Michigan Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
If you've been injured in an accident in Michigan, make sure you understand these rules before you start your personal injury case.
If you’ve been injured in a Michigan accident, you may be
wondering which of the state’s laws apply to your insurance claim or
court case. Here are a few key Michigan laws that govern injury
settlements both in and out of court.
Deadlines for Filing a Michigan Injury Lawsuit
Like all other states, Michigan has a law that limits how long you
have to file a court case after an injury. This law is known as a statute of limitations, and it affects any case you might file against a person or company you believe to be responsible for your injury.
In Michigan, you have three years to bring your case to court. If you don’t file your case in a civil court by this time, the court may refuse to hear it at all. Usually, the three-year time limit starts on the date of your accident, but if you don’t “discover” you are injured until some time after the accident, the three-year time limit may start running on the discovery date instead.
For injury claims against a state government agency, you have six months to file a formal claim (120 days if it's regarding a defective highway or public building), and two years to file a lawsuit. See: Injury Claims Against The Government
Michigan’s Comparative Negligence Rule
In some cases, you may try to hold
a person or company liable for your injuries, only to see them turn
around and say that you are partly or totally to blame for your own
accident. If you are partly at fault for your injuries, the amount you
can recover from other at-fault parties may be reduced or even
eliminated in Michigan.
Michigan uses a “modified comparative fault” rule to settle cases in which the injured person is found to be partly at fault. Under this rule, damages are reduced if the injured person is found to share any amount of fault, and damages are eliminated altogether if the injured person is found to be 50 percent or more at fault.
Here’s an example. Suppose you’re driving a few miles per hour above the posted speed limit, when another driver runs a red light and hits your car. You suffer severe injuries, and during the insurance investigation or the court case, you’re assigned 10 percent of the fault and the other driver is assigned 90 percent of the fault. If the total damages in your case equal $100,000, Michigan’s modified comparative fault rule will kick in to award you $90,000 -- equal to the $100,000 total minus $10,000 that represents your 10 percent of the fault.
Michigan courts are required to apply the modified comparative fault rule in injury cases. When you talk to an insurance adjuster about your claim, don’t be surprised if the adjuster brings up the comparative fault rule as well.
Michigan’s No-Fault Car Insurance Laws
Michigan uses a “no-fault” system when it comes to auto insurance,
meaning that in most accidents, each party’s insurance provides coverage
for his or her injuries and other costs, regardless of who was at fault
for the accident.
Michigan law prohibits you from going to court after a car accident except in certain serious cases. In order to go to court, an injured person must have suffered:
- serious disfigurement, or
- serious impairment of a bodily function.
In addition, these conditions must be “objectively manifested,” meaning they must be based on tangible medical evidence.
Michigan no-fault law also contains a “minitort” provision that allows you to bring a small claims case for property damage up to $1,000. The minitort provision does not, however, apply to injuries suffered in an accident.
Since the terms in Michigan’s no-fault injury laws are a little vague, you’ll need to consider the negotiating room they provide when you’re trying to reach an insurance settlement. See this article on no fault claims for more information.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Michigan however, a specific statute (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 287.351) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
“If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.”
Damage Caps in Michigan Injury Cases
Laws on damage caps create limits
on the amount or types of damages an injured person may receive in
certain types of cases -- or for certain types of harm. (Our companion
article on damages in injury cases provides more information.) Most often, these laws limit non-economic damages, also known as “pain and suffering.”
Michigan sets caps on non-economic damages in product liability cases and medical malpractice cases. These caps are $280,000 in most cases, or $500,000 for situations where death or certain catastrophic disabilities occur. Michigan doesn’t allow plaintiffs to recover punitive damages, except in certain specific cases where punitive damages are allowed by law, such as pharmaceutical injury claims.
Learn More About Michigan’s Personal Injury Laws
If you want to read more about Michigan’s personal injury laws, go to Michigan's official online code at Michigan Compiled Laws Section 500 (no-fault insurance) and Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600 (personal injury claims).