Our dog bite lawyers represent victims of bites and attacks throughout the State of Michigan. We handle cases involving all types of attacks, including, scars and disfigurement, pain and suffering, infections, rabies, nerve damage, and even death. We have a detailed knowledge and understanding of these types of injuries suffered by dog bite victims and their treatment. This is essential to understanding the effect of the injuries on a client and is essential to achieving the best possible settlement or jury verdict.

What is a Dog Bite?

Often, we would think a dog bite is an incident where a dog deliberately inflicts an injury to a person. However, animal control and public health departments consider any incident in which a dog’s tooth or nail breaks a person’s skin – regardless of the circumstances or any characterization of the dog’s intention – to be an animal exposure that merits their notice. According to this definition, animal control and public health departments consider the following all types of dog bites.

  • Nips from playful puppies
  • Scratches from a dog’s nail
  • Scrapes from a dog’s tooth
  • Accidental bites by dogs
  • Bites from injured or ill dogs receiving assistance or comfort from Good Samaritans (e.g. dogs hit by cars)
  • Bites by working K-9 dogs delivered in the performance of police duties
  • Bites delivered to canine professionals such as veterinarians. These may have occurred under extreme duress, such as if the dog was in pain or otherwise unable to control its behavior. (e.g. a vet tech bitten while removing intubation tube from a dog’s throat)

What Should I Do After Being Bitten by a Dog?

First, get prompt medical attention either at a doctor’s office, urgent care clinic, or hospital emergency department. You can treat the wounds initially at home but proper medical care should be sought to prevent an infection or other serious problem. It is often necessary to have a physician stitch up a laceration or wound to prevent future scarring.

Second, you should report the attack the police or Animal Control agency in your city or county. Make sure you tell the Officer everything you know about the dog, including name and address of the owner. Quite often, the dog will be quarantined until the agency believes it is safe for the public.

Third, take photographs of the injuries immediately after the bite and throughout the healing process. This will be helpful if you decide to file a dog bite claim later.

Fourth, contact our experienced dog bite attorneys to see if you are entitled to a settlement. Although the dog owner’s insurance company may contact you directly, the adjuster usually will try to pay you a lowball offer to get you to sign away your legal rights. Don’t make this mistake, as it can cost you a lot of money and aggravation.

Types of Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bites normally happen on the arms, legs, hands. However, they can happen anywhere on the body and result in one or more of the following physical injuries:

Because dogs can develop a tremendous force when biting, x-ray studies might be necessary to determine underlying bone and joint injury. Fractured bones must be set. Nerve injuries must be repaired. Depending on the type of bite, the wounds may be closed. If the damage is not extensive, the wounds may be closed with tape or sutures.

Lacerations and Puncture Wounds

One of the many serious injuries caused by a dog attack is damage to nerves, tendons, and ligaments. The National Center for Disease Control cites puncture wounds and lacerations as the most repetitive injuries experienced in most dog bites. These lacerations or puncture wounds damage underlying nerves, as well as the ligaments and tendons beneath the skin. Nerve damage can have long term implications. Nerve injuries can lead to a loss of sensation and feeling in the affected region, as well as the loss of use or limited control over associated fingers or limbs.


Another serious injury resulting from a dog attack is severe permanent scarring. Unfortunately, dog bites can tear skin on the face and limbs and despite immediate professional medical attention these wounds can result in severe and permanent scarring. When these scars are visible, they can have a measurable effect upon the victim’s self-esteem, especially in adolescent girls or young children. Medical technology and techniques have come a long way in recent years, and many of these injuries can be repaired. But the recovery can involve multiple procedures by highly trained specialists.

Psychological Damage

Besides physical injuries, a dog bite victim often also suffers from psychological injuries. After a horrible event, a person may not feel or behave normally for a significant amount of time. He or she may feel depressed, nervous, or fearful – may cry, take dangerous risks, or not get along with friends and family.

There are many possible symptoms and classifications of this problem. “Post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD) is one such classification. It is not uncommon for dog bite victims to experience significant challenges and fears associated with their personal security, and their ability to trust other people and animals. The resulting anxiety and fear can alter the normal course of life and make every day events like leaving the house to go shopping a traumatic experience.

Can I Sue for a Dog Bite Settlement?

