ABC’s of Michigan Personal Injury Law
When you’ve been injured by someone else’s carelessness, it’s important to take some steps to help make sure your claim is settled fairly and quickly:
Write down everything you remember about the accident or injury, such when and where it happened; the names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses, police officers and insurance company representatives (or company or workers’ compensation representatives if it was a work related injury)
Talk to a lawyer before making any statements, written or verbal, to insurance company adjusters or representatives
Let anyone you think may be responsible for the injury know right away you intend to file a claim against them
Gather and keep evidence, such as photographs of your car, and the accident or injury scene; clothing; damaged personal belongings; etc.
How Do I Figure Out Who Is at Fault?
In most cases, you must prove the person who caused the injury was negligent. That is, he didn’t use reasonable care. In Michigan, you must prove:
- The person who caused your injury owed you a duty
- The other person broke or breached that duty
- You suffered damages
- The other person’s failure caused your injury
Under Michigan’s comparative negligence law, if your carelessness helped cause your injury, the amount you may recover may be limited. If you were more than 50 percent at fault, you can’t recover any damages at all. You may recover if you were less than 50 percent at fault. But, your damages are reduced by your percentage of fault.
If more than one person caused your injury, each person is liable only for a portion of your damages. The portions are set by their percentages of fault. However, in medical malpractice where you have no fault for your injury, each person who caused your injury may be forced to pay everything you’re owed. This is called joint and several liability.
If you’ve been injured by a consumer product, the manufacturer or seller may be responsible under products liability law. Generally, it makes some people liable for damages caused by their products because they’re not reasonably safe to use. Under Michigan law, you need to prove:
- The product had some sort of defect, or it didn’t have adequate warnings, making it unreasonably unsafe to use
- The defect or lack of warnings caused your injury
- You suffered damages
What Is My Claim Worth?
Under Michigan law, the person who injured you is responsible for:
- Past, current and future estimated medical expenses
- Time lost from work, including time spent going to medical appointments or therapy
- Any property that was damaged, such as your vehicle
- The cost of hiring someone to do household chores when you couldn’t do them
- Any permanent disfigurement or disability
- Your emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, fright, shock and any interference with your family relationships
- Physical pain and suffering
- Change in future earning ability due to the injury that you suffered
- Any other costs that are a direct result of your injury
In Michigan, there’s a cap on damages for pain and suffering and other non economic damages in medical malpractice. The amount of the cap depends on the seriousness of the injuries. The amounts were set at $280,000 and $500,000 in 1993. But, they’ve been adjusted for inflation each year since then, so they’re higher today. There’s no cap on economic damages – lost wages, medical expenses, etc. – in any personal injury case.
In some cases you may need an expert to explain your injuries and why you’re entitled to certain damages. This is very common in medical malpractice cases. A lawyer will know what type of expert witness to hire to best prove your damages.
How Long Do I Have to File a Legal Claim?
In most, not all Michigan personal injury cases, you only have three years to file a lawsuit against the person who injured you. If your lawyer hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with any involved insurance companies or defendants, you definitely want to file a lawsuit before the three-year statute of limitation runs out.
If you have any other questions and or concerns please feel to call our office!