Michigan Personal Injury Laws and Statutes of Limitations

Michigan's basic personal injury laws, like the deadlines to file a lawsuit, claims against the government, what happens if you're partly to blame, and more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

You've been injured in Michigan. Maybe you were hurt by a careless doctor, or fell on an icy sidewalk, or got punched by a drunk bar patron. You're thinking about a personal injury (PI) insurance claim or a lawsuit. But like most Michiganders, you don't know much about the laws and procedures that will govern your case.

We'll get you up to speed on the basics, starting with the deadlines to file a PI lawsuit in Michigan court. From there, we cover special rules that apply to claims against the government, where your case will be filed, what happens if you're partly to blame for your injuries, and much more.

Michigan's Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

A "statute of limitations" is a law that limits your time to file a lawsuit in court. Starting with Michigan's three-year general rule, we'll review the state's personal injury limitation periods.

The General Rule: Three Years From the Date You're Injured

As a general rule, you have three years to file a personal injury lawsuit. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(2) (2024).) The clock normally starts running on the date you were injured. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5827 (2024).) Some of the most common PI claims covered by this three-year rule include:

(Learn more about Michigan wrongful death lawsuits and slip-and-fall laws.)

Other Statutes of Limitations for Specific Personal Injury Cases

Michigan's three-year PI statute of limitations isn't a "one-size-fits-all" rule. Other filing deadlines apply to specific personal injury cases. Here are some examples.

Intentional injuries. When the defendant (the party you're suing) purposefully or deliberately harms you, the law calls it an "intentional tort." While there are exceptions—see Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(4)-(6) (2024)—in most cases you have two years to sue for the intentional torts of assault and battery and false imprisonment. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(3) (2024)

Defamation of character. You don't have much time to act when the defendant makes a false statement of fact about you that harms your reputation in the community. The deadline to file a defamation lawsuit is just one year from the date the defamatory statement is made. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(11) (2024).)

(Learn more about Michigan's defamation statute of limitations.)

Medical malpractice. Michigan has a number of special rules that apply in medical malpractice lawsuits. One of them is the statute of limitations. Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(8) (2024) gives you two years to sue for medical malpractice. The clock starts on the date the malpractice happens. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5838a(1) (2024).)

In some situations, you might get more time to file. (See Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5838a(2) (2024).)

(Here's more about Michigan's medical malpractice statute of limitations.)

Dangerous products. When you're hurt by a dangerous or defective product, it's called a "product liability" case. The deadline to file a Michigan product liability lawsuit is three years. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(12) (2024).)

Can the Michigan Statute of Limitations Deadline Be Extended?

In some situations, yes, the filing deadline might be extended. Note that these extensions aren't automatic. They're exceptions to the normal statute of limitations rules, meaning it's up to you to prove you should get more time. Quite often, the defendant will put up a serious fight. You'll want an experienced lawyer representing you to make your arguments to the court.

The injured person is legally disabled. A "legally disabled" person can't manage their own legal affairs without help, usually from a parent or legal guardian. Michigan law considers minors (younger than 18 years old) and those who are "insane" to be legally disabled.

A legally disabled person who suffers a personal injury has one year from the date the disability is "removed" to bring a personal injury lawsuit. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5851 (2024).)

Defendant leaves Michigan to avoid being sued. It should come as no surprise that most defendants aren't eager to be sued for their misconduct. Occasionally, they go to extreme lengths to avoid a lawsuit, like fleeing the state. Should that happen in your PI case, Michigan law probably gives you additional time.

The deadline clock is paused until they return to Michigan as to any defendant who:

  • was outside of Michigan when you were injured, or
  • left the state after you were hurt, and was gone for more than two months.

But there's a catch: This extension only applies when, because of the defendant's absence from Michigan, you're unable to serve them with your lawsuit. In other words, if a court later decides you could have served the defendant while they were outside Michigan, the statute runs during their absence. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5853 (2024).)

Fraudulent concealment. Suppose the defendant fraudulently conceals your PI claim, or the identity of a person who might be legally responsible for your claim. Michigan law allows you additional time to bring a lawsuit. You have two years from the date you discover or should have discovered your claim, or the identity of the potentially responsible party, to sue. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5855 (2024).)

Personal Injuries Caused by the Government or a Government Employee

Suing the government or a government employee isn't like suing a private person or a business. You have to follow special rules and procedures. Even if you win, the compensation ("damages") you can collect will probably be limited. Long story short: If you were hurt by the government or a government employee, hire a Michigan lawyer who specializes in government claims.

Michigan State Law

The Michigan law that governs claims against the government—state and local—is called the Government Tort Liability Act. The Act lists seven categories of claims for which the government and its employees can be held legally responsible. If your claim doesn't fall within one of those seven categories, then the government is immune from (not legally responsible for) it.

Giving Notice Before You Sue

Before you can file a lawsuit against Michigan, a local Michigan government, or a government employee, you first must give the government written notice of your claim. As a rule, you don't have much time to provide this notice. For example, if you were injured because of a dangerous road or public building, you must notify the appropriate government agency within just 120 days after the date you were hurt. Different deadlines apply to other kinds of claims.

Fail to give the required notice and chances are you won't be allowed to sue for damages.

(Learn more about claims against the government in Michigan.)

Where Will My Michigan Personal Injury Lawsuit Be Filed?

Unless you plan to file your PI case in Michigan's small claims court—where your damages can't exceed $7,000—you should have a Michigan attorney prepare, file, and handle your lawsuit. Why? Among other reasons, because your case will be governed by the Michigan Rules of Civil Procedure and the Michigan Rules of Evidence.

