If you think an accident—whether a vehicular crash or a complication during medical treatment—resulted from someone else's negligence, you could have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit that results in compensation for damages. Michigan laws governing such lawsuits have unique requirements, though legal procedures are similar nationwide.
What Is the Proper Jurisdiction for My Case?
Individuals seeking less than $3,000 in damages must file personal injury lawsuits in small claims court; Michigan District Courts have jurisdiction for lawsuits asking more than $3,000 and less than $25,000, and Circuit Courts hear cases worth more than $25,000. The individual alleging injury can file a lawsuit either in the county in which the incident occurred or in the person's county of residence.
What Are the Time Limits for Filing a Lawsuit?
In Michigan, plaintiffs are permitted three years after the incident in which to file personal injury litigation. In medical or legal malpractice lawsuits, the period is two years beginning from the date the injury or problem was discovered.
What Is the Filing Procedure?
First, the plaintiff files a document called a Complaint in the appropriate court. The individual, business or organization subject to the litigation—the defendant—is allowed 21 days after the Complaint is served to file a Response answering the allegations. The defendant is allowed 28 days if the Complaint was served by mail. Defendants can file countersuits or counterclaims if they believe the plaintiff harmed them, and can also file crossclaims contending that a third party is responsible.
How Will Damages Be Determined?
The lawsuit can request compensatory damages, such as reimbursement for medical expenses, compensation for lost wages, and damage to property. Noneconomic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress, are permitted but are capped at $280,000 for "ordinary" cases and $500,000 for damage to the brain, spinal cord, or reproductive system. Punitive damages are not permitted. Plaintiffs in Michigan can recover damages as long as the defendant is at least partly responsible for the injury, though damages are reduced based on the percentage of responsibility, and noneconomic damages are not permitted.
Preparations for Trial
The pretrial process can include motions, or requests to the court, for things such as a jury trial or mediation. There also will be a discovery process, which is an exchange of information and evidence that can include:
- Interrogatories: Written questions the other side must answer
- Depositions: Out-of-court testimony under oath
- Visual inspections: Reviews of sites prominent in the litigation
- Medical examinations: Mental and physical evaluations of the plaintiff.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Though television dramas might convince you otherwise, the reality in Michigan is that only about 2 percent of civil lawsuits go to trial. The rest are either dismissed or resolved beforehand through arbitration, mediation, or neutral assessment. Individual parties can agree to hire arbitrators, or the court can appoint someone to help resolve the case.
Proceeding to Trial
The trial commences with the selection of six jurors. The plaintiff and defendant present evidence in hopes of swaying jurors, five of whom must agree to the verdict. Any party can appeal any verdict with which they disagree; in personal injury lawsuits, appeals often center on the amount of damages.
What Will the Lawsuit Cost?
Personal injury lawyers frequently take cases on a contingency basis, which means the amount of compensation is dependent upon the results. The most common arrangement involves reimbursing the attorney for expenses and paying fees equal to one-third of the amount of any damages awarded.
Consulting an Attorney
This article is a general overview of Michigan personal injury law. Although it is possible to handle small cases without assistance, it is best to consult a personal injury lawyer for complex matters.