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Michigan Dog Bite Laws

The Michigan Dog Bite Statute:

The Michigan dog bite law, MCL 287.351, is a very powerful law for dog bite victims.

The law is a strict liability statute, which is very rare in Michigan. Because the statute is a strict liability statute, the fault or negligence of the dog owner is irrelevant. Simply stated, if a dog bites a person, and that person did not provoke the animal, the dog owner is liable for all damages that arise out of that dog bite. This can include lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering.

The statute reads:

“If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or   lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

Reviewing the essential elements of the dog bite statute, a defendant is strictly liable for any injuries the victim receives if (1) a dog bite occurs, (2) without provocation, (3) while the individual is lawfully on private property, (4) by a dog owned by the defendant, and (5) the victim sustains an injury.

The only defense to MCL 287.351 is provocation. To prove provocation, the defendant must establish the victim commenced a definitive act or actions to incite, instigate or anger the animal and further the dog’s response must be proportional to the victim’s act. In addition, the dog’s actions must be in proportion to the victim’s actions.

For example, if a child gently pets a dog, and the dog attacks and bites the child on the face, that is not considered provocation because the dog’s reaction is not proportional to the child’s act of gently petting the animal.

Common Law Strict Liability:

A dog owner is also liable for a dog bite or dog attack under common law strict liability. This occurs if the dog owner or possessor (1) has knowledge of the dog’s abnormal dangerous propensities, and (2) the harm results from the dangerous propensity that was known or should have been known by the dog owner.

Like the dog bite statute, this is a strict liability law so the negligence or conduct of the dog owner at the time of the bite or attack is irrelevant.

To prove common law strict liability, it is most helpful to pinpoint prior attacks by the dog on other individuals or animals.


Dog owners can also be held liable for a dog bite or dog attack under a negligence theory. This occurs when the dog owner or possessor has ineffective control of the dog in a situation where it would be reasonable to expect injury would result.

Typical negligence cases involving a dog bite or dog attack include situations where the dog was outside and not leashed or restrained in any way, and causes harm to a person. Although a dog owner does not have a duty to constantly control its dog, the dog owner must exercise ordinary care to prevent any foreseeable harm.

Statute of Limitations for a Michigan Dog Bite:

In most cases, the statute of limitations for a dog bite case is 3 years. This means you have 3 years to file a lawsuit in court or you may forever lose your ability to obtain compensation. However, our law office urges you to contact an attorney because the statute of limitations can vary depending on whether a minor is involved and the defendant.

The Michigan dog bite lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. specialize in handling dog bite cases. If you, your child, family member or friend was bit or attacked by a dog, please call our office at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733).

Let our experienced and hard-working team of Michigan dog bite attorneys fight for you so you can get the money you deserve. There is no fee unless we get you compensated.