These rules are complicated and difficult to understand. Chances are you're not familiar with them, and the time to learn isn't while you're trying to handle your own case. A Michigan personal injury lawyer knows these rules and how they apply to your lawsuit.

File in the Correct Court

Most personal injury lawsuits are filed in the Michigan Circuit Court, the state's court of original, general jurisdiction. In other words, this is the court where most cases, both criminal and civil, begin.

All PI cases involving damages of more than $25,000 belong in the Circuit Court, unless you're suing the State of Michigan. Personal injury lawsuits involving damages of more than $1,000 against the state are filed in the Michigan Court of Claims, located in Ingham County.

When you're asking for not more than $25,000 in damages, you can file your case in the Michigan District Court.

    File in the Proper Location

    Except for cases filed in the Court of Claims, your lawyer will have to file in the correct "venue," or location. In most personal injury cases, that will be the place:

    • where the defendant lives
    • where the defendant, if it's a company, has its place of business, or
    • where you were injured.

    (Learn more about how to file a personal injury lawsuit.)

    What If I'm Partly at Fault for My Injury in Michigan?

    To win damages in a personal injury case, normally you have to prove that the defendant was negligent. Many times, the defendant will point the finger back at you, claiming that you were negligent, too. By getting some of the negligence pinned on you, the defendant hopes to reduce (or even eliminate) the damages you can collect.

    This is a legal defense called "comparative negligence," and a version of it is available in Michigan. Here's how it works.

    Michigan Is a "Modified Comparative Negligence" State

    Michigan law lets you collect some personal injury damages, even if you were partly to blame. When your share of the negligence isn't greater than 50%, your total damages are reduced by a percentage that's equal to your share of the total negligence. Should you be found 51% or more to blame, then:

    • your economic damages, for losses like medical bills, lost wages, amounts you pay for replacement household services, and other out-of-pocket expenses, get reduced by a percentage equal to your share of the total negligence, and
    • you can't recover any noneconomic damages for injuries like pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, or loss of enjoyment of life.

    (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.2959 (2024).)

    How Does Michigan's "Modified Comparative Negligence" Rule Work?

    You're grocery shopping one afternoon when you trip and fall on a broken floor tile in one of the store's aisles. The fall breaks your ankle and tears cartilage in your knee. You sue the store for negligence. The store answers that you were negligent too, for not watching where you were going.

    After a jury trial, jurors assess your total damages at $100,000. Of this amount, $50,000 is for economic losses including your medical bills and lost earnings. The remaining $50,000 covers your noneconomic damages—pain and suffering, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life.

    Example No. 1. The jurors find that the store was 65% negligent and that you were 35% to blame. Because you were only 35% negligent, you can recover 65% of your total damages: $100,000 x 65% = $65,000.

    Example No. 2. The jurors find you 60% negligent and assign 40% of the blame to the store. You were 60% to blame, so you get only 40% of your economic damages: $50,000 x 40% = $20,000. Because you were more than 50% negligent, you're not allowed to collect any of your $50,000 in noneconomic damages.

    Michigan Is a "No-Fault" Auto Insurance State

    Michigan is one of about a dozen "no-fault" auto insurance states. If you're injured in an auto accident in Michigan, you look first to your own "personal injury protection" (PIP) insurance to pay for your medical bills and lost wages. Your PIP coverage won't pay for noneconomic damages like pain and suffering or emotional distress.

    Should you want to collect those damages after a wreck where the other driver was to blame, you must file an insurance claim or a car accident lawsuit against that driver. Under Michigan law, you're only allowed to do that in specified circumstances, like when your injuries meet the state's severity threshold.

    Learn more about Michigan's car insurance rules and requirements.

    Michigan Dog Owners Are Strictly Liable for Dog Bite Injuries

    In some states, a dog owner is liable for bite injuries only if the dog has bitten someone before, or the owner otherwise knows that the animal has dangerous or vicious characteristics. Not so in Michigan. Under Mich. Comp. Laws § 287.351(1) (2024), a dog owner is "strictly liable" for injuries their dog causes, unless:

    • the dog was provoked, or
    • the victim was unlawfully on private property.

    The owner is liable even if they didn't know the dog had dangerous tendencies, and regardless of whether the dog had a history of biting.

    (Get the details on Michigan dog bite laws.)

    Michigan Personal Injury Damage Caps

    Many states limit, or "cap," personal injury damages. In those states that have caps, nearly all of them limit only noneconomic damages for injuries like pain and suffering. A few limit damages across the board, in all PI cases. Most target specific types of claims. Medical malpractice and product liability suits are favorites.

    Michigan doesn't cap damages in all personal injury cases. There are no caps for car accident lawsuits or slip and fall cases, for example.

    But Michigan does cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.1483(1) (2024), and in product liability cases. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.2946a(1) (2024).) The cap is adjusted for inflation every January. For 2024, the cap amounts are:

    • in most medical malpractice and product liability cases, $569,000, and
    • in medical malpractice cases involving catastrophic injuries like paralysis, brain injury, or permanent loss of the ability to reproduce, and in product liability cases involving death or permanent loss of a "vital bodily function," $1,016,000.

    Get Help With Your Michigan Personal Injury Case

    We've covered many of Michigan's basic personal injury laws. Truth be told, though, we've only just scratched the surface. An experienced Michigan lawyer understands Michigan PI law and how it applies to your case. You can bet that the defendant will be represented by legal counsel. To make it a fair fight, you should be, too.

    When you decide it's time to move forward with your case, here's how to find an attorney in your area.

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