If your car was damaged in an auto accident, please take the time to look over the following questions about Michigan mini tort that our insurance lawyers frequently hear from clients. If you’d like to contact a mini tort lawyer from Michigan Auto Law immediately, please fill out our contact form with absolutely no fee or obligation, or call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation.
Under Michigan’s mini tort law, victims of car accidents can recover a maximum of $1,000 for vehicle damage from the driver who caused the crash, via his automobile insurance company. This is called a mini tort claim.
Mini tort only covers vehicle damage. If you were injured, please visit our no-fault lawyers resource center to read more about what benefits you’re entitled to from your first- and third-party auto accident cases.
Assuming the person who caused the accident has auto insurance; she would be responsible for a maximum of $1,000 toward vehicle damage resulting from the accident.
Michigan’s mini tort law is not designed to pay for all of your vehicle damage. The purpose is to compensate a person involved in a car accident that was not at-fault for out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the collision. Michigan’s mini tort law is premised upon people being free to purchase their own collision coverage. If an individual has existing collision coverage, the full vehicle repair costs from the accident will be paid from that policy. However, even if someone has collision coverage, he can still make a mini tort claim for incidental, out-of-pocket expenses such as a deductible. Again, the maximum amount recoverable from a mini tort is limited to $1,000.
If you have Michigan no-fault insurance coverage, the mini tort will limit your personal liability to $1,000 for vehicle damage you have caused in a car accident that is your fault. In other words, the mini tort protects you from vehicle damage claims that are more than $1,000. If the vehicle damage is far more extensive, the person whose vehicle you struck will have no choice but to turn to their own insurance company to pay the excess vehicle repair costs — assuming that person carries collision coverage on her no-fault auto insurance policy.
On the other hand, if you are one of the tens of thousands of people driving on Michigan roads without automobile insurance and you caused an automobile accident, the Michigan mini tort law will not shield you from personal liability. You will be responsible for all vehicle damage you caused.
Under Michigan’s mini tort law, victims of car accidents can recover a maximum of $1,000 for vehicle damage from the driver who caused the crash. The driver who caused the accident, assuming he has no-fault insurance, is protected beyond the first $1,000 of vehicle damage. How much you can recover from a mini tort claim depends on your percentage of fault in the car accident. For example, let’s say the car damage amounts to only $100 and the other driver is deemed 75 percent responsible for causing the accident. That driver would pay $75 under Michigan’s mini tort law. You would be responsible for the remaining $25 because you would be 25 percent at-fault. Keep in mind that in most car accidents, one person is usually 100 percent at fault.
These cases are normally handled in small claims court, but either party may ask to have the case moved to a higher jurisdiction.
There are two types of collision coverage in Michigan: standard (basic) or broad collision. If you have standard/basic collision coverage, you will have to pay your collision deductible whether you caused the car accident or not. If your car was totaled in the car accident, your insurance company will usually pay you the value of your car — less the deductible amount listed in your Michigan insurance policy.
If you were less than 50 percent responsible for causing a car accident, then you will have a mini tort claim against the owner or driver of the vehicle who caused the crash.
If you have broad collision and you are less than 50 percent at-fault for causing a car accident, your own auto insurance company will waive your deductible. Broad collision insurance coverage is slightly more expensive than standard/basic collision insurance coverage. Because you will not have out-of-pocket expenses with broad collision in the event of a car accident, you will not have a Michigan mini tort claim.
Insurance deductible amounts in Michigan vary. Here are a few examples:
The insurance attorneys at Michigan Auto Law recommend that if you are going to carry Michigan standard or basic collision coverage, that you do not carry a deductible that exceeds $1,000, so you can avoid additional out-of-pocket expenses.
Many people in Michigan also have medical deductibles in their personal injury protection (PIP) no-fault auto insurance policies. For example, a $300 per person medical deductible is fairly common. This means you must pay the first $300 of medical expenses incurred after your car accident and before you can turn to your Michigan no-fault insurance company to begin paying additional medical expenses.
There is no provision under the Michigan mini tort law that allows you to recover reimbursement for medical deductibles from the person who caused your auto accident, and medical deductibles from a health insurance plan, for example, are not a part of a Michigan mini tort claim.
