The Michigan Mini-Tort Law - Lee Steinberg Law Firm

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The Michigan Mini-Tort Law

The Michigan mini-tort law is one of the more confusing and frustrating aspects of the Michigan no-fault law.

First, let’s start with some background. Under the Michigan no-fault law, the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not pay for all repairs to your car if it is damaged in a car accident. Instead, you must purchase collision coverage through your own insurance company to pay for repairs for your car damage.  The most a person at-fault for causing an accident must pay for vehicle damage is $1,000.  If your vehicle sustains damage in a car accident, and you are 50% or less at-fault for causing the accident, you can pursue what’s called a “mini-tort” claim for up to $1,000 through the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

If your vehicle damage is more than $1,000, then you turn to your own insurance company for repair work if, and only if, you have collision coverage.

There are some important things to understand about collecting on a mini-tort. As described under MCL 500.3135(3)(e) and MCL 500.3135(4), damages are assessed on the basis of comparative fault. This means you may not receive the entire $1,000 if you are at-fault for causing the car accident. For example, if you are 25% at-fault for causing the accident, and the vehicle damage is $1,000, the insurance company may only offer you $750. In addition, if you are more than 50% at-fault for causing the accident, you are not entitled to mini-tort compensation at all. MCL 500.3135(4)(a).

Furthermore, to obtain mini-tort compensation, your vehicle must be insured at the time of the car accident. If your vehicle was uninsured, you cannot make a mini-tort claim against the other driver’s insurance company.  MCL 500.3135(4)(e).

Last, although most mini-tort claims are resolved through an insurance claim without having to resort to legal action, mini-tort cases that cannot be resolved through the claims process are litigated through small claims court. Typically, this means no attorneys may represent either party in the litigation action. MCL 500.3135(4)(c).

Setting up a mini-tort claim with the other motorist’s insurance company is not difficult. Usually, the insurance adjuster will ask you for a damage estimate from a collision shop, photos of your vehicle damage and the declaration page of your own auto insurance policy.

Although the $1,000 is very low and dissatisfying, believe it or not the Michigan legislature just raised the mini-tort amount in 2013 from $500. This amount had been the mini-tort cap for close to 40 years.