Jury Verdict Research recently released a new study looking at the average personal injury awards in Michigan: $1,089,638. As always, personal injury verdicts conflate the average; the median personal injury compensation award in Michigan is $99,506.
Interestingly, plaintiffs receive a financial recovery in 44% of personal injury lawsuits that go to trial compared to the national average of 52%. These numbers are misleading because the type of case has a huge bearing on both the average recovery and the plaintiffs’ success rate. But this data from Michigan, as well as this settlement and verdict info, are still interesting to personal injury lawyers and accident and malpractice victims in Michigan.
Michigan Personal Injury Verdicts and Settlements
The following are some recent Michigan personal injury verdicts and settlements:
- 2022, Michigan: $2,745,000 Verdict. A 70-something man underwent an anterior C5-6 and C6-7 decompression and fusion. The surgeon approached the neck through a left-side incision. Following the procedure, the man suffered adjacent segment disease. Nine years later, he underwent a revision procedure. The surgeon approached the neck through a right-side incision. Following the procedure, the man experienced breathing and speaking difficulties. Post-surgical testing revealed vocal cord paralysis. The man ultimately required intubation. He experienced difficulties with speaking, eating, and drinking. The man continued to suffer from hoarseness and breathing problems after having the tube removed. His symptoms made it difficult with yard work and walking. The man alleged negligence against the surgeon. He claimed he improperly performed the procedure and failed to check for nerve damage. The jury awarded $2,745,000.
- 2020, Michigan: $1,000,000 Settlement. A woman suffered a traumatic brain injury shortly after undergoing elective neck surgery. Following the procedure, her recorded oxygen levels were at 99%. She was then sent from the PACU to the floor unit. Her next recorded oxygen levels were at 46%, then 66%, three minutes later. The nurse and CNA testified that there was about an hour delay between the readings and when the rapid response team resuscitated her. She ultimately sustained a traumatic brain injury. The treating neurologist testified that a pituitary injury sustained during surgery caused it. The woman could drive but was physically unable to return to work. This case settled for $1,000,000.
- 2020, Michigan: $1,800,000 Settlement. A landscaper’s vehicle was broadsided by a police vehicle at an intersection in Ypsilanti. An ambulance transferred him to a hospital, where he stayed for two weeks. He received a traumatic brain injury diagnosis. The man also suffered right leg tendon ruptures and tears. While hospitalized, he received physical, cognitive, occupational, and speech therapy. He was later transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility, where he stayed for a month. The man underwent therapy for two years. He subsequently underwent open exploration and repair to his right leg tendons. The man now experienced difficulties with moving his right foot. The man never went back to work following the accident. His doctors claimed that he was now permanently disabled. He sued the police officer for negligence and the City of Ypsilanti for vicarious liability. The man claimed that the officer failed to yield the right-of-way to him and was speeding. One week before trial, the case settled for $1,800,000.
- 2020, Michigan: $175,000 Settlement. A married couple suffered unspecified personal injuries in a motor vehicle accident. They sought PIP benefits from their insurer, Allstate. The couple sued Allstate for refusing to pay their PIP benefits. During the trial, the case settled for $175,000.
- 2019, Michigan: $17,000,000 Verdict. A 70-year-old woman underwent a femoral angioplasty to reduce her leg cramps and improve blood flow. She alleged that the hospital staff left the sheaths for too long, causing a blood clot. A cardiothoracic surgeon was consulted the following day. The woman alleged that the surgeon failed to treat the clot and restore her blood flow. Instead, they attempted to inflate the balloons and stems used during the angioplasty. This was done despite the non-party surgeon, who performed the angioplasty, testifying that they were already inflated. The inflation resulted in calcium build-up that caused internal bleeding. She would become paralyzed below her waist as a result. The woman also developed gangrene to her leg, which would be amputated months later. Her internal bleeding also caused an orange-sized ulcer to develop. Despite multiple debridement procedures, it remained. She testified that she would now need extensive care, including round-the-clock care. The Ingham County jury awarded her a $17,000,000 verdict.
