Personal injury cases in Michigan can be complicated. Having an experienced Michigan accident lawyer on your side can make the difference between winning and losing. There are many rules about how a lawsuit works, how a person obtains money for their injuries and how much money a person can receive.
Whether the injury occurs in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Traverse City or anywhere in between, the Michigan personal injury lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm can guide you along the way. We are always there for our clients and fight for every cent they are entitled to under the law.
It may be necessary to file a lawsuit in court to obtain a fair recovery. This is a legal decision that should be made by your attorney with your input. There are many things to consider before filing a lawsuit. First is the statute of limitations. This is the amount of time a lawsuit must be filed in court against the defendants before an injured person forever loses his or her rights to recovery. In Michigan, most personal injury cases must be filed within three years of the incident.
Second, it is important to analyze if the insurance company is dealing fairly at the pre-litigation stage. If the insurance adjuster is refusing to negotiate in fairness, or is stalling, then a lawsuit is necessary. Other factors to consider before filing a lawsuit is the size of the insurance policy, the severity of the injuries, the amount of negligence on the part of the defendant, the amount of comparative fault, as well as the jurisdiction.
Before filing a lawsuit in your case, we will obtain your permission and explain to you why we believe a lawsuit is necessary. Although a lawsuit may have to be filed, settlement is always possible. Negotiations continue even after a lawsuit has been filed in court. Contrary to popular belief, most lawsuits do not end in a jury trial.
As attorneys we are not permitted to promise any specific settlement amounts. However, the value of a claim is typically determined by several factors. The most important factor is the severity of the injuries. Typically, the more severe the injuries, the higher the value of the case. And this makes sense. A jury is more likely to give more money to a person who needs surgery with plates and hardware than a person who just went to a chiropractor for a few weeks.
However, the severity of the injuries don’t mean much without medical treatment. If a lot of medical treatment is required to make the injured person better, or to lessen the pain, then the value of the case is higher.
In general, the value of a case should be worth the harms and losses sustained by the injured person and his or her family. If the harms and losses are great, then the insurance company and jury should provide a large award to make up for these losses. If the losses are permanent, then the value should be even higher.
Another factor to consider are economic losses. These losses include the cost of outstanding medical bills, future medical care, as well as past and future lost wages. Obviously, if a person has a lot of outstanding medical bills or lost wages, then that person must be reimbursed for this in the settlement.
Last, the amount of the insurance is also very important.
Pleadings are formal statements of a cause of action or a defense to a cause of action. In laymen’s terms, pleadings are documents parties file in court that form the basis of a lawsuit or defense of a lawsuit. Pleadings come in different forms, but these are the most common:
A lawsuit filed in court against an opposing party for doing something wrong and that causes injuries. The person who files the Complaint is the plaintiff. The person or entity against whom the action is brought is the defendant. The complaint is a statement of facts alleging why the conduct of the defendant entitles the plaintiff to recover damages.
At the time the plaintiff’s complaint is filed, a summons is issued and served on the defendant by an officer of the Court. Summons can be served by a Deputy Sheriff or process server. The summons informs the defendant that a lawsuit has been filed against him, and that a response must be made within a given period of time or a judgment will be taken against him.
The response filed by the defendant is called an Answer. The Answer is prepared and filed in Court by the attorney for the defendant. Alternatively, if a defense attorney feels there is a fatal flaw with the lawsuit, a motion to dismiss the complaint or to strike portions of the complaint may be filed along with the Answer.
These are defenses the defendant is going to use in defending the lawsuit. All affirmative defenses must be listed by the defendant in a responsive pleading. Under a separate and distinct heading, a party must state the facts constituting the affirmative defense. Examples include comparative negligence, assumption of risk, fraud, open and obvious, estoppel, and statute of limitations.
Once a lawsuit is filed, both sides have a right to discover facts concerning the opposing party’s case. This time period is called discovery. The amount of time allowed for discovery is decided by the judge overseeing the lawsuit.
Discovery in most Michigan personal injury lawsuits is usually six to nine months. However, discovery can last longer if the issues are more complicated. For example, medical malpractice cases usually have a longer discovery period due to the nature of the issues and complexity of these cases.
There are different forms of discovery, but in the end discovery is about “discovering” the other party’s claims and defenses. The following is a description of the forms of discovery.
