Dog Bite Personal Injury: How to Claim Compensation From the Owner

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Featured image of the dog bite personal injury

Dog bites are not only physically harmful, but they can also be emotionally traumatic. Sadly, as quoted by the American Veterinary Medical Association, over 4.5 million people in the US experience dog bites annually. 

In the unfortunate event that a dog bites you, you may be entitled to financial compensation. However, you’re mistaken if you think it’s that simple. Michigan dog bite settlements and claims can be confusing and complex because of its strict laws on liability and fault. Keep reading to learn in detail and better understand your legal rights in the event of a dog bite.

Dog Bite Levels

Most professionals in the US use Dr. Ian Dunbar’s dog bite injury scale to assess the degree of aggression and wound severity. Here are the six dog bite levels:

  • Level 1: No teeth-to-skin contact but shows aggression.
  • Level 2: There’s teeth-to-skin contact but no punctures.
  • Level 3: A single bite results in four shallow punctures and minor lacerations.
  • Level 4: One bite results in four punctures, at least one of which is deep. Cuts and bruising are present. 
  • Level 5: It involves multiple bites with more than 2 incidents of Level 4 bites. 
  • Level 6: Victim dies. 

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Studies show that only 10%–50% of victims report dog bite injuries. This data suggests that most victims believe their injuries are minor and would prefer to treat them at home or elsewhere. 

Non-fatal Injuries

According to the CDC, these are some of the most common non-fatal dog bite injuries as of 2001:

Types of injury Incidence percentage
Typical “dog bite” 26.4%
Broken or punctured skin 40.2%
Laceration or soft tissue damage 24.7%
Nerve pain or damage such as contusion, abrasion, or hematoma 6.0%
Cellulitis/infection 1.5%
Fracture/dislocation 0.4%


Fatal dog bite injuries

Here are the common dog bite injuries that often lead to death:

Types of injury Incidence percentage
Single bite 62.5%
Multiple bites 37.5%
Attack on the upper extremities 47.8%
Attack on the head and neck 26.1%
Attack on the lower extremities 13%

Infographic of the different common dog bite injuries

What to Do if a Neighbor’s Dog Bites You

Any dog has the potential to bite and cause harm – even your neighbor’s friendly canine. What should you do if a neighbor’s dog bites you? It would help if you considered taking the following steps:

  • Seek medical attention, even if the injury appears minor 
  • Report the incident to the authorities, including animal control
  • Gain access or obtain proof of the pet’s vaccination record
  • Discuss the incident calmly with your neighbor and try to reach an agreement
  • If your neighbor is uncooperative, seek legal advice from a knowledgeable dog bite attorney

How to Claim Compensation

Due to Michigan’s strict dog bite laws on fault and liability, you will need an expert Muskegon dog bite attorney. To file your dog bite personal injury claim, you might need to follow these steps:

  • Prove that a dog bite harmed you 
  • Your case must meet Michigan’s dog bite law requirements for no provocation and trespassing during the incident
  • Talk with your attorney about the forms of compensation based on the damages
  • Negotiate with the dog owner’s insurance company
  • Consider a dog bite settlement
  • Sue for damages if a settlement is unsuccessful

Michigan Dog Bite Law

Under Michigan’s “strict liability” dog bite law, the dog owner is responsible for the victim’s medical costs and other damages, including emotional pain and suffering. However, it must meet the following conditions on fault and liability: 

  • You didn’t provoke the dog before the attack
  • You didn’t trespass on the property where the attack took place

If you cannot substantiate any of these, you risk losing your right to make a claim. Worse yet, you might be blamed for the incident.

Does Michigan Have One Bite Rule?

Michigan doesn’t follow the “one bite rule” but follows the “strict liability” principle. It implies that the owner will automatically be responsible for the injury, regardless of whether it was the dog’s first bite. The “one bite rule” exempts the owner from liability if the dog has no history of biting. It suggests that the owner was unaware that the dog was aggressive or capable of causing harm. 

Dog Bite Legal Experts That Can Help You

Michigan dog bite settlements and lawsuits can be complicated. Our team of dog bite legal experts, though, can make it simple for you! At Shafer Swartz PLC, we can match you with a Muskegon dog bite lawyer who is knowledgeable about legal intricacies and compassionate towards your needs. Call us at (231) 722-2444 to schedule an appointment.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice. Every situation is different, and if you have been injured, please call (231) 722-2444 for personalized legal advice.