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?
No matter what your personal injury claim is based on, it will likely settle long before anyone needs to file a lawsuit. 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, your claim probably won’t need to go 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. And if you fell inside an outlet in Auburn Hills, you’ll need to notify a store manager. Finally, if you’re injured by a machinery malfunction in Dearborn, you’re probably reporting it to your employer.
In any of the examples above, chances are your personal injury case can be resolved 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. 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.
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” principle. The four elements of negligence are:
Courts use the reasonably prudent person principle 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 from those of a reasonably prudent person, they may be found negligent.
Certain personal injury claims involve variations of the general negligence standard, or are exceptions to it entirely. For instance, the state will pay most workers’ comp claims 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, with affidavits signed by medical professionals, to the defendant at least 182 days before filing a lawsuit.
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:
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 or exemplary damages, which serve as a punishment for the defendant as other states allow.
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.
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.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case. 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.