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Police Car Causes Accident In Michigan: Can I Sue?

July 28, 2022 by Steven M. Gursten

Can I sue of a police car causes an accident?

You may be able to sue if a police car causes an accident. Under Michigan’s auto law you will first need to prove: (1) an exception to governmental immunity applies; (2) the city and/or the police officer were negligent in operating the police car; and (3) your injuries caused you to suffer a serious impairment of body function.

Many states, including Michigan, confer broad immunity that protects and shields governmental agencies and employees. To overcome this tort immunity, there are two exceptions that apply when a police car causes an auto accident in Michigan:

  • Motor vehicle exception – A governmental agency can be held liable for personal injury or property damage when it is caused by a governmental employee’s negligent operation of a government-owned motor vehicle.
  • Governmental employee exception – A governmental employee can be held liable for injury to a person or damage to property when it was caused by the employee’s gross negligence.

Once it has been shown that a city and its police officer who causes a car accident in Michigan does not have immunity against being sued in a lawsuit, an injured crash victim must then show that he or she has also suffered a “serious impairment of body function” as a result of his or her accident-related injuries.

“Serious impairment of body function” is the legal threshold that Michigan’s auto law requires all crash victims to meet in order to bring a lawsuit and recover for pain and suffering compensation from an at-fault driver and/or responsible parties. (MCL 500.3135(1), (2), (3)(b)) This auto threshold law applies to all car accidents in Michigan, not just those caused by police officers. Any person injured in this state who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident must show that the party that caused the car crash was negligent, that they were injured, and that these injuries meet the threshold requirement of a serious impairment of body function to recover money damages in a lawsuit against a wrongdoer/negligent driver.

Can I sue the city for pain and suffering if its police car causes an accident that injures me in Michigan?

In Michigan, you may be able to recover pain and suffering compensation from a city if a police car causes an accident that injures you. You will need to show: (1) the “motor vehicle exception” to governmental immunity applies; (2) the driver was negligent; and (3) you suffered a “serious impairment of body function.”

Generally, a governmental agency such as a city is immune from tort liability for personal injury or property damage that occur “in the exercise or discharge” of the city’s “governmental function.” (MCL 691.1407(1))

However, under the “motor vehicle exception” to governmental immunity, a city “shall be liable for bodily injury and property damage resulting from the negligent operation” of a city-owned motor vehicle by a city employee, officer or agent. (MCL 691.1405)

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that pain and suffering compensation and emotional distress damages as well as excess No-Fault benefits (for medical expenses and lost wages) may be recovered in a lawsuit brought under the “motor vehicle exception.” (Hannay v. Department of Transportation and Hunter v. Sisco, #146763 and #147335, December 19, 2014, page 3, 29 and 41)

But the Michigan Supreme Court has also ruled that claims for loss of consortium are not recoverable under the “motor vehicle exception.” (Wesche v. Mecosta County Road Commission and Kik v. Sbraccia, #129282 and #132849, April 3, 2008, pages 2, 10, 18)

Can I sue the city for wrongful death if an officer kills a loved one in an automobile crash?

In Michigan, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a city if a city police car causes an accident that takes your loved one’s life. You will need to show: (1) the “motor vehicle exception” to governmental immunity applies; and (2) your loved one’s death resulted from negligent operation of the police car.

Unfortunately, a claim for loss of consortium is not recoverable under the “motor vehicle exception” to governmental immunity – even through a wrongful death lawsuit. (Wesche v. Mecosta County Road Commission and Kik v. Sbraccia, #129282 and #132849, April 3, 2008, pages 2, 10, 18)

Can I sue the police officer if his or her police car causes an accident?

In Michigan, if a police car causes and an accident and you are injured you may be able to recover pain and suffering compensation from the officer who injured you. You will need to show: (1) the “governmental employee exception” to immunity applies; (2) the police officer was grossly negligent; and (3) you suffered a “serious impairment of body function.”

Generally, governmental employees such as police officers are “immune from tort liability for an injury to a person or damage to property” that they cause “while in the course of [their] employment or service . . .” (MCL 691.1407(2))

However, the governmental employee’s immunity does not apply if his or her “conduct” amounts to “gross negligence that is the proximate cause of the injury or damage.” (MCL 691.1407(2)(c))

The Michigan Governmental Immunity Act defines “gross negligence” as “conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results.” (MCL 691.1407(8)(a))

In addition to recovering pain and suffering compensation, if a police car causes and an accident in Michigan and you are injured you may be able to recover excess No-Fault benefits to cover medical bills and lost wages that exceed what is covered by your auto insurance policy and/or the limitations in Michigan’s No-Fault law.

Importantly, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that claims for loss of consortium are recoverable under the “governmental employee exception.” (Wesche v. Mecosta County Road Commission and Kik v. Sbraccia, #129282 and #132849, April 3, 2008, pages 2, 16, 18)

Can I recover No-Fault PIP benefits if I’m injured in automobile crash by an at-fault officer?

If a police car causes a car accident in Michigan that injures you, you may be able to recover No-Fault PIP benefits to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, medical mileage (expenses for traveling to and from doctor and medical appointments), household replacement services and attendant care services.

In order to begin receiving No-Fault benefits, you must file an application – which is also called a “written notice of injury” – with the responsible auto insurance company within one (1) year after the automobile crash. (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))

If you fail to file the application on time – within ONE YEAR from the date of the automobile crash – you will be forever disqualified from claiming and recovering the benefits that you might have otherwise been legally entitled to.

The auto insurance company that is responsible for paying your No-Fault PIP benefits will be your own insurer or the insurer of your spouse or a relative who lives in your home. If coverage is not available through any of those sources, then you will need to file an application for benefits with the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.

Did a police car cause an accident that injured you or a loved one? Call the auto accident attorneys at Michigan Auto Law

If you or a loved one was injured when a police car caused an accident in Michigan and you have questions about your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation, economic damages and auto No-Fault insurance benefits, you can speak to an experienced auto accident lawyer at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation. You can also get help from an experienced No-Fault insurance attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.

Police Car Causes Accident In Michigan: Can I Sue?

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