, regardless of whether the animals have a history of aggression. An owner can not avoid liability by claiming they did not know their dog was dangerous or took reasonable precautions to protect others from their pet. The laws apply to incidents on both public and private property.


The pet owner is automatically legally responsible for your bite injuries unless you were trespassing or provoking the animal when the incident occurred.


If the owner invites you onto the property, you are lawfully present. This right applies to guests, family and friends. However, it also applies to contractors, delivery workers or people carrying out duties imposed by state law. If you are on the property uninvited, the law considers that trespassing.


Determining provocation can be complex. It is subjective and depends on the circumstances of your case. Dogs usually bite if they feel stressed, scared, threatened or startled. Some possible examples of provoking a dog include:

  • Hitting the dog
  • Throwing an object at the dog
  • Making the pet feel trapped
  • Pulling the dog’s tail
  • Taking food or a toy from the animal’s mouth
  • Pulling on or stepping on the pet’s tail

The owner must prove that you were provoking the animal. The determination depends on the specifics of the incident and the owner’s evidence.

Leash Laws

Leash laws help keep people safe by preventing accidents and attacks. In Michigan, dogs must be on a leash when they are out in public. Some cities have additional regulations that specify a certain leash length. These rules keep pets from wandering without supervision. Dogs without leashes can hurt someone or cause damage.

People who violate these statutes may face legal consequences, such as:

  • Misdemeanor charges
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Lawsuits for damages

Leash laws apply to cases where dogs bite people, and owners can be liable for damages.

Can You Sue for Your Dog Bite?


Michigan law does not specify a harm threshold necessary to sue in dog bite cases. Instead, it focuses on the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Severity of Damages

If the attack leaves you with significant wounds, such as deep lacerations requiring stitches, broken bones or nerve damage, you have a right to pursue compensation. However, minor injuries from a bite can also lead to a lawsuit. If the bite causes infection, scarring or other complications requiring medical treatment, you may have grounds for legal action.

Age of Victim

Additional factors such as your age and vulnerability may also influence your claim. A bite that might be relatively minor for a healthy adult could have more severe consequences for a child or older adult.

Type of Injury

Michigan’s dog bite laws apply to injuries caused by bites and other aggressive behavior, such as scratching or knocking someone over. If a pet’s actions harm a person in any way, the owner may be responsible for the resulting damages.

Statute of Limitations

The personal injury claim statute of limitations outlines when to file your case. The limit is generally three years from the date the dog bite occurred. You can forfeit your right to seek compensation if you do not file your lawsuit within this period.

What Damages Can You Seek Compensation For?


You can seek monetary compensation for various types of damages:

  • Special Damages: The financial costs of your injuries, including medical bills, physical therapy, lost income and other related expenses
  • General Damages: Pain and suffering or non-economic damages that address psychological injuries, such as emotional trauma, anxiety, fear, scarring, disfigurement and decreased quality of life
  • Punitive Damages: An additional amount of money awarded in a lawsuit intended to punish the defendant for particularly reckless conduct

Michigan courts decrease your compensation in a personal injury case in proportion to your share of responsibility for the incident. For example, if a court finds you 25% responsible for causing the dog bite, a judge reduces the amount the owner must pay you by 25%.

What Should You Do if a Dog Bites You?


Being bitten by a dog can be a distressing experience, potentially resulting in physical injury, emotional trauma and legal ramifications. Understanding the appropriate steps after such an incident helps protect your rights and ensure proper recourse.

Get Important Information

Obtain the owner’s contact information and insurance details. If possible, also get the names and numbers of any witnesses. Take photos of your injuries and other relevant details. This information will be vital if you decide to file a lawsuit.

See a Doctor

It is important to seek medical care as soon as possible after the attack. Dog bites can cause various injuries, including lacerations, puncture wounds, infections and, in severe cases, nerve or muscle damage. Even seemingly minor bites can result in complications if left untreated. Documenting the extent of your injuries through medical records is essential for any potential legal proceedings.

File a Report

Next, report the incident to the local animal control or law enforcement agency. Reporting the dog bite ensures official incident documentation. This record can be vital if legal action becomes necessary. Additionally, it may prompt an investigation into the animal’s behavior and the circumstances surrounding the bite, potentially preventing future incidents.

Consult an Attorney

An experienced attorney can negotiate with the dog owner’s insurance company and help you pursue a legal claim. You can learn your options by talking with a personal injury lawyer who can help you understand the merits of your case and how to navigate the laws.

How Can a Lawyer Help You in a Dog Bite Case?


After a dog bite attack, an attorney can advocate for your rights and help you receive fair compensation. At Mike Morse Law Firm, our knowledgeable team can help you understand the legal complexities, assess liability and gather evidence to support your case. We handle negotiations with insurance companies and provide guidance throughout legal proceedings, including potential litigation. Our attorneys understand dog owner laws and statutes, helping you determine your next steps.

Let us provide the support you need, seeking justice and aiding in your recovery after a traumatic dog bite incident. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and learn how we can help.

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