Suffering a dog attack can be a traumatizing experience. Along with the potential for severe physical injuries and broken bones, a person might also incur psychological trauma and financial strain as the result of an attack. In fact, many bites can be severe and even fatal.

State law holds the person who owns, keeps, or harbors a dog responsible for their behavior, regardless of prior knowledge of the dog’s aggression. This is known as a strict liability law. Furthermore, the state’s negligence laws could be used to hold a careless or reckless pet owner responsible for the dog bite. However, implementing these legal nuances into a claim can be difficult, especially for underprepared or underrepresented claimants.

If you or a loved one has suffered dog bite injuries in Michigan, a compassionate lawyer might be able to help. Depending on the circumstances of an attack, a dedicated attorney at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. could work to establish fault and build a thorough claim to request compensation on your behalf.

Types of Injuries and Losses

The extent and type of injuries and losses sustained from a dog attack will vary greatly based on the specifics of an incident, including the type of dog breed, the person involved, and the circumstances of an attack. However, some dog bite injuries and losses from an attack in Michigan include:

  • Broken bones
  • Scars—including facial scars
  • Disfigurement
  • Rabies
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Nerve damage
  • Death

Dog bites can result in severe injuries because most canines have rounded teeth and strong jaws. In fact, the bite of an adult dog can exert up to 200 pounds per square inch of pressure. This pressure often results in broken bones, damage to bones, blood vessels, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

What are the Psychological Effects of a Dog Attack?

The psychological effects of a dog attack can include fear, depression, withdrawal, and anger. These problems can occur immediately or sometimes even years after an attack. Many victims even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other persistent problems following a severe dog bite.

Both adults and children can suffer psychological injuries from a dog bite in Michigan. Many people develop a fear of dogs, which might create significant problems when they go out into public—especially to parks or other commonplace locations—or when they visit the homes of families or friends. Indeed, many victims experience chronic conditions including depression, prolonged grief, and PTSD. These conditions can result in:

  • Intense flashbacks, distress, and other circumstances that relate to the trauma
  • Lack of interests
  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Issues with sleep
  • Irritability
  • Startled and intense reactions to seemingly mundane events
  • Lack of concentration

The Impact of Scars and Disfigurement

Dog bites can often cause significant and often permanent scars and disfigurement. Depending on the severity of a scar—such as those sustained to the face—the victim will require plastic surgery or some other procedure, like dermabrasion, to minimize its appearance. However, those procedures can often reduce the size or shape of the scar, but rarely ever totally eliminate it. A noticeable scar will often cause psychological damages to the victim, such as low self-esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Furthermore, all medical procedures and surgeries carry their own risks, such as infections, anesthesia errors, and other complications. Unfortunately, these procedures are very expensive and, many times, an injured person will not have the proper medical insurance or policy to fully cover their required treatment. Because of the extensive psychological and financial costs of dog bite injuries in Michigan, having the counsel of a skillful lawyer might be beneficial to determine how to best proceed. This is because a person might be able to claim these damages, as well as others, in a civil lawsuit.

Nerve Damage from Severe Bites

The teeth in a dog’s mouth are sharp and strong, which can result in a nerve being damaged or severed, often in the hand or fingers. Peripheral nerves are usually closely associated with vascular structures in the limbs. Nerve damage caused by a dog bite can result in a loss of sensation, numbness, tingling feelings, and pain. In worst-case scenarios, the damage can result in the complete loss of use of a limb. In some cases, surgery can repair the damage but quite often it is permanent. There are several types of nerve damage that are common following a dog bite injury in Michigan, including:


Neurapraxia is the least severe form of nerve injury, with complete recovery. In this case, the actual structure of the nerve remains intact, but there is an interruption in conduction of the impulse down the nerve fiber. Most commonly, this involves compression of the nerve or disruption to the blood supply (ischemia). There is a temporary loss of function which is reversible within hours to months of the injury (the average is 6-9 weeks).


Axonotmesis is usually the result of a more severe contusion than neurapraxia, but can also occur when the nerve is stretched. It involves disruption of the neuronal axon, the myelin sheath is intact. This type of nerve damage may cause paralysis of the motor, sensory, and autonomic nervous systems. Mainly seen in crush injuries, the neural tube is intact, but axons are disrupted. While these nerves are likely to recover, regeneration usually occurs over weeks or even years.


Neurotmesis is the most severe lesion that a person still has the potential of recovering from. In these cases, the neural tube is severed. These injuries are likely permanent without repair, and will likely only achieve partial recovery at best. Many times, an EMG is performed to determine the extent of the nerve damage. Physical therapy can help improve the function of the hands or fingers with nerve damage—but these injuries are often permanent.

Rabies After a Canine Bite

Although rare, dog bites can cause rabies. Rabies is a virus that can affect any warm-blooded animal. Whenever someone is bitten by an animal, the chance of rabies exists. Although the incidence of rabies in humans is low, more than 30,000 people undergo treatment for possible exposure to rabies in the United States each year.  Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and, if treatment is not initiated before the onset of symptoms, it is possible that the infection may be fatal. High-risk exposures consist of contact with saliva or infected CNS tissue, including corneal transplants, via the following:

  • The bite of a rabid animal
  • Contact with broken skin
  • Contact with mucous membranes
  • Exposure to aerosolized secretions from a rabid animal

It is essential for all pets to be vaccinated to avoid rabies. This is true in accordance with local rules and regulations. All contact with wild animals should be avoided. In the event that a person suffers a bite from a healthy animal who has received the adequate vaccinations, that animal should be quarantined for 10 days. Zero, three, seven, 14, and 28 days after a bite, rabies post-exposure vaccines must be used.

Seeking Legal Counsel for Dog Bite Injuries in Michigan

Because of the potentially severe nature of dog bite injuries in Michigan, it might be beneficial to consult with a seasoned lawyer if you or a loved one were attacked by someone else’s pet. Whether you are suffering from broken bones, nerve damage, or psychological trauma, a caring legal professional at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. could help to investigate how an attack happened and work to determine liability for a civil claim. To learn more, reach out to an attorney today.

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