Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law
Michigan Personal Injury Law
When you suffer an injury to your physical or mental health or to your property you could receive compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Michigan injury laws allow you to recover for economic and non-economic losses you suffer as a result of your injuries, all at the responsible party’s expense.
Whether you’re in Detroit on business, Ann Arbor for school, or Grand Rapids for generations, you’ll need to be aware of the various Michigan laws that affect your personal injury case. For instance, how does proving negligence in a car accident differ from medical malpractice?
Michigan Personal Injury Claims
After you file a personal injury claim, you may end up settling the case before it ever goes to trial. Whether it is a car crash with private insurance companies paying for injuries and repairs, a store providing a settlement amount after a slip-and-fall, or a workers’ compensation department dispersing funds for lost wages after an on-the-job accident, most claims settle without the need to go to trial. However, if the insurance company or property owner doesn’t make a fair settlement offer, you may want to take your case to trial.
That said, the process for securing compensation for your injuries can vary significantly, depending on how and where your injuries occurred. If you’re rear-ended in Reed City, your first call will be to your auto insurance company, or possibly that of the other driver or a rental car agency.
If you fell inside an outlet in Auburn Hills, you’ll need to notify a store manager, fill out an incident report, and get the outlet’s insurance information. Finally, if you’re injured by a machinery malfunction in Dearborn, you’re probably reporting it to your employer and making sure that either you or the employer files a report with the Michigan Workers Disability Compensation Agency.
In any of the examples above, it may be tempting to try to resolve your claim quickly. But be wary of settlement offers, especially from insurance companies. Some parties may try to rush you into signing something that relinquishes your right to file a lawsuit later. It is usually wiser to wait to settle until after all treatment and recovery have been completed so that you know the full extent of your damages.
An experienced personal injury attorney can accurately assess your claim and assist you during the settlement process, so don’t sign any documents without consulting with an injury lawyer first.
Proving Negligence in Michigan
Most Michigan personal injury lawsuits seek compensation from defendants whose negligence caused the injuries the plaintiff has suffered. In such cases, the defendant’s negligence and liability for the plaintiff’s injuries must be established for the plaintiff to qualify for recovery.
Michigan courts use many methods to determine negligence and liability, among which are the four elements of negligence and the “reasonably prudent person” standard. The four elements of negligence are:
- Did the defendant owe a duty of care to prevent harm to the plaintiff?
- Did the defendant’s action constitute a breach of that duty?
- Were the defendant’s actions the cause of the injuries the plaintiff sustained?
- As a result, did the plaintiff suffer damages that deserve compensation from the defendant?
Courts use the reasonably prudent person standard to compare the defendant’s actions surrounding the injuring incident to those of a theoretically responsible and law-observing person. If a defendant’s actions are found to deviate below the standard of what you would expect a reasonably prudent person to do, they may be found negligent.
Special Injury Cases in Michigan
Certain personal injury claims involve variations of the general negligence standard, or are exceptions to it entirely. For instance, in Michigan, most workers’ comp claims are paid without consideration of fault as long as you weren’t intoxicated when you got hurt. And in product liability claims, those based on defective products or warnings, you generally don’t need to prove the manufacturer’s negligence, only that the product was defective and therefore caused your injuries.
When it comes to medical malpractice claims, doctors are held to a different standard when it comes to duty and breach: The standard of care for health workers is legally defined as the generally accepted practices and procedures employed by medical professionals in the field to treat patients suffering from the same or similar disorder or illness. Additionally, medical malpractice plaintiffs in Michigan must send a Notice of Intent to File a Claim to the defendant at least 182 days before filing a lawsuit.
Michigan Statute of Limitations
Every state limits the time after an injury occurs before which an injured plaintiff must pursue legal action against a defendant. Once the statute of limitations for a particular injury claim runs out, you can no longer pursue a lawsuit. Michigan’s civil statute of limitations includes:
- Three years for injury (or damage) to property
- Three years for personal injury
- Six years for written and oral contracts
- Three years for wrongful death
- Six years for fraud
- Two years for medical malpractice (or six months after discovery, but not longer than six years)
Types of Damages Recoverable in Michigan
The point of personal injury litigation is to recover compensation for losses related to your injury, known as “damages.” Michigan courts will only award actual or compensatory damages, which cover actual losses resulting from your injury.
Michigan doesn’t allow for punitive damages, which are designed to punish a party for misconduct, unless “expressly authorized by statute.” Michigan does allow exemplary damages but defines that as a special type of compensatory damages for emotional injury rather than as synonymous with punitive damages.
Actual damages consist of economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are compensation for losses with a distinct dollar value, such as repair bills for damaged property, medical treatment and hospital bills, therapy, lost wages, salaries, etc. Non-economic damages are compensation for losses that don’t have a distinct dollar value, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium or companionship.
Michigan specifically limits the amount of non-economic damages you can recover in product liability and medical malpractice cases to $280,000 for bodily injury or $500,000 for wrongful death or extreme disability.
Get Counsel From an Experienced Attorney
Between the filing requirements, differing negligence standards, and statutes of limitation, personal injury claims can be complicated. That’s why you know you need an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side.
If someone is pressuring you to settle an injury claim or claims you caused their injuries, you want to consult with an attorney before doing anything. Most lawyers are happy to offer free initial consultations to review your claim, and some will agree to take your case on a contingency fee basis, so they don’t get paid unless you do.
You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.