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What happens when the person who caused a crash refuses to pay my mini tort claim?

May 30, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

How to hold a driver responsible for vehicle damage under the Michigan mini tort

Under Michigan’s mini tort law, car accident victims can recover a maximum of $1,000 for vehicle damage from the driver who caused the crash, via his or her auto insurance company. This is called a mini tort claim.

The mini tort is a great way to recoup the first thousand dollars for your vehicle damage if someone else causes a car accident and leaves your car damaged.

But what if the driver who caused the crash refuses to pay? Unfortunately, this happens all the time. But you do not have to call a lawyer. In fact, unless someone is seriously hurt, I usually advise them they don’t need to call a lawyer at all. And the mini tort is a great example of this.

If the at-fault drivers’ insurance company will not cover your mini tort claim, or has refused to pay you, it’s usually because the other driver has reported that the crash was caused by you and you are at fault (yes, I see this all the time as well).

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, but the mini tort does fall under this jurisdiction.

Here’s a blog post on the exact steps involved in how to file in small claims court in Michigan: How to litigate a mini tort lawsuit in small claims court.

However, there is some good news for your frustration: If the owner of the car that caused the car accident is not insured, than he or she is responsible for the full amount of vehicle damage, and the $1,000 mini tort cap does not apply. In other words, the protections afforded to people under the mini tort for driving with insurance will NOT apply to an uninsured driver.

If your vehicle damage exceeds $3,000, you must remove your claim and file a lawsuit in district court.

For more information, take a look at our mini tort FAQs.

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