It's easy to feel "presidential" in Grand Rapids. You might have fancy office furniture made right here in Furniture City. You may occasionally do business at the Grand Plaza Hotel. You may even ride around in a black, American-made town car taking in the view. Keep in mind, however, that while GR's own President Ford may have pardoned Nixon, nobody is going to pardon you for taking "executive privileges" on the Ford Freeway.
If you've been in a collision in Grand Rapids or Kent County, it's important to know what to do immediately and in the near future. Your choices could have a lasting impact on your life. But do not worry. Just as Ford guided us to the end our "national nightmare," this guide can help put you on the right path toward the end of your automobile ordeal.
Stop, Exchange Information, and Provide Aid:
Michigan law generally requires a driver to stop if he or she "has reason to believe that he or she has been involved in an accident..." If you've been in a crash, remain present until you have finished exchanging names, addresses, and vehicle registration numbers to each party involved. You must also provide "reasonable assistance in securing medical aid or arrange for or provide transportation to any injured individual." If you fail to complete these tasks, you may be charged with a felony.
If, however, you are in an emergency, take care of emergency needs first. The law states that if taking the time to exchange information may cause more harm, you should simply report the accident to the police. In Grand Rapids, dial the non-emergency police number at (616) 456-3400. For more tips related to accidents and emergencies, see the Secretary of State's 10 Emergencies and Special Situations.
If you've been in a collision, you will normally have to file a report with the nearest police office. The official rule states that you must report when either: (a) a person is injured or killed; or (b) the total property damage appears to be $1,000 or more. It can be difficult to know at the time of the accident the full cost of repairs and whether a person is injured, so when in doubt, report it. It is unlikely that your report will carry negative legal consequences for you; Section 624 of the Vehicle Code generally makes driver-written accident reports inadmissible in court. See the code sections relevant to car accidents online.
Document the Incident:
After each fender bender, there's at least some chance that responsibility for the damage will be resolved in the legal process. Do yourself a favor and document the details. Note any road conditions, weather phenomena, time of day, speed of vehicles, etc. If you have a camera handy, take pictures of the road from several angles, and take pictures of the damage to the vehicles.
Recovering After the Accident
Michigan features a no-fault insurance system. Your own basic insurance will cover your losses in two ways.
This all means that if either driver's automobile is damaged, insurance will not cover the repairs unless one of the drivers purchased additional coverage. For more information, see the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs' A Consumer's Guide to No-Fault Automobile Insurance in Michigan.
If an insurance policy does not cover damage done in a wreck, the parties will have to resolve their dispute in what is known as a "mini tort" case. The first thing you must know is that you have only three years to file a claim for damage to your personal property which, in this case, would include an automobile. The State features several court systems, even within Grand Rapids, so you may want to talk to an attorney to be sure that you are pursuing a case in the proper Grand Rapids court.
To be successful in your mini tort case, you are going to have to establish that the other party was at fault, and provide evidence for how much the party actually owes. To prove the other driver's fault, use the details that you recorded immediately after the incident. Remember, personal injury claims related to car accidents are usually prohibited, so you'll want to focus your efforts on proving damage to your vehicle or other personal property.
As stated above, damages in a car accident case are for personal property losses only. This means that you are likely to only have economic damages -- the kinds of damages for which there's an objective and measurable dollar value. The court may award a party money for items such as: cost of parts, cost of repairs, and possibly lost revenues if the vehicle served a commercial function.
Michigan features a unique comparative fault rule of negligence. As a result, an economic damages award is reduced if the "winning party" was partially responsible. If, for example, you were judged to be 75% at fault, and the other party was 25% at fault, you will have to pay 75% of the total cost of repairs. See a Grand Rapids attorney for more information on what your jurisdiction considers negligent and at-fault.
The legal consequences of a car accident can vary. It may be a good idea to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. This is especially true if anyone was hurt or if alcohol or criminal activity may have played a part in the collision.
Contact a qualified attorney.