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Understanding dog bite liability in Michigan

You've just adopted a new rescue dog, Rascal. He's a vivacious addition to your household--full of life and love. He's brought joy to everyone in your family.

Your brother and his wife are huge dog lovers. Eager to show Rascal off, you invite them over for dinner. The doorbell rings, and Rascal goes scampering to the door. Your brother reaches down to pet him, and Rascal growls and bites him on the arm.

You're completely shocked. You've never seen Rascal exhibit any kind of violent behavior before. As the dog owner, what are your legal responsibilities? The answer depends in large part on the state you reside in.

Dog bite law in Michigan

Fourteen states in the U.S. follow what is called the "one bite rule." Under this law, if a dog owner is not aware that their dog is violent, they are protected from liability following the first instance of biting. After the first bite, they're expected to know what their dog is capable of and take the necessary precautions.

Michigan, however, does not have this protection for dog owners. Dog owners in Michigan are "strictly liable" if their dog bites another person without provocation, and they must pay for any resulting injury. This law applies equally to dog bite incidents taking place on public property as well as on private property--providing that the injured person's presence on the private property was lawful.

In other words, if your dog bites on any house guest, repairman of postal employee that comes onto your property, they are protected under the law, and they can file a personal injury claim against you.

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