Michigan Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules

Details on Michigan's statute of limitations deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit, accident liability rules, and more.

By , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

If you've been injured in a Michigan accident, from a car crash to a slip and fall, a number of state laws could come into play. That's true whether you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in court, or even just pursue an injury settlement with an insurance company.

Michigan's Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

A law called a "statute of limitations" sets a deadline on your right to file a lawsuit against the person or company you believe is responsible for your injury.

In Michigan, you have three years to bring a personal injury lawsuit to court. If you don't get your lawsuit started in time, the court will almost certainly dismiss it. In most situations, the three-year "clock" starts on the date of your accident, but if you don't "discover" right away that you've been injured, the three-year "clock" might start running on the discovery date instead.

You'll find the Michigan statute of limitations for personal injury cases at Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5805.

Can the Michigan Statute of Limitations Deadline Be Extended?

In some situations, the Michigan statute of limitations deadline might be extended, or the starting of the "clock" might be delayed.

When the Plaintiff is Mentally Incompetent

If, at the time of the underlying accident, the injured person has a mental condition that keeps them from understanding their rights, the statute of limitations "clock" probably won't start until their competence is restored, or their interests can be fairly represented (Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5851).

When the Injured Person Was a Minor

If the injured person was under 18 at the time of the accident, the three-year "clock" usually won't start until they turn 18 (Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5851).

When the Defendant Leaves the State

If the person who allegedly caused the injury leaves the state before a lawsuit can be filed, and is gone for more than two months, the period of absence likely won't be counted as part of the three years—as long as there's no way for the plaintiff to "serve" the would-be defendant with the lawsuit during the absence (Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5853).

What If My Injury Was Caused By Government Negligence In Michigan?

Michigan has enacted a detailed set of laws that apply when your injury may have been caused by the fault of the government—at the state or local level—or one of its employees. Under the state's Governmental Tort Liability Act (codified starting at Michigan Compiled Laws section 691.1401), you can only bring an injury claim against the government over specific kinds of mistakes or negligence, including:

  • traffic accidents caused by negligent operation of a government vehicle
  • injuries resulting from improper maintenance of public buildings, and
  • accidents or injuries caused by defects in roads and highways.

You'll likely also need to file a "notice of claim" with the agency that was involved in (or that you think is responsible for) your accident. For example, if you're asking for compensation for injury or property damage caused by a defect in a public building or on a government-maintained road, you'll usually need to give notice of the incident to the proper agency within 120 days. Learn more about injury claims against the government in Michigan.

How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit In Michigan?

In Michigan, most personal injury lawsuits are filed in either:

  • Circuit Court (there are currently 57 of these statewide), or
  • District Court (approximately 100 situated across the state).

Usually, if you're planning on asking for less than $25,000 from the at-fault party, you'll file your lawsuit in one of Michigan's district courts. If the amount you're seeking looks like it will be more than $25,000, circuit court is typically the right place to file your personal injury lawsuit. Learn more about Michigan's court system (from courts.michigan.gov).

If your injuries are relatively minor and you're not planning on asking for more than $6,500, you might want to consider the option of small claims court, which is run as a division of the district courts in Michigan.

Learn more about how to file a personal injury lawsuit.

What If I'm Partly At Fault for My Injury In Michigan?

In you share some amount of fault for the accident that led to your injuries, the amount you can recover from other at-fault parties in court may be reduced (and your chance to recover for certain types of losses is even eliminated).

Michigan uses a "modified comparative fault" rule in cases where a personal injury plaintiff is found to be partly at fault for their own injury. Under this rule:

  • the plaintiff's compensation ("damages" in the language of the law) is reduced by a percentage equal to their share of fault, and
  • if the injured person is found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the accident (compared with all other parties and non-parties), the plaintiff's share of economic damages (medical bills, lost income, etc.) is reduced by the percentage of their fault, but they're also barred from recovering any non-economic damages. This is significant because non-economic damages include compensation for pain and suffering and other subjective losses, which can be a major component of compensation in a personal injury case.

This rule can be found at MCL section 600.2959.

How Does Michigan's "Modified Comparative Negligence" Rule Work?

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, your case goes to trial, and the jury finds that you're 10 percent at fault, while the other driver is assigned 90 percent of the blame. If your total damages equal $100,000, Michigan's modified comparative fault rule will kick in to award you $90,000 (the $100,000 total minus $10,000 for your 10 percent share of fault.

But remember the wrinkle we discussed above. If your share of fault is 60 percent, you can still recover 40 percent of your "economic" damages, but you're barred from getting compensation for your pain and suffering and other non-economic losses.

Does Michigan's Comparative Negligence Rule Apply to Insurance Claims?

Technically, no. Michigan courts are required to apply the modified comparative fault rule in injury lawsuits that make it all the way to trial. But since insurance adjusters always negotiate an injury settlement with one eye on what might happen if the case ends up in court, don't be surprised if the adjuster brings up the comparative fault rule during settlement talks.

Michigan Is a "Choice No-Fault" Car Insurance State

Michigan follows a "choice no-fault" car insurance system. In traditional no-fault, each driver's "personal injury protection" or "PIP" coverage will usually pay for medical treatment and other out-of-pocket losses after a car accident, regardless of who caused the crash. Filing a claim against an at-fault driver isn't possible unless injuries are serious enough under state thresholds.

Michigan's car insurance system lets vehicle owners choose the level of PIP protection that's right for them, and offers a few more unique wrinkles. Learn more about Michigan's car insurance rules and requirements.

Dog Owners Face "Strict Liability" for Dog Bites/Attacks In Michigan

Michigan Compiled Laws section 287.351 makes a dog owner "strictly liable" if their dog bites someone, meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for resulting injuries. Exceptions include when the injured person was trespassing, or when they provoked the dog.

Get the details on Michigan dog owner liability for bites and other injuries.

Are There Damages Caps In Michigan Personal Injury Cases?

Damages caps create limits on the amount or types of compensation an injured person may receive in certain types of cases, even when their lawsuit is successful (meaning they win in court after trial). Most often, these laws limit non-economic damages, also known as "pain and suffering."

Michigan doesn't cap damages in all personal injury cases. There are no caps that apply to car accident lawsuits or slip and fall cases, for example.

But Michigan does set caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. That means the amount of money an injured patient can receive for their "pain and suffering" and other non-economic damages is limited when they sue a health care provider for injuries.

There's a standard cap for all medical malpractice cases, and a higher variation in cases involving death or certain catastrophic injuries or disabilities, both of which change annually based on economic factors. Get the details on Michigan medical malpractice laws.

Get More Information on Personal Injury Cases

If you'd like more information on Michigan personal injury laws, feel free to do a little legal research of your own. You can also get the basics about:

If you're looking for legal advice that's tailored to your situation, you might want to discuss your potential case with a personal injury lawyer.

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