Dog Bite Injuries

Dog Bite Injuries

dog-biteAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries. Dog attacks represent some of the most gruesome personal injuries that are suffered, particularly because children or the elderly are often involved.

In all dog bite injury cases, it is imperative to identify the attacking dog and ascertain the name of the dog’s owner, collect names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the incident, and take photos of the scene of the attack and your injuries. West Michigan Injury Lawyers, PC can send an investigator to the scene of the attack, as well as ensure your doctor preserves all evidence of your injuries.

Dog attacks represent some of the most gruesome personal injuries that are suffered, particularly where a child is involved (as is often the case). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries. Children are especially at risk for dog attacks. It is important to teach children to be safe around dogs to prevent these catastrophic events from occurring.

Michigan has a strict liability dog bite statute that holds the owner of a dog liable for damages inflicted by his or her dog if it bites a person who is either in a public place or lawfully on the dog owner’s property. M.C.L. § 287.351. The dog owner is liable regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before and regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe it would behave in a vicious manner. The dog does not get “one free bite,” as is the case in some other states. The only defenses to the strict liability statute arise where the injured party provoked the dog. M.C.L. § 287.351. See Thelen v. Thelen, 174 Mich.App. 380, 435 N.W.2d 495 (1989). In essence, the dog’s owner is an insurer of the dog.

In addition, the old common law approach is also available for injured plaintiffs. Under the traditional approach, if the owner knows or has reason to know of the dog’s violent propensities, the owner of the dog is liable for damages caused by the dog. Due to the enactment of the strict liability statute, this type of theory is not normally employed.

If a stray bites you, you have little legal recourse because you must file your claim against a dog’s owner or keeper. Your municipality is generally not responsible for the dog, even if you have called the animal warden several times to pick up the stray.

Preventing Dog Bites

An estimated 4.5 million persons in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. Of these, roughly 800,000 persons seek medical care for the bite. Almost half of those seeking medical care are children under the age of 12. Children are often bitten on the face, and any bite can cause severe injury or infection. Children’s small size may cause a dog to act in a dominant way toward a child. Children’s general lack of judgment and ignorance about how to behave around a dog and their inability to fend off an attack can add to the risk. It is very important that parents closely supervise children when around dogs. You can reduce the chances of children in your care being bitten or injured by a dog if you teach them some basic safety tips:

  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog and scream.
  • Stay still when an unfamiliar dog comes up to you (“be still like a tree”).
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (“be like a log”).
  • Do not look a dog in the eye.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without letting it see and sniff you first.
  • Never play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • Never leave an infant or child alone with any dog.
  • Teach your dog submissive behaviors, like rolling over to show its stomach.
  • Do not play aggressive games with your dog, such as wrestling.
  • Seek medical care for any serious dog bite and report all dog attacks.
  • Support animal-control programs in your community and the enforcement of local laws regulating dangerous or vicious dogs.
  • Support dog bite prevention educational programs in schools.
  • Get the advice of a veterinarian about the right breed of dog if you are thinking about getting a family dog.
  • Spay or neuter your dog, this often reduces its aggressive tendencies.
  • Be sure all pets are properly immunized.
  • Seek a veterinarian’s advice quickly if your dog becomes aggressive.