- 2019, Michigan: $68,000 Verdict. A woman suffered undisclosed injuries after an uninsured motorist struck her vehicle. She sued the driver for negligence and her UIM carrier, Allstate, for refusing to pay her UIM benefits. The woman sought damages for her lost wages and pain and suffering. This case eventually proceeded to trial, where Allstate was the only listed defendant. A Wayne County jury awarded her $68,000. The court entered a final judgment of $135,000, based on issues of interest, taxable costs, case evaluation sanctions, and post-verdict issues.
- 2019, Michigan: $340,000 Verdict. A man entered an intersection on a green light and was subsequently hit by a tractor-trailer that ran a red light. He and his passenger suffered undisclosed injuries. They sued the truck driver for negligence and his employer for vicarious liability. Specifically, they alleged that the trucker failed to keep a proper lookout, failed to obey a traffic signal, and failed to maintain reasonable speeds. The Macomb County jury found the man 5 percent negligent and the truck driver 95 percent negligent. They determined the damages amounted to $340,000. The court reduced it to $323,000, based on comparative negligence.
- 2019, Michigan: $50,000 Verdict. A man entered an intersection and yielded to pedestrians crossing the street. The vehicle behind him then rear-ended him. The man suffered neck and back injuries. He sued the driver for following him too closely and failing to properly observe the road. The man also sued the vehicle’s owner for entrusting the vehicle to an incompetent driver. He sought pain and suffering damages. The driver and vehicle owner admitted negligence but contested the injuries’ extent. An Oakland County jury ruled in favor of the man and awarded him $50,000.
Michigan Personal Injury Law
This section will provide a general overview of Michigan law in personal injury cases such as medical malpractice, auto accidents, and product liability claims.
Statute of Limitations in Michigan Injury Cases
All states have statute of limitation laws which establish time limits on how long a potential plaintiff can wait before taking action and filing a lawsuit for a personal injury case. Michigan has its own statute of limitations that set legal deadlines for filing tort lawsuits. If the plaintiff does not file their case before these deadlines expire, they will be permanently barred from filing. In Michigan, the statute of limitations is slightly different for medical malpractice cases vs. auto accidents and other personal injury claims, so we will look at those separately.
2-Year Statute of Limitations for Michigan Malpractice Cases
Under Michigan law, all medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 2-years of negligent act by the health provider that gives rise to the claim. Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(6). Mi
However, Mich Comp. Laws § 600.5838a(2) adopts a modified version of the discovery rule. Under this modified rule, if the general 2-year SOL has already expired, the discovery rule can be applied but it only gives the plaintiff a 6 month extension to file. In other words, if more than 2-years pass before the plaintiff first “discovers” (or reasonably should have discovered) that they have a malpractice claim, then they will have 6-months to file a lawsuit.
Regardless of the application of the discovery rule, however, Michigan law requires that all medical malpractice claims must be filed within 6 years of the act (or failure to act) giving rise to the claim. Although this is not a statute of repose, if effectively acts like one. The only exceptions to this 6 year maximum limit are if the health care provider fraudulently concealed the malpractice, or if the injury involves permanent damage to the claimant’s reproductive system. Exceptions to all of these SOL deadlines also apply in cases where the potential plaintiff is a minor (under the age of 18) at the time of the injury.
3-Year Statute of Limitations for Michigan Injury Cases
Personal injury lawsuits in Michigan (except for medical malpractice lawsuits against licensed healthcare professionals) are subject to a 3-year statute of limitations. Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805. The statute 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.”
This means that you only have 3 years to file a personal injury lawsuit in Michigan or your claim will be time-barred. When does the 3 years SOL period begin to run? In most cases, the 3-year period under the statute of limitations begins to run whenever the plaintiff’s injury occurs. In an auto accident case, this is always going to be the date of the accident. However, Michigan does recognize the discovery rule, under which the SOL period would not be until the plaintiff first discovers (or reasonably should have discovery) that their injury was caused by someone else’s negligence.