If you were the victim of a Michigan dog bite or attack, it is very likely that you can sue the dog owner or possessor to get a money settlement. Under Michigan law, the dog owner is strictly liable to a person who is bitten by a dog on public property or lawfully on private property. This includes a person in someone else’s house or on their property for social purposes and even family events. A person on private property with permission of the owner, like a mail carrier, utility worker, baby sitter, or even pizza delivery man can also sue for a dog bite in Michigan. The amount of a dog bite settlement depends on several factors, including the:

  • Severity of the injury
  • The type of injury (scar, nerve damage, disfigurement)
  • Size and location of any scars, marks, or disfigurements
  • Need for future medical treatment or plastic surgery
  • Psychological and emotional damages
  • Permanency of any injuries
  • Amount of past medical bills and future medical bills
  • Amount of lost wages from time missed from work
  • Amount of the insurance policy limits for the dog owner
  • City or county where the incident occurred

Process To Bring a Michigan Dog Bite Lawsuit

When a person bitten by a dog in Michigan incurs medical bills as a result of an attack, a claim can be made against the dog owner for payment of medical expenses. If the person attacked has health insurance but is responsible for co-pays or prescription expenses, a claim can be made for those bills as well. These are damages and compensation sought in a dog bite lawsuit that are in addition for claims relating to the injuries suffered in from the dog bite.

Many times, the dog owner has home owner’s insurance to pay both the medical bills and a personal injury settlement. Policies often contain a “med pay” provision which automatically pays a certain dollar amount towards medical bills. This is usually at least $1,000 or more of a benefit.

We start by filing a Michigan Dog Bite Complaint and Jury Demand with the court, unless the insurance company settles the claim sooner. Typical damages a dog bite victim can receive compensation for include:

  • Medical expenses: Damages include any sort of medical expenses that a dog bite victim has had to pay for at the hospital, clinic, or to a pharmacy. These include the cost of basic medical treatment, going to the emergency room, and any sort of surgical treatment or care needed to repair the scar.
  • Scars & disfigurement: If the bite causes scarring or other unsightly marks, you are entitled to recovery for disfigurement. Because these injuries are often in very visible places, such as the face or arms, victims are often very self-conscious of their appearance.
  • Pain and suffering: This is the right to compensation for physical pain and suffering and mental anguish you have suffered and could possibly endure in the future.
  • Psychological Damages: Children are frequently bitten in the facial region and require plastic surgery later in life. Depending on the age of the child at the time of the attack, many surgeons will not perform surgical revisions until the child reaches early adulthood. This means that many times, children will go through the embarrassment and humiliation of the scar through adolescence, a period in which they are very self-conscious of their appearance. This often impacts them both socially and emotionally.
  • Loss of earnings: You are entitled to recover for the loss of earning which you suffered from your injuries. This includes wages, commissions, bonuses, and all other earnings and fringe benefits.

Gathering Evidence

Depending on the circumstances of the dog bite, the injured victim may have legal rights to be compensated for his or her injury, including money damages for pain and suffering, scarring, disability, medical bills, and lost wages. The dog owner is usually found to be strictly liable for the damages resulting from the dog bite. If possible, try to gather as much evidence as you possibly can once you or the dog bite victim has received appropriate medical attention. Useful evidence can include: the names of the dog and dog owner, the dog owner’s address, addresses and names of people who witnessed the attack, photos and descriptions of the place where the attack occurred, and medical evaluation of the wound by the treating physician.

After the Lawsuit is Filed

Once the lawsuit is filed, a claim for damages and losses is made and proof of the dog bite attack injury is documents through medical records, medical bills, photographs, and any witness statements that were at the scene of the attack. Many dog bite attack lawsuits are settled out of court because there are very few legitimate defenses to a dog bite case.

However, if both parties cannot agree on a settlement amount, the judge will set a trial date. Although we settle more than 95% of our lawsuits before going to trial, we have a tremendous track record of success in jury trials. The jury will then determine how seriously you were injured, and the appropriate amount of compensation for your injuries.

How We Handle Dog Bite Lawsuits

Many lawyers may advertise for dog bite cases, but they often try to get quick settlements for much less than the actual settlement value of the case. We understand how important this case is for you and we do not take any shortcuts. To prove your injuries, we often hire a forensic photographer to take pictures that best demonstrate the seriousness of your scar or disfigurement. We also may have you examined by a plastic surgeon who can describe your scars, the possibility of surgery in the future, and the future medical costs related to the dog attack.