Normal discovery proceedings include written interrogatories (questions) that all parties must answer. You are usually required to answer these questions within twenty-eight (28) days, in writing and under oath. We will serve interrogatories on the defendant on your behalf. The defendant will serve interrogatories on you, which you must answer. Our staff will assist you in preparing your answers. Under new discovery rules, the number of written interrogatories is limited to twenty (20) questions for each party.
Discovery also includes the production of records by the parties. This means turning over documentation that is relevant to the case and not protected by a privilege or work product. Typical production requests include:
- The plaintiff’s medical records and medical bills;
- The defendant’s policies and procedures;
- Photographs of vehicle damage and the accident scene;
- Photographs of the plaintiff’s injuries and scarring;
- Photographs of the defective condition that caused the injury;
- Invoices, receipts and other documentation.
A deposition is an oral examination of a party, expert or witness taken under oath. At a deposition, the opposing lawyer can ask the deponent questions about relevant topics to the lawsuit. A court reporter is present to take a transcript. A deposition is used to learn as much as possible about the other side’s claims or defenses.
The lawyers must agree in advance where the deposition will be held. It is usually in the office of one of the lawyers or over the computer. If you are a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you are required by law to give a deposition. Because of this, we will need your full cooperation.
A good Michigan personal injury lawyer will prepare the plaintiff in advance for his or her deposition. The lawyer will go over how the incident occurred, the plaintiff’s medical treatment before and after the incident, how the incident has affected you, background information and the weaker parts of the plaintiff’s case. The lawyer should be able to answer any questions you might have.
Case Evaluation is an out-of-court hearing where a panel of three attorneys determine the value of the plaintiff’s case and assess a monetary award. The panel is usually made up of a plaintiff’s lawyer, an insurance defense lawyer and a neutral (a lawyer with experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants). Before the hearing, each party provides case evaluation summaries with exhibits to the panel.
At the case evaluation hearing, the lawyer for the plaintiff argues why he or she is entitled to a certain monetary award. The defendants then argue to the same panel why the plaintiff is entitled to a smaller monetary award, or no award at all. The panel will then decide on what it believes is a fair award.
The amount awarded is non-binding, meaning if one side rejects the award, the case does not settle. The parties have twenty-eight (28) days to accept or reject the panel’s award. If both sides accept the amount awarded, the case settles for that amount.
Facilitation, also known as mediation, is a process the parties agree to participate in to resolve a personal injury case. Facilitation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Typically done after discovery has ended, and usually after case evaluation, facilitation is managed by a facilitator hired by the parties. Most facilitators are former attorneys who specialize in Michigan personal injury law.
Typically, the parties are in separate rooms (or online) while the facilitator works with each party to arrive at a resolution to the lawsuit. Facilitation usually takes several hours or even longer. Sometimes, multiple facilitations are required to get a case settled.
An experienced and good Michigan personal injury attorney will ask their clients general and detailed information regarding their client’s case. This includes how the car crash or incident occurred, why it occurred, and the medical treatment after the incident. A thorough review of the client’s medical history is also important.
Usually, the client will be requested to sign certain authorization forms to allow us to obtain your medical records and other information. We will notify the person who was responsible for your injury and/or their insurance company that you have retained us as your attorneys. Requests will be sent to the doctors and hospitals involved in your care for your medical records and billing information.
Confidentiality is very important in a personal injury lawsuit. Do not talk about your case with anyone except your attorneys and their staff, your doctors and trusted family members.
After you have hired a Michigan personal injury law firm, you should never sign anything until your lawyer first reviews the document. Our law firm will have our clients sign reasonable authorizations so we can review medical records, obtain medical bills, get lost wage information, and other documentation.
A plaintiff should never sign anything until checking with his or her lawyer first.
Make sure to avoid the following:
- Do not give any statements, written, recorded, or oral, to anyone concerning your accident or injuries without first getting your lawyer’s approval.
- Do not make any incorrect statements about your pre-accident medical history to any doctor who may treat or examine you. If you don’t remember something about your medical history, tell your doctor.
- Do not make any incorrect statements to any doctor about your current medical condition.
- Do not lie or hold information from your lawyer. When you do this, you are only hurting yourself.
Some of the bigger mistakes made by plaintiffs during their lawsuit include the following:
- Not seeing the doctor regularly if they are in pain.
- Failing to tell your doctor about medical problems due to the accident.
- Not doing what your doctor tells you and not keeping your doctor appointments.