The Michigan governmental immunity doctrine, outlined in the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401 et seq., provides a shield for the state government and its agencies from tort liability. This immunity is derived from the outdated but still with us concept of “sovereign immunity.” This is the idea that the government cannot be sued without its consent.
In Michigan, the GTLA grants immunity to the state, its political subdivisions, and their employees when they engage in “governmental functions.” A governmental function, as defined by the GTLA, is an activity “expressly or impliedly mandated or authorized by the constitution, statute, local charter or ordinance, or other law.” MCL 691.1401(a). This broad definition encompasses a wide range of activities, making it difficult for plaintiffs to successfully bring tort claims against the state government.
Exceptions to Michigan State Government Immunity
Despite the general immunity granted by the GTLA, in most tort claims Michigan personal injury lawyers handle, there is a path to suing the state of Michigan for the conduct of its agents and employees. The most notable exceptions are:
- Highway Exception: The state and its subdivisions may be held liable for injuries arising from a failure to maintain public highways, including roads, bridges, and sidewalks, under certain conditions. MCL 691.1402. However, this exception does not cover traffic signals or signs, guardrails, or temporary obstructions such as ice and snow.
- Public Building Exception: Governmental agencies can be held liable for injuries resulting from a dangerous or defective condition in a public building under their control if they had actual or constructive notice of the defect. MCL 691.1406.
- Motor Vehicle Exception: State and local government employees may be held liable for injuries resulting from the negligent operation of a government-owned motor vehicle while engaged in a governmental function. MCL 691.1405.
- Proprietary Function Exception: Activities that are primarily commercial or profit-oriented, as opposed to governmental in nature, may not be protected by governmental immunity. This exception is relatively narrow and largely depends on the specific facts of each case.
Special Rules When Suing Michigan State Government
To pursue a tort claim against the state government in Michigan, a plaintiff must follow a specific process, which includes:
- Notice of Intent: Before initiating a lawsuit, the plaintiff must serve a notice of intent to sue upon the state agency or employee responsible for the alleged injury. The notice must be served within 120 days of the injury and must include specific details about the claim, including the factual basis, nature of the claim, and the damages sought. If you file a lawsuit within 120 days, that is sufficient notice the Michigan Supreme Court told us in in 2022
- Filing a Claim with the Court of Claims: After providing notice, the plaintiff must file their claim with the Michigan Court of Claims, a specialized court that handles lawsuits against the state. The plaintiff must file the claim within three years of the injury for personal injury claims and within two years for property damage claims.
- Litigation Process: Once the claim is filed, the case will proceed through the standard stages of litigation, including discovery, motions, and trial. The Michigan Court of Claims has its own set of procedural rules that must be followed throughout the litigation process.
Michigan’s Modified Comparative Fault Rule
Comparative negligence is a legal principle that apportions fault among multiple parties involved in an accident or injury. This concept is particularly relevant in personal injury cases, where the actions of both the plaintiff and defendant may have contributed to the harm suffered.
In Michigan, the doctrine of comparative negligence, also known as modified comparative negligence, is followed to determine the allocation of fault and the recovery of damages. This doctrine in Michigan is governed by the Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.2959 which codified a Michigan Supreme Court ruling.
Under this doctrine, the fault of each party is assessed, and damages are apportioned accordingly.
Michigan follows a “modified” comparative negligence rule, which means that a plaintiff can recover damages only if their degree of fault is less than 50%. If the plaintiff’s fault is found to be 50% or more, they are barred from recovering any damages. Furthermore, if the plaintiff’s negligence is found to be less than 50%, their damages will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
For example, if a plaintiff suffers $500,000 in damages and is found to be 20% at fault, their recovery will be reduced by 20%, leaving them with a $300,000 jury payout. But that fault number has to say under 50% under the modified rule. So if the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, they will not recover any damages.