Our lawyers have earned numerous awards and accolades in the legal profession. These include Best Michigan Personal Injury Attorney, Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and many others. Our clients love us because we are completely dedicated to their cases and pay attention to the finest details of every case.

Insurance companies know and respect us from the cases we have won over the last fifty years. Insurance adjusters know that we do not settle our cases for a penny less than the maximum value and they respect us for the way we represent our clients with the highest degree of integrity and compassion. They also know that we will battle with them to the end and we never settle a case for less than full value.

A Previous History of Biting

Michigan does not have a rule where the dog owner cannot be sued for an injury if the canine had never bitten anyone in the past. However, in order to help win a settlement and prove that a victim did not provoke the attack, our Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. attorneys will obtain the veterinarian records of the animal. These records have disclosed information on previous bites on people and serious temperament problems which nullify the provocation defense. The vet records are not required when trying to prove your claim, however this is one strategy our attorneys use to help our clients win their lawsuit. By countering the defense with these records, we have helped several clients win their lawsuit and receive maximum settlement in their case.

Independent Medical Examinations

Independent medical examinations (IMEs) are very common in Michigan dog bite lawsuits, no-fault insurance claims, and worker’s compensation claims. These IMEs are set up by the insurance company and performed by a doctor that the insurance company hires to evaluate the claimant. Many of these doctors perform these evaluations in their own offices, while others see the patient at offices of a medical examination company.

“These highly paid doctors are ‘hired guns’ for the insurance companies who main goal is to recommend the termination or reduction of important benefits,” says Partner and Attorney Daniel Buckfire. “These doctors fully understand their insurance company driven mission and frequently give opinions that are simply baseless and intellectually dishonest. The sad part is that they do not understand, or perhaps do not care, about the impact that a termination of benefits will have on an injury victim and his or her family.”

We created this comic illustration not only to visually depict the truth behind insurance company doctors, but also so that others will fully understand what awaits them in the unfortunate event of an injury or an insurance claim.

Dog Bite Facts and Statistics

The American Humane Association states, approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. Nearly 800,000 require medical care costing $1 billion in claims every year. In most cases fatal dog bites attacks occur from male dogs that aren’t neutered, chained dogs, and unrestrained dogs. 24% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs who are off their owners’ property.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every five dog bite attacks require medical attention. Additionally, men are much more likely to be bitten than women.

There have been 30 to 35 fatal dog attacks in the USA annually. Each year, more than 350,000 dog bite victims are seen in emergency rooms, and approximately 850,000 victims receive some form of medical attention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 68 million dogs were kept as pets in the United States with an estimated amount of 334,000 persons treated annually for dog bites in emergency departments. In this same report by the CDC, statistics showed that injuries from a dog attack occurred most commonly to the arm and hand (45.3%), leg/foot (25.8%), and head/neck (22.8%).

Around 70 percent of dog bite fatalities occur among children under 10 years of age. In addition, children who are 5-9 years of age are increasingly more likely at risk of getting bitten. Statistics also show that 65 percent of bites among children occur to the head and neck of the child.

Research states that more than 60% of dog bites occur at the dog owners’ home. In addition, 77% of dog bite victims are friends of the dog’s owner, or a member of the owners’ family. As a result, these victims were familiar with the dog prior to the dog bite attack. Exceeding the amount of playground injuries, dog bites rank second in causes for childhood injury.

Roughly 31,000 people undergo reconstructive surgery as a result of a dog bite. In 2011, dog bite claims accounted for one third of all homeowners’ liability insurance claims, costing almost $479 million.

The average dog bite claim payment in 2011 was $29,396, which is an increase of 53.4% from 2003.

How to Prevent Dog Bites

The law firm of Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. has provided some dog attack prevention tips as a reminder of what to do when encountered by a vicious dog. These tips include:

  • Choose a dog with a good temperament for the family pet.
  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream.
  • Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
  • Parental supervision of young children who are near a dog
  • Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite, and seek medical attention if necessary.
  • If a dog becomes aggressive, do not run away or scream. Stay calm, move slowly, and don’t make eye contact with the dog.

Call Our Michigan Attorneys to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit

As an injury victim or family member of a loved one in a Michigan dog attack, you do have the legal right to file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog for the injuries suffered. Call our office now to discuss your Michigan dog bite lawsuit with one of our experienced lawyers. We offer a free consultation and will represent you under our No Fee Promise – meaning you do not pay any legal fees or costs until we prove and settle your case.

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