Am I Liable if My Dog Bit Someone Who Came On to My Property to Hand Out Fliers?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

“I live in Michigan. Over 3 months ago my 6 year old went out to play & the children’s’ dog went out with him (we live in the country). A lady handing out fliers for a person running for office parked in the mouth of our drive, got out & quickly approached our house. As she got close to our son the dog grabbed her coat at her elbow, she jerked her arm, my daughter (who was 17) asked her if she was okay. She handed my daughter the flyer, didn’t answer my daughter, walked back to her car & left. Now 3 month later, she has hired a lawyer and the lawyer is asking for our insurance. We don’t have homeowners insurance on our house. How much can we be liable for & does she hold any liability? She is the only person the dog has ever bit & we have had a lot of strangers come to the house. My kids are afraid they will make us put their dog to sleep.

PS. The lawyer the lady has hired is somehow related to the person the lady was handing out the fliers for. I don’t know if it is the person’s husband or brother.”

In Michigan, dog owner’s are held strictly liable for any harm caused by their dog provided the dog was unprovoked and the incident occurred on public property of the person was legally permitted to be on your own property. Thus, it’s important to know whether or not the lady was on your property at the time of the bite, and whether there are any local laws that prohibit solicitation in your neighborhood. Otherwise it’s generally legal for people to post flyers on your door, and they are not considered trespassers until you tell them to leave.

As far as damages, you can be liable for the actual damages caused to her (medical expenses, missed work, etc…) as well as damages for emotional distress, pain, and suffering. While it doesn’t sound like they have filed a case against you yet, you should contact/hire an attorney to discuss your case, and have them communicate with the opposing attorney. This will be especially important if an actual case is filed.