- Making incorrect statements about how the accident occurred.
- Exaggerating your injuries and how the accident has changed your life.
- Exaggerating the activities and events you are limited from doing due to the accident.
- Discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney or your doctor.
Yes, surveillance is permitted in a personal injury lawsuit or personal injury claim. Under the Michigan Court Rules and Michigan’s open discovery, the defense is permitted to hire a company to follow around a plaintiff and video record, so long as the investigator does not break the law.
Surveillance is a very popular defense tactic. That is why it is important to not lie in a deposition or at any time about the limitations you have from the accident. The worst thing a plaintiff can do is ruin a perfectly good case by embellishing or outright lying about their limitations and injuries.
There are certain things that are very important during your lawsuit. Here is a list of some of those things:
- Inform your attorney immediately of any change of address and/or telephone numbers or employment.
- If your vehicle was damaged, try to obtain pictures before you get it repaired. Take good photographs and text or email them to us. If you have photos of the other vehicles, provide those photos as well.
- Save all medicine containers, casts, braces, and any other items from your doctors.
- If you have the name of any witnesses to the accident, or even witnesses who can testify to your injuries, provide that information to us as soon as possible.
- Give us any pictures and videos of the accident or accident scene that you or anyone else has taken for you.
- Tell us of any changes in your job or job duties and responsibilities.
- Be sure to obtain and save all receipts itemizing any and all expenses you have incurred as a result of your accident.
- Inform us of anything you think is relevant to your case, including the names and addresses of new doctors.
If you can pay the medical bills, try to do so. This is important so your credit does not get effected. However, our law firm will work to ensure you get reimbursed for any out-of-pocket medical costs you pay. We also fight to make sure the other insurance company pays the medical bills.
If you are injured in a car accident in Michigan, your own auto insurance company is usually responsible for paying the medical bills. If you don’t have auto insurance, in almost all situations you can still make a claim and get your bills paid. Payment of medical bills may come from your automobile insurance carrier, another person’s automobile insurance carrier, worker’s compensation or your own health insurance policy.
In premises liability cases – like a slip-and-fall – the defendant may have a medical payment provision in their insurance policy. This is commonly known as “med pay.” Med pay mandates the payment of medical bills up to a certain amount, regardless of liability. Almost all homeowners’ insurance policies contain med pay.
Please make sure that all medical bills that relate to your injury are sent to our office so we may forward them to the appropriate insurance company.
Keeping records and paperwork is important. Although your lawyers are able to obtain most information, sometimes we must rely on our clients to get us important documents and records quickly. These documents are very important. They assist us in proving your personal injury case. They also help in obtaining top dollar at settlement time.
The following are records to keep and maintain during a lawsuit:
- Pay stubs or payroll information to substantiate lost wages;
- Photographs of your injuries;
- Photographs from the accident scene;
- Videos of the accident scene;
- Medical bills;
- Copies of receipts or proof of payment of medical expenses, prescriptions and co-pays;
- A running list of physical limitations you are experiencing and activities you can no longer participate in but could before the accident.
If you are considering filing bankruptcy, you should know that you might lose all rights to your personal injury case. The bankruptcy court can take over your case, settle your case and give your settlement money to your creditors. Sometimes, you can end up with nothing. Be sure to talk to your personal injury lawyer before filing bankruptcy.
All personal injury cases against the government, whether it is from a car collision, pot hole, slip-and-fall or other incident is subject to special rules.
The governmental entity involved may be a city, county, or local government, or a road commission. Generally, in Michigan a governmental entity or government employee is immune from civil liability except in very specific situations. This means you cannot sue the government unless you meet one of these exceptions, or the government employee acted with gross negligence. The exceptions include:
- Defective roadway or defective highway;
- Defective sidewalk;
- Defective public building;
- Negligent operation or a car or truck – the motor vehicle exception;
- Injuries arising out of the performance of a proprietary function. Proprietary function means any activity which is conducted primarily for the purpose of producing a pecuniary profit for the governmental entity.
In addition, proper notice must be provided to the appropriate governmental agency. This notice must be provided within a certain time after the accident. If proper notice is not provided in time, you may forever lose your ability to go forward with a claim for personal injury.
The law regarding governmental entities and their employees is very detailed and full of fatal traps for the injury victim. If you believe that a governmental entity, such as a city or county, may be a proper defendant in your case, please notify us immediately.