What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Michigan?

Question

What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Michigan?

Answer

First, let’s cut through the legalese, for those who aren’t fluent. A “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right (as the prospective plaintiff) to go to court and file a lawsuit over some type of harm or loss. There are different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file, but the time limit is almost always expressed in years.

As is true in most states, the statute of limitations that affects car accident lawsuits in Michigan is the same as the larger one that applies to all personal injury cases. Specifically, Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5805 says that “the period of limitations is 3 years after the time of the death or injury for all actions to recover damages for the death of a person, or for injury to a person or property.”    

In plain English, that means an injury claim arising from any accident or incident must be filed within three years. So, whether the claim is made by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian, the “clock” starts running on the date of the accident. But keep in mind that if someone dies as a result of the accident and their family wants to file wrongful death lawsuit, the deadline is still three years, but the “clock” starts on the date of the person’s death, which can be different from the date of the accident.  (Learn more about Michigan Wrongful Death Lawsuits.)

If you try to file your lawsuit after Michigan’s three-year time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (that’s the person you’re trying to sue) pointing out that discrepancy to the court as part of a motion to dismiss. The court will almost certainly grant the motion, and that will be the end of your case. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how the statute of applies to your situation.

Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks.  If you think you might be running up against the three-year deadline, you may want to contact an experienced Michigan car accident attorney.

by:  David Goguen, J.D.

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