Indiana and Michigan Dog Bite Laws

Nearly all states have a set of “dangerous dog” or “vicious dog” laws. These laws attempt to define what we should consider a “dangerous dog” or even a “potentially dangerous dog,” and under what circumstances an owner will be liable for the actions of these dogs.

Some states impose what is called “strict liability” on dog owners for any injury resulting from a dog that is regarded as dangerous regardless of any knowledge of the dog’s tendencies. These strict liability laws may also limit the ability of the owner to claim a defense to the action. In other words, the law may state that the owner is liable regardless of whether the person who was bitten was trespassing on the owner’s property or whether the owner knew the dog was vicious.

Indiana Dog Bite Law

Under Indiana’s common law, all dogs are presumed to be harmless. This legal presumption is overcome by evidence of a known or dangerous propensity as shown by specific acts of the animal. A dangerous propensity is a tendency by the animal to do an act which might endanger someone’s personal safety in a given situation. Even when the owner or keeper has knowledge of dangerous propensities, liability is based on negligence. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that the owner did not take reasonable steps under the circumstances to prevent the injury.

Michigan Dog Bite Law

Under Michigan statute, a dog owner is absolutely liable for injuries caused by his or her dog, regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities, in cases where the injury occurred on public property or while the victim was lawfully on private property. The only exception is when the injury occurred because the injured person provoked the dog. Under this statute, any negligence on the part of the injured person is no defense.

James R. Keller
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