In addition to medical deductibles, some insurance companies, such as Farm Bureau, now offer a deductible for wage loss PIP benefits at a reduced premium. Again, this is not covered under the Michigan mini tort claim and cannot be recovered from the person who caused the automobile accident.
When the driver who causes a car accident is not the vehicle’s owner, and the driver and owner have different auto insurance companies, you should first make a claim with the insurance company of the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident. That insurance company is primarily responsible for the mini tort claim according to Michigan no-fault law.
If the owner of the vehicle does not have Michigan no-fault insurance, then proceed with the auto insurance company of the driver who caused the accident. Keep in mind, the owner of the vehicle does not escape responsibility for not carrying mandatory Michigan no-fault insurance. The auto insurance company of the driver who caused the accident can turn to the vehicle owner for reimbursement of his or her $1,000 mini tort claim, either in court or by sending the owner to collections.
You have three (3) years from the date of the car accident to file a mini tort lawsuit or collect your mini tort claim. After three years, your claim will be time-barred and you will be unable to collect your mini tort claim under Michigan law.
If the wrongdoer’s auto insurance company does not cover the mini tort claim, or has refused to pay you, it is usually because the other driver has reported that the auto accident was caused by you and is your fault. If this happens, you can contact the owner of the vehicle and request he pay you directly, or you can file a claim in small claims court. These courts have limited jurisdiction. However, if the owner of the car that caused the auto accident is not insured, than he is responsible for the full amount of vehicle damage, and the $1,000 mini tort cap does not apply. If your vehicle damage exceeds $3,000, you must remove your claim and file a lawsuit in district court.
If the driver that caused the accident was in a vehicle owned by a corporation, then by law, that corporation must be represented by a Michigan lawyer and any lawsuit filed in small claims court against a corporation would be automatically moved to district court. Unfortunately, this will likely result in additional expense and frustration.
However, you may be able to avoid district court and still file a mini tort lawsuit in small claims court. Our mini tort attorneys recommend filing in small claims court against the driver only. Or you can file in district court, and hire a Michigan insurance lawyer to represent you. Another option is filing a letter with the Michigan insurance commissioner at the address below, explaining that it is cost prohibitive for you to file a lawsuit in district court against a corporation in order to collect your Michigan mini tort claim.
The Michigan insurance commissioner can be contacted at:
Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Services
P.O. Box 30220
Lansing, MI 48909-7720
Rental car expenses are not considered to be personal out-of-pocket expenses for purposes of Michigan’s mini tort insurance law. Therefore, you will be responsible for vehicle damage to a rental car even if another driver causes the car crash. This is assuming you did not purchase optional rental car collision coverage, and you do not already have optional rental car coverage with your own auto insurance policy. Without either rental car collision coverage or optional rental car coverage in your own policy, you will be unable to recover the money for vehicle repairs. If you do have rental car coverage, but the daily allowance is less than the cost of a car rental, you will not be able to recover the difference.
Unfortunately, if you were involved in a motorcycle accident, you must pay for the damage to the motorcycle. That’s because a motorcycle is not considered a “motor vehicle” under Michigan’s no-fault insurance law. Therefore, it does not qualify for a mini tort claim.
However, there is an exception: If the motorcycle is parked, it’s considered “property” and a claim can be made against the person who caused the damage under his or her property protection insurance. If the motorcycle owner has motorcycle collision coverage, a claim can also be made with the owner’s own insurance company. Remember, if you are making a claim against someone’s property protection insurance, you have only one (1) year from the date of the accident to collect the damage or file a lawsuit.
To obtain your mini tort coverage, you can write a letter to the insurance company of the person who caused the accident, and request the money. Include the police report proving the person who caused the accident was at-fault; a declaration sheet from your own insurance company showing your coverage; and an estimate of vehicle repairs and/or photos including the license plate. For more information, read the sample mini tort letters below or call one of our Michigan mini tort lawyers at (800) 777-0028.
You can also read our Step by Step Guide to Collecting Your Michigan Mini Tort.
Michigan Auto Law is the state’s largest law firm practicing exclusively in car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases. We have helped injury victims throughout Michigan for more than 50 years and three generations. Our lawyers understand that dealing with Michigan no-fault insurance laws can be challenging, and we can help obtain your mini tort benefits and other important insurance benefits. To speak with a mini tort attorney directly, please call (800) 777-0028 or fill out our consultation form and we’d be happy to help.