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Your Detroit Personal Injury Case: The Basics

Last updated: September 30, 2013

You're walking downtown on East Grand when you reach an intersection. You wait for the "Walk" sign to turn and begin to cross when, suddenly, a car making a right hand turn runs into you, throwing you to the ground and causing serious injury. This is just one type of injury claim you could recover money for under personal injury law.

Personal injury law is the body of law that entitles a person injured by the negligent, wrongful or reckless act of another to recover compensation for his or her losses resulting from the injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in Detroit, and you think you may be entitled to compensation for your losses, this article will answer some of your questions and help you get started. Be sure to take a look at FindLaw's section First Steps After an Injury, and then come back to this article to learn more about personal injury in Detroit.

Statute of Limitations: Three Years

After being in an accident, you should always take care of your health first before worrying about a potential lawsuit. However, it's important to remember that under state laws called statutes of limitations, you may need to file your claim within a certain time period. The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims in Michigan is three years from the date of the accident or injury. If you're worried that you're running out of time to file your claim, you should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Determining Fault: Modified Comparative Negligence

Most personal injury cases are governed by the legal theory of negligence. Under traditional negligence theory, if the person bringing the personal injury claim was found to be even 1% at fault for his injury, he was not able to recover money from another person, even if that person was 99% at fault. Today, many states use a more fair rule of modified comparative negligence to decide how much an injured person who is partly at fault will be able to recover.

Michigan's rule of modified comparative negligence says that an injured person who was partly at fault for his injury can still recover from others who were also at fault. However, the injured person's recovery will be reduced by his percentage of fault. For example, if a court finds that Dan is 10% at fault for his injury, he will theoretically be able to recover 90% of his losses from the person or entity responsible for the other 90% of the fault. Finally, if the injured person is more than 50% at fault, he cannot recover any compensation for his losses.

As you may have read in FindLaw's First Steps in a Personal Injury Claim, it's important to collect evidence related to your injury, including photographs of the site and damage and statements of witnesses. Sometimes it's difficult to determine who is at fault for an injury. In those cases, evidence such as photographs and statements will come in handy.

Insurance Claims and Settlements

The person or entity responsible for your injury may have insurance that covers your losses. In addition, you may have insurance for the type of injury you've incurred. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to work with an insurer to make sure you're adequately compensated.

If an insurance company is involved, it will usually designate a claims adjuster to determine who was at fault for the injury. Depending on what the adjuster decides, the insurance company will then deny your claim or offer you a settlement. Take a look at FindLaw's article on insurance claims after an accident to make sure that you've covered all your bases.

Beginning a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Detroit

If the person responsible for the accident or the insurance companies involved fail to adequately compensate you for your injuries, you may have to resort to filing a lawsuit to recover your losses. If you haven't done so already, consider meeting with a qualified personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Lawsuits are often complicated and time consuming. A good attorney can save you the time and stress of representing yourself in your lawsuit and can also help maximize your recovery.

If you've decided to represent yourself in your personal injury case, visit the Michigan Courts Self-Help Center for more information. The Self-Help Center's page on General Civil Matters can get you started. If your claim is for $25,000 or less and your injury occurred in Detroit, you will file your case with the 36th District Court. If your claim is for more than $25,000, you will file your case with the Third Judicial Circuit Court's Civil Division.

Damages You May Claim

Under Michigan law, you are entitled to recover any economic losses that you can prove resulted from the accident or injury. This usually includes:

  1. Past and future medical expenses.
  2. Past and future lost wages.
  3. Cost of damage to property or loss of use of that property.
  4. Loss of services or income from your spouse, if your spouse was killed or injured.
  5. Losses resulting from disability or disfigurement.

In addition, you may also be entitled to payment for non-economic losses resulting from the injury, including pain and suffering and emotional distress. However, non-economic damages are usually limited by law. For example, in Michigan, awards for non-economic damages in both medical malpractice cases and products liability cases may not exceed $280,000 or $500,000 in the case of death or serious injury.

Now that you've learned more about your Detroit personal injury case, check out FindLaw's section Injury Law Basics for in-depth answers to your questions. You may also find it helpful to meet with a personal injury attorney to discuss your case.