Suing Michigan: What to Know
When you’ve been injured in an accident of any kind, filing a lawsuit is supposed to help bring justice by holding people accountable and giving the victim the compensation they need for recovery. But holding people accountable isn’t always easy. Often, the system is stacked against the little guy when certain types of entities are involved, like the government. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible.
Can You Sue the State of Michigan?
Generally speaking, Michigan has complete civil (tort) immunity regarding governmental functions that cause injury. But, there are some scenarios in which you’re eligible to bring a cause of action and make the government a defendant.
If the state is acting in a proprietary function – this is defined as an action that derives a profit – you can sue and name Michigan as a defendant in the lawsuit. An example of this would be a Michigan (public) hospital.
The government has an obligation to maintain public buildings that are under its control (i.e. the responsibility hasn’t been delegated to an independent contractor). Liability is limited:
- The building must be open for public use
- There must be a defective condition
- The government had constructive knowledge of the defective condition at the time of injury and
- The government failed to take action necessary to rectify the situation
Car Accidents Involving Michigan Government Vehicles
Government owned vehicles are responsible for damages as a result of the negligent operation by their officers, agents and employees. Generally speaking, government employees have a lot of rules protecting them from negligence lawsuits over things that happen in the course of their jobs, but car accidents are an exception. If you’re injured after getting into a car accident with a state employee who was driving a government-owned vehicle as part of their job, you may be able to file a lawsuit.
Can You Sue for Accidents Caused by Michigan Potholes?
Highway safety is important. Therefore, the governmental agency responsible for the highway (that has jurisdiction) must keep the highway safe for Michigan residents and fellow commuters. This is not a broad exception to the general rule that you can’t sue the government. This is a narrowly tailored exception that only arises if conditions are met on state-maintained roads:
- The government knew or should have known about the defect in the highway
- The government had to know of the defect at least 30 days prior to the injury
- The governmental agency does not breach its duty when it fails to remove a natural accumulation of snow and ice
If those three criteria are met, claims for damages up to $1,000 can be made against MDOT. If damages exceed $1,000, you will need to file a lawsuit against MDOT to recover your damages. It’s important to note that this only applies to state roads. If you have damages because of poor road conditions on a road maintained by a county, you will need to make your claim through the county instead of MDOT. Damages caused by poor road conditions in the city of Detroit also have their own claim process.
Goodwin & Scieszka wants to remind you that if you’ve been injured, contact our Birmingham, Michigan personal injury lawyers — especially if your injury involves government property or employees. Lawsuits against government entities can be particularly complex so it’s very important to have an experienced lawyer on your side who can make sure your case is handled appropriately and fight for you to get the compensation you need.
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