Legal Case Tips, Personal Injury

Personal Injury in Michigan

Personal injury Southfield mi

In general, personal injury refers to any physical, emotional, or mental injury to an individual. Personal injury is part of tort law, which is a branch of civil law that deals with harms and injustices caused by private citizens, companies, and/or branches of the government. Tort law does not cover contractual issues.

While most states share the basic definition of what constitutes a personal injury, the statutes of limitations, damage caps, and some liability laws will vary. 

Read on to learn more about personal injury law in Michigan, what to do if you need to file a claim, and how a personal injury lawyer can help you.

Personal Injury Areas

While typically associated with car accident cases and premises liability; personal injury law firms can also represent victims of medical malpractice, work injuries, harmful products, sexual assault, and other accidents or intentional conduct that causes emotional, financial, and physical harm.

At Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys, our personal injury practice areas include:

  • Auto accidents
  • Commercial and semi-truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Electric scooter accidents
  • Construction site accidents
  • Railroad accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Birth injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Closed head injuries
  • Vaccine injuries
  • Jail injury or death
  • Dog bites
  • Sexual assault and abuse
  • Wrongful death
  • Police brutality
  • Workplace injuries
  • Slip and fall incidents
  • Premises liability
  • Gas explosions

Deadline to File Personal Injury Claims

In Michigan, you typically have three years to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. However, you typically have two years to file a medical malpractice claim. If the at-fault part is a government agency, you have six months to file a claim or a notice of intent to file such a claim.

What to Do Before Filing a Personal Injury Claim

  1. Seek medical care: After sustaining an injury, always seek care first. Your immediate health should always be your first priority. If your injury was sustained at work, seek emergency care first and then contact your immediate supervisor. For future appointments and medical care, your workplace will most likely recommend a physician.
  2. Keep a copy of all medical payments and records: This includes invoices, bills, insurance claims, and all documentation from your visits.
  3. Contact a personal injury law firm: Your very next phone call should be to an attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the laws addressing your situation and understand how to move forward.

Personal Injury Laws in Michigan

There are a wide array of potential personal injury claims, so there are likewise many laws addressing this subject. Some of the Michigan personal injury laws you’ll need to know about include comparative negligence, no-fault car insurance, and dog owner liability. 

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is used in cases where multiple defendants and/or the plaintiff may be found partly at fault for the injuries and damages at issue. Michigan has a modified comparative fault rule, which means that should the plaintiff be found partially at fault, their damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault. Additionally, if the plaintiff is found to be mostly (more than 50%) at fault, then they are not permitted to recover for their injury and damages.

No-Fault Insurance

All motor vehicle drivers are required under Michigan law to purchase no-fault insurance before they are allowed to obtain their driver’s license. No-fault insurance coverage includes medical bills and other losses after an auto accident. To collect on an auto accident or pedestrian accident claim against another driver, the injuries must be serious. Examples of collectable, serious injuries include disfigurement, serious impairment of bodily function, and death.

Dog Owner Liability

Michigan does not have a one-bite rule like other states do. One-bite rules protect dog owners if their dog has no prior instances of biting or inducing injuries, and the dog is not believed to be dangerous. In Michigan, dog owners are responsible for any personal injuries that were unprovoked and caused by: (1) their dog biting someone; or (2) other injuries caused by their dog if they knew or should have known of its dangerous habits or propensity.

Evidence Needed for Personal Injury Claims

The evidence needed varies from case to case. For example, evidence needed for a dog bite case will be different when compared to evidence needed in a medical malpractice case. However, most personal injury lawsuits require evidence that proves that an individual’s injuries were a result of another person or organization’s negligence. Types of evidence needed will vary from photos to medical records to first-person witnesses. When you consult with a personal injury attorney, they will tell you what type of evidence is needed for your specific case.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You

  • Case evaluation: Personal injury lawyers will hear the details of your case and discuss all relevant information about the incident and the damages, including all pain and hardships inflicted on you. They will also advise you on your rights and explain the options available to you.
  • Investigation: After the initial interview and case evaluation, a personal injury law firm gathers all available evidence pertaining to your case, including photos, witness statements, employer reports, police reports, hospital and treatment records, medical bills, and more. The attorney will also write interrogatories to ask questions of the opposing party and take thorough depositions of the defendant and the defendant’s witnesses. Additionally, an attorney will hire expert witnesses if needed to further investigate the case and injuries and then to testify before the judge and jury.  
  • Negotiation: Having a personal injury lawyer on your side means that you don’t have to negotiate yourself. Your attorney will review: (1) the insurance company policies and any applicable coverage and benefits; and (2) the evidence and information relating to your  case.
  • Claims assistance: A personal injury lawyer will know how best to proceed with your case. Typically, personal injury cases are settled before going to trial, as it can be a costly and lengthy process to try a case. However, in some cases, it may become necessary to take a case to trial. A personal injury lawyer will likely first attempt to obtain an appropriate settlement and only proceed to take a lawsuit to trial if they are not able to reach a fair settlement. 
  • Legal representation: If settlement for a fair and reasonable amount of compensation is not possible because the insurance company is unreasonable, your lawyer can help you present your case before a judge and jury. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim is a tort claim with two issues: liability and damages. It arises when someone is harmed due to negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of another person or entity. It asks one basic question: Is the other party liable for damages you sustained, and, if so, what is the nature and extent of your damages? 

