Who you sue after a car accident in Michigan depends on what harms and losses you have suffered. To recover pain and suffering compensation for your injuries and for economic loss damages, you will sue the at-fault driver and owner of the vehicle that caused the crash. If you are suing to recover No-Fault insurance benefits, then you will sue your own auto insurance company for medical bills, wage loss, replacement services and other important benefits.
Below I discuss in detail these situations as well as when you have to sue for vehicle damage repair costs and for uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits if you were injured by an underinsured or uninsured negligent driver.
Do I sue the driver or insurance company after a car accident in Michigan?
The type of compensation you are seeking to recover will determine whether you sue the driver or insurance company after a car accident in Michigan. For example, an at-fault, negligent driver (and owner of the vehicle that caused the crash) will be sued for pain and suffering compensation and excess economic losses. Your own insurance company will be sued for unpaid, overdue No-Fault PIP benefits.
Keep in mind that even though you are bringing a lawsuit against the driver and the owner of the vehicle at fault for causing a crash, in reality it is the insurance companies that insure the driver and owner that will be hiring a lawyer, defending the lawsuit, and paying any settlement within the applicable bodily injury limits available of the insurance policies of the driver and owner. In almost all states, juries are not allowed to know that it is really an insurance company that is being sued and is going to pay the settlement or trial verdict at the end of the case.
Can you sue the other driver’s insurance company after a car accident?
You may also sue the other at-fault driver’s insurance company after a car accident in Michigan if you are suing for vehicle damage that the other driver caused to your car when it was parked and unoccupied. This type of claim would be under the other driver’s “property protection insurance” coverage.
Who do I sue for pain and suffering compensation after a car accident?
To recover pain and suffering compensation after you have been injured, the people you will likely sue after a car accident will be the at-fault driver of the vehicle that hit you and the owner of the vehicle if the owner is not also the driver (under Michigan’s owner liability law, MCL 257.401(1)).
The at-fault driver’s auto insurance company will hire a lawyer and provide a legal defense for the at-fault driver through the at-fault driver’s third party car insurance. His or her liability coverage will cover the pain and suffering compensation the driver is liable for up to the coverage limit in the policy in most cases.
The legal threshold to sue for pain and suffering compensation under Michigan’s auto accident threshold law requires you to show that you first suffered a “serious impairment of body function” as a result of your injuries from a crash.
Your injury claim against an at-fault driver and vehicle owner for pain and suffering compensation and excess economic losses must be filed within three years after your car accident. (MCL 600.5805(2))
Who do I sue for No-Fault benefits after a car accident in Michigan?
Your own auto insurance company is responsible for paying you No-Fault PIP benefits under Michigan’s auto No-Fault law. These PIP benefits pay for your medical bills and reimburse you for lost wages if your injuries have disabled you from working. If your insurance company refuses to pay, then the proper party to sue will be your insurer – not the at-fault driver who caused your car accident in Michigan – for any unpaid, overdue first-party No-Fault insurance benefits.
In addition to medical bills and lost wages, No-Fault benefits pay for transportation and mileage costs for traveling to and from doctor appointments as well as household replacement services and attendant care services if you have suffered serious personal injury and require assistance with your activities of daily living.
To start your claim with your auto insurance company, you must file an application for No-Fault benefits with your insurer within one (1) year of your accident. (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4)) Failure to file this application will disqualify from claiming, recovering and/or suing for benefits you would have otherwise been legally entitled to.
When your auto insurance company refuses to pay your No-Fault benefits, you will sue your insurance company – not the at-fault driver, except when it comes to excess medical expenses and lost wages (which are discussed below).
Your lawsuit for unpaid, overdue No-Fault insurance benefits must be filed within one year from the date that the medical bill, wage loss, medical mileage, replacement service or attendant service was incurred. (MCL 500.3145(2)) If you do not sue within this one-year time period, then you will be forever time-barred from suing to force your auto insurance company to pay for the the unpaid, overdue bill or bills.
Excess medical expenses and lost wages
To recover excess medical expenses, lost wages and other economic damages after you have been injured in a car accident in Michigan, you will likely sue the at-fault driver of the vehicle that hit you and the owner of the vehicle if the owner is not also the driver (under Michigan’s owner liability law, MCL 257.401(1)).
Excess medical expenses and lost wages pay for your medical bills and lost income that are not covered by the policy you claimed No-Fault benefits through and/or those that exceed the limits in the No-Fault law.
You will bring this claim with your pain and suffering claim against the at-fault driver and possibly the vehicle owner.
Who do I sue after a car accident when I was hit by an uninsured driver?
When you have been injured by an uninsured at-fault driver, then you will sue your “uninsured motorist” insurance company. This coverage pays for the pain and suffering compensation you are legally entitled to and that you would have recovered from the at-fault driver if he or she had had auto insurance at the time of the accident.
Who do I sue after a car accident when the at-fault driver did not have enough liability insurance coverage?
When you have been injured by an at-fault driver whose liability insurance coverage did not have a high enough limit to cover the pain and suffering compensation that you are legally entitled to, then you will have to sue both the at-fault driver and your auto insurance company if you have “underinsured motorist” coverage.
Before they will pay out benefits under an “underinsured motorist” policy, auto insurance companies will generally require you to sue the at-fault driver first in order to collect as much in compensation as possible through his or her liability insurance policy. Only after that has been accomplished will your insurance company consider paying the difference between what has been paid toward your full compensation and what is still owed. We strongly suggest you talk to an experienced auto accident attorney throughout this process. Michigan has many potentially devastating procedural contractual hurdles that can entirely void an underinsured motorist policy, such as failing to receive permission before being able to accept a settlement offer from the insurance company representing an at-fault, negligent driver.
Who do I sue after a car accident for vehicle damage?
To recover vehicle damage repair costs, it is the at-fault driver whom you will sue after a car accident in Michigan. Your mini tort claim will allow you to recover up to $3,000 for damages not covered by insurance. Your claim will initially be filed against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
However, if the at-fault driver does not have mini tort coverage – which is often called “limited property damage” coverage – then you will file your claim directly with the at-fault driver.
In the event that either the at-fault driver’s insurer or the driver personally deny your claim, then you may be able to sue the at-fault driver by filing a mini tort lawsuit in small claims court.
Who do I sue if my vehicle was parked when it was damaged?
If your car was damaged while it was parked and unoccupied – meaning that no one, including you, was inside the car at the time it was damaged – then you would sue the auto insurance company of the owner and operator of the vehicle that damaged your car under their “property protection insurance” coverage.
Property protection insurance or PPI provides coverage that pays for “the lesser of reasonable repair costs or replacement costs less depreciation and, if applicable, the value of loss of use.” (MCL 500.3121(5))
Need help? Call the auto accident attorneys at Michigan Auto Law
If you have questions about who to sue after a car accident in Michigan and would like to speak with an experienced lawyer, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.