Michigan’s Dog Bite Laws

Michigan’s dog bite law is ensconced in Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated under MI ST 287.321 – 323. The law applies not only to dogs but to “dangerous” animals which are defined as any “animal that bites or attacks a person, or a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog while the other dog is on the property or under the control of its owner.” An exception to this definition is when an attack occurs when the injury victim is trespassing on the animal owner’s property or assaulting the animal’s owner, or if the person is tormenting or provoking the animal. If it is proven that the animal attacked without provocation or reasonable cause, it can lead to the destruction of the animal, and certain criminal and civil liabilities to the animal’s owner.

Under MI ST 287.351, the liability of the dog’s owner to a person who sustained injuries from a dog bite or attack depends on whether the dog was provoked, the actions of the owner, the location of the attack and the status of the dog bite victim. The website of law firm Ravid & Associates, P.C., of Detroit states that owners should provide training and place their dog under reasonable restraint. It there was no provocation or reasonable cause for attack, and the injured party was on public property or legally on private property as an invitee or licensee of the property owner, then the liability is clear.

A person found to be liable for an animal attack which results in death is subject to the Penal Code of Michigan (MCL 750.321) and is considered guilty of involuntary manslaughter. This carries a penalty of not more than 15 years in prison or $7,500 in fines, or both. In case of serious injury, the defendant is guilty of a felony and may go to prison for not more than 4 years, a fine of $2,000, a minimum of 500 hours community service, or any combination of the three. For less serious injuries, the charges can be dropped to a misdemeanor (not more than 90 days in prison, a minimum fine of $250 and at least 240 hours community service, or combination).

Aside from criminal charges, this breach of duty as an animal owner also exposes that person to civil action. If you have been injured from a dog bite through the negligence of the dog owner, you may be able to prove it in court and get compensation for your injuries. Consult with a dog bite lawyer in your area and get started.

The Numbers on Playground Injuries

If you have ever had your heart in your throat watching children nimbly skip from rung to rung on the monkey bars or squeal excitedly as they go 360 on the swing, then you will not be surprised to hear that in excess of 600,000 children in the US sustained playground injuries in 2012. More than a third fell from monkey bars and 151,000 sustained injuries from using the swing. Other playground equipment that have not been just a source of fun were seesaws (10,000 injured), slides (125,000) and others (56,000).

Ensuring the safety of children in playgrounds can be challenging. The use of protective padding on playground equipment and shock-absorbing ground covering (such as rubber mats) can greatly reduce the severity of the injuries children sustain in case of a fall. Climbing equipment is the site of more than half of all public playground injuries. It is also recommended that children play in age-appropriate (both type and height-wise) playgrounds as much as possible, and small children should be constantly supervised.

Most playground injuries occur in public playgrounds (75%) although most playground-related fatalities occur in home playgrounds, with about 57% due to strangulation. The Consumer Product Safety Commission state that children get strangled when the drawstrings of jackets or sweatshirts get caught in equipment.

It is extremely upsetting to think that a place of joy for children like a playground can also be a place of danger. There are laws in Michigan that addresses playground safety in childcare centers but nothing substitutes for appropriate adult supervision for young children. According to the website of Ravid & Associates, P.C., in Detroit, schools and childcare facilities have the responsibility to ensure that this is available when children are let loose in public playgrounds.

If your child sustained playground injuries due to negligence, you may have an actionable case. Consult with a child injury lawyer to know your legal standing and options for litigation.

The Elements of Premises Liability

Premises liability may seem like a lose-lose situation for property owners because all that has to happen is for someone to get hurt on the property to win huge sums in damages. But in fact, it is not at all easy to win in a premises liability case. According to the website of law firm Ravid & Associates, P.C., in Detroit, property owners have to keep their property free of dangers that may unnecessarily put people at risk of injury. However, there are elements that must be present in any given situation to have an actionable premises liability case.

But before going into that, some explanation of terms is needed to provide clarity:

  • Premises liability – duty of care of property owners or occupiers (possessor) in providing protection to individuals from injury; it is a direct consequence of a condition of the property which results in injury to individuals who are present on the property. This duty may extend to any public area immediately adjacent to the premises such as sidewalks and roads, and may not be delegated to a third party i.e. maintenance company to escape this duty of care
  • Possessor – a person or entity in occupation of the premises with the intention of controlling it; a possessor is not necessarily the legal owner of the premises
  • Invitee – status of an individual who enters the premises on the express or implied invitation of the possessor for business or commercial purposes i.e. shopper in a grocery
  • Licensee – of an individual who enters the premises on the express or implied authorization of the possessor for purposes other than business or commercial i.e. party guest
  • Trespasser – of an individual who enters the premises without the express or implied invitation of the possessor

In order for a plaintiff to successfully sue for compensation for injuries sustained on a particular property against a specific defendant, there are 6 elements that must be present.

  • The plaintiff is an invitee or licensee and not a trespasser
  • The defendant is the possessor of the premises
  • There was a potential for harm of an unreasonable level resulting from the condition of the premises
  • There was knowledge, or a reasonable expectation of knowledge, by the defendant of the risk of harm
  • The defendant breached the duty of care by failing to give adequate warning about the potential of danger and failing to rectify the condition that would have ensured the reasonable safety of the property
  • The defendant’s breach of duty is the proximate cause of the injury to the plaintiff

These six elements make it very difficult for a plaintiff to prove that the defendant may be charged with premises liability. In many cases, a trial results in a defense verdict because one or more of the above elements are not present. If you believe that the possessor of a property where you sustained an injury fulfills the conditions for premises liability, consult with a premises liability attorney to get legal advice. Without the expert knowledge of an experienced lawyer, you are unlikely to win a premises liability case at trial.

Consequences of Dog Bites

Under Michigan’s strict liability law, owners of dogs are vulnerable to personal injury lawsuits because it only takes one instance of an unprovoked attack to put them at fault. It does not matter if the dog has no previous record of dog bites or that there has been any warning that the dog could turn dangerous. If the dog bites an individual who is on public property or legitimately on private property as a licensee or invitee and without provocation, then that is considered an instance of negligence.

According to the website of Detroit law firm Ravid & Associates, P.C., dog owners have the responsibility to ensure that their dogs are properly restrained when on public property or when there are other people on their property who have permission to be on the premises. Even small dogs who may seem harmless can deliver a nasty bite which can result in relatively minor injuries which can later develop complications such as rabies or other infections. At the very least, such dog bites can leave scars.

Larger dogs are more difficult to restrain, so they should be given the proper training to make them easier to control. Large dogs are potentially more dangerous and can cause serious injury or death if they attack a person. Serious injuries include nasty gashes or gouges that will leave permanent and disfiguring scars, broken bones that may not heal properly, amputations, profuse bleeding, and the dangers of infection. Dog owners have no right to expose others to unreasonable risk of harm, and should take steps to ensure that they have complete control over them.

If you or someone close to you has been a victim of dog bites, bring your case before a dog bite lawyer and get their legal advice. Dog owner who will not live up to their responsibilities should be made to pay for their negligence, not you.