Do I Have a Case?

Every claim is unique and many factors can influence whether you have a viable claim. Without knowing the details of your claim, it’s impossible to say for sure whether you have a viable case. The best way to figure out if you have a case is to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert attorneys.

What Happens During a Personal Injury Case Evaluation?

During a case evaluation, our team will ask you a lot of questions! The purpose of the evaluation is to determine two factors: (1) Do you have a case where there was an injury or harm for which legal action may be taken; and (2) was somebody else liable for your injury or harm? If we determine that the answer is “yes” for both questions, then we will have to build a case on your behalf.

Do I Need to Bring Anything to the Case Evaluation?

Yes. Please bring as much documentation as you can regarding the injury you’ve sustained. For all injuries, bring doctor and hospital records. If it was an auto, motorcycle, pedestrian, or commercial trucking accident, please bring police reports.

How Do I Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim?

In a personal injury case, you must establish and prove a standard of care and prove that the at-fault party breached that duty of care. You must also prove that your injuries were a direct result of that breach of care. “Standard of care” or “duty of care” will vary depending on the type of case that you have. For example, an automobile driver’s standard of care would be to follow appropriate traffic laws and other rules that keep pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers safe on the road. 

What Kind of Compensation Can I Recover?

Each personal injury case is unique, and the types and amounts of compensation available to you are determined by the unique factors of your case. 

Generally, personal injury compensation is split into two types of damages: compensatory and punitive/exemplary. Compensatory damages compensate you for your pain and suffering and economic loss, and the vast majority of personal injury cases qualify for compensatory damages. There may be economic damages (such as medical bills or property damage) or non-economic damages (such as loss of enjoyment of life), but there are a lot of potential damages within each compensation category. 

Punitive/exemplary damages are intended to punish the defendant or to make an example for others and are only awarded in severe cases with evidence of malicious intent. 

How Much Can I Recover?

Again, each situation is unique, so the damages that can be recovered will vary. However, in Michigan there are damage caps for medical malpractice cases. At the moment, a medical malpractice plaintiff may only receive $445,500 in non-economic damages, but the cap can increase to $795,500 if the injuries are severe.

What If I Was Partially Responsible?

If you are partially responsible for your accident, you may still be able to recover damages. However, you will not receive full compensation for them—instead, so long as your percentage of fault does not exceed 50%, you receive a percentage of your damages reduced by your own percentage of fault. This percentage is a highly subjective determination, and an experienced personal injury attorney is needed to ensure that you get the best possible outcome.

What Should I Expect If I File a Claim?

Once you file a claim, your case will be investigated by your attorney. This is when they discover all the relevant details needed to build your case, including analyzing evidence from the scene, gathering and interviewing witnesses, and obtaining and reviewing relevant documents, photos and videos. Once they obtain such investigative materials, your attorney will speak with experts to help strengthen your claim. 

Based on this information, your attorney will calculate damages owed to you, and negotiations begin with the other parties. If you can’t reach a settlement, you may go to trial. 

How Do I Choose a Personal Injury Attorney?

Your attorney should have extensive experience in personal injury law, specifically in cases similar to yours. You should also look for an attorney who has a long track record of successfully representing cases like yours. For example, they may be members of a professional organization, formally recognized by other attorneys, have obtained high-value case results, and so on. 

The best personal injury attorney for you will not only have the above qualities, but also make you feel comfortable. Look for an attorney who spends the initial consultation listening to your concerns and carefully explaining how they reach certain conclusions, using terms that you can understand so that you can make an informed decision.

Do I Need an Attorney With Trial Experience?

Yes, even if you don’t go to trial. 

Not every case needs to go to trial—you can often achieve an excellent result without going to trial. However, a trial attorney has a different focus than a settlement attorney. They understand the litigation process, know how to build a strategy, and are not afraid to fight for you. 
 
An experienced trial attorney provides you with two significant advantages: (1) if you have to go to trial, your case is prepared correctly; and (2) if the opposing council fears the time and expense of a trial, they may settle sooner, and for a higher amount. 
 
A good way to assess this is to note whether the firm’s language focuses on settlements over verdicts. Settlements are reached outside of court to avoid a trial, and firms that focus on settling may not take large or complex cases that may prove difficult to settle out of court.

How Do I Pay?

You only pay an attorney if you recover a verdict award or settlement amount. In other words, if you don’t recover, you don’t pay. 

Most personal injury attorneys (including the team at Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys) are paid on a contingency fee arrangement. This means that they collect their fees from the settlement or trial verdict, and otherwise, if there is no settlement, they do not collect fees.

Have You Been Injured? Contact Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys Today

If you have been injured, you may be entitled to compensation from another person or company. Before filing a claim, consult with our team at Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys. Our personal injury attorneys have handled over 120 cases for clients across Michigan. Contact our law firm today to get started with a free case evaluation. 

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