Michigan is a No-Fault Auto Accident State
Michigan is among the minority of states that follow a “no-fault” system for auto accident cases. This means that for most auto accidents in Michigan, your own insurance company pays for your own damages regardless of who was at-fault for causing the accident. So even if you are innocently sitting at a red light waiting for children and puppies to cross the street when you get recklessly rear-ended, you would probably have to use your own insurance to cover the accident.
The only way to go outside of Michigan’s no-fault accident rules is if the auto accident results in very serious injuries and/or death. When the accident results in very serious, permanent injuries or death, then Michigan law allows you to go after the at-fault driver and their insurance for damages just like you would in a state that follows a tort system. Exactly what qualifies as a serious injury for these purposes under Michigan law is somewhat ambiguous.
Strict Liability in Dog Bite Cases
Michigan has adopted strict liability in injury cases involving dog bites. Mich. Comp. Laws § 287.351 Under the strict liability rule, a dog owner is liable for damages even if they had no prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities or had no reason to believe the dog would bite.
To establish a claim under the dog bite statute, the plaintiff must prove three elements:
- The defendant is the owner of the dog.
- The dog bit the plaintiff without provocation.
- The plaintiff was either on public property or lawfully on private property at the time of the bite.
If these elements are satisfied, the dog owner is generally liable for the plaintiff’s damages, regardless of the owner’s knowledge or negligence.
Michigan Medical Malpractice Laws
Like most states, Michigan has enacted special laws and procedural rules that apply in medical malpractice lawsuits against licensed healthcare providers. Licensed healthcare providers include doctors, nurses, hospitals and many other types of healthcare professionals.
Notice of Intent Required to Malpractice Cases
Before filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice in Michigan, all plaintiffs are required to file a Notice of Intent to File Suit (NOI). The NOI must be in writing and must be formally served on all healthcare providers named as defendants in the case. The NOI must be served at least 182 days before the malpractice lawsuit is filed.
Serving the NOI tolls the statute of limitations for 182 days. However, if the NOI does not comply with all of the statutory requirements, the 182-day tolling period is void and the claim can be dismissed if filed beyond the statute of limitations deadline.
Affidavit of Merit Requirement
Michigan law requires all medical malpractice cases to be supported by an affidavit of merit from a qualified medical expert under state law. The medical expert who provides the affidavit must be a doctor or healthcare professional practicing or teaching in the same specialty or field as the defendant. The expert must also have the same board certifications the defendant. So, this rule would prevent a general practitioner from giving an expert opinion in a medical malpractice case against a neurologist or surgeon.
The affidavit of merit must state the expert has reviewed the medical records and facts of the case. It must also certify that in the expert’s opinion, a breach of the applicable standard of medical care occurred in the case (i.e., the defendants were negligent).
Cap on Pain and Suffering Damages in Michigan Malpractice Cases
Michigan law has a maximum cap on the amount of non-economic damages that a plaintiff can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages are better known as pain and suffering damages. The non-economic damages cap is currently $470,000, but it is adjusted upward for inflation each year.
In cases where the plaintiff suffers from permanent paralysis (hemiplegic, paraplegic or quadriplegic) due to an injury to the brain or spinal cord, or where there is permanently impaired cognitive capacity or permanent loss of (or damage to) a reproductive body part, the cap is currently in excess of $850,000.
Michigan Product Liability Cases
Michigan is notorious for having some of the strictest product liability laws of any state in the U.S. This is partly due to the historic influence in the state of big auto companies like Ford and General Motors. Despite these laws, however, Michigan residents are still bringing product liability lawsuits, including several national mass tort cases that our firm is currently accepting:
- Hair relaxer lawsuit: according to new research, prolonged use of chemical hair relaxer products can cause uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, and other conditions. This has prompted hundreds of women to file hair relaxer lawsuits.
- Tylenol autism lawsuit: there is a growing body of evidence showing that using Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy can increase the risk of autism or ADHD. This has prompted a growing class action lawsuit by parents of children with autism and ADHD.
- Camp Lejeune lawsuit: A new law allowed individuals exposed to the toxic water at the Camp Lejeune marine corps base in North Carolina to file claims for compensation.