Dog Bites

Dog bites are fairly common injuries, and can unfortunately have serious consequences. In Michigan, there are two ways to bring a lawsuit for dog bite: under the state’s dog bite statute and under a common law negligence theory. If you have been bitten by a dog, an attorney can help you recover compensation for your injuries.

The Statute

Michigan’s dog bite statute provides for strict liability when:

  • A dog bites a person;
  • Who was lawfully on the property; and
  • Who did not provoke the dog.

Then, the owner of the dog is strictly liable for any damages that the victim suffers as a result of the bite. This is true regardless of whether the dog was known to be vicious.


Owners of dogs can be held liable under Michigan’s statute. An owner means one who owns or harbors a dog. This means that a person who does not legally own a dog, but who has temporary charge of it, may be liable for injuries caused by the dog. For example, if a person is dog sitting, and the dog bites her, she will not be able to recover damages under the statute. Additionally, landlords can be held liable for the bite of a tenant’s dog if they know of the dog’s vicious nature.

Lawfully on the Property

A dog bite victim is lawfully on the property when he or she is either on public property or lawfully on private property. If the attack is on the dog owner’s property, this does not affect liability. A person is not lawfully on property if he or she has lawfully entered the property for the purpose of committing a crime.

A person is lawfully on private property when he or she is invited in, for example, as a guest or a customer. A victim is also lawfully on private property when he or she is on the property in performance of a duty imposed by the laws or postal regulations. For example, a postal worker is lawfully on private property when delivering the mail.


A person who provokes the dog may not recover under Michigan’s statute. Provocation may be either intentional or accidental. Any action that would cause an average dog to bite is provocation, and bars recover. For example, poking or kicking a dog, taking its food away, or stepping on a its tail, even accidentally, could constitute provocation.


When a dog bites and injures a victim, the owner is responsible for paying monetary compensation for the victim’s harm. This can include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and any other injuries.


In Michigan, though there is a dog bite statute, it does not prevent anyone from filing a negligence suit. Under a theory of negligence, a dog owner could be liable if he or she:

  • Knows or has reason to know that the dog was dangerous; and
  • Was careless in protecting others from injury.

Carelessness may include neglecting to use a leash, not putting a warning sign up, or not monitoring the dog’s behavior.

Unlike the dog bite statute, a negligence suit can be used to recover compensation in situations other than a dog bite. For example, if a dog knocks over and injures a victim, or if another animal bites or otherwise injures a victim, the victim could not recover under the dog bite statute, but could recover with a negligence suit.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a lawsuit. In Michigan, a person bitten by a dog has three years from the date of the bite to file suit. If the victim does not file suit by this deadline, the court will not hear the case.

Dog bite injuries can cause serious harm. Please contact Michigan dog bite attorney John Little today for a free consultation.