“Personal injury” is a broad category of law that covers everything from auto accidents, “No-Fault” claims, dog-bite cases, to slip and falls, and products liability.
Basically, a personal injury case is any case where a person has suffered a physical injury due to another person’s conduct.
Michigan’s motor vehicle accident law is governed by the No-Fault Act, which is a complicated statute that outlines the specific types of cases a person injured in an auto accident can bring. Under the No-Fault Act, there are three major types of claims: (1) First Party lawsuits; (2) Third Party lawsuits; (3) Vehicle Ownership liability.
A First-Party lawsuit is one where a person injured in an auto accident sues for medical bills, lost wages, attendant care, and replacement services. Typically, the injured person will sue their own insurance company if the insurance company refuses to pay these benefits. However, an injured person may be able to sue another person’s insurance company for benefits if the injured person does not have their own auto insurance. In a first party case, the injured person usually receives benefits from the other company including medical bills, payment for another person to help with household chores, and potentially lost wages if the injured person is unable to return to work either temporarily or permanently.
A Third-Party lawsuit is one where a person injured in an auto accident sues the negligent driver for pain and suffering damages. The injured person can also sometimes sue for excess wage loss, which is wage loss above and beyond the maximum limit allowed in a First-Party lawsuit. Under Michigan law, a person who wants to recover damages for pain and suffering must show that they suffered one of the following: death, serious permanent disfigurement, or serious impairment of body function. Death is self-explanatory. A serious permanent disfigurement usually refers to significant scarring, loss of limbs/digits, or disfigurement that is significant and long-lasting in nature. Serious impairment of body function is a legal phrase that means a person has suffered a significant injury that is perceivable (objectively manifested) by others and that affects their ability to lead their everyday normal life. This can include broken bones, spinal injuries, and many other injuries that are sufficiently serious.
In some circumstances, Michigan dog owners can be liable for dog bites and other injuries caused by a pet.
Michigan is a “strict-liability” state when it comes to dog bites. This means that a person who has a dog that bites someone is automatically liable for any injuries caused by that dog bite. It does not matter whether the owner had knowledge that the dog could bite, or whether the dog had bitten someone in the past. A person may be able to recover for a dog bite just because they got bit—they do not need to show any fault or negligence of the owner. However, if the person provokes the dog and gets bitten, they will probably not be able to successfully sue the dog owner. This can also be the case if the person bitten is trespassing.
While many dog bites may leave only scratches or not break the skin, some bites can cause significant damage. Based on the circumstances, a dog owner may be responsible for reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, pain and suffering caused by the attack, as well as lost wages if the dog bite is significant enough to cause you to miss work.
In Michigan, there is a well-defined subset of negligence cases referred to as “slip and falls” or “trip and falls.” In these cases, a person is injured because of a dangerous condition on the landowner’s property that causes them to either slip or trip and suffer injury when they fall. A case like this can be caused by an improperly placed floor mat, a dangerous creaky staircase, or even by black ice on a sidewalk. Like all negligence cases, however, a person can only successfully sue for a slip and fall if the landowner owed a legal duty to the injured person to protect them from the dangerous condition—the ice, floor mat, etc.
Michigan law distinguishes visitors according to three legal terms: (1) invitee; (2) licensee; and (3) trespasser. The duty that an owner or occupier of land owes to a visitor depends upon the status of the visitor at the time of the injury. Hampton v. Waste Mgmt. of Michigan, Inc., 236 Mich. App. 598, 603; 601 N.W.2d 172 (1999); (See also James v. Alberts, 464 Mich. 12, 19 (2001) “…a landowner’s duty to a visitor depends on that visitor’s status.”). One who enters the land of another for a commercial purpose is an invitee to whom the Defendant thereby owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition on the land. See Stitt v. Holland Abundant Life Fellowship, 462 Mich. 591; 614 N.W.2d 88 (2000). This duty includes the duty to warn of hazards known to the Defendant. Id. at 597.
A person who enters another’s land with permission but not for a commercial purpose is typically considered a “licensee.” The stereotypical licensee is a party guest who is on a homeowner’s property for a party—a clearly non-commercial purpose—who then becomes injured due to a dangerous condition on the homeowner’s land. While a landowner does not owe as much protection to a licensee as he does to an invitee, the landowner is still obligated to protect and warn against dangerous conditions.
Trespassers are given the least amount of protection under Michigan law. However, they are not given zero protection. A landowner may be liable for injuries suffered by a trespasser if the trespasser’s presence is known to the landowner and the landowner fails to protect or warn the trespasser from an unreasonably dangerous condition. Also, a landowner owes known and unknown trespassers an obligation not to cause intentional harm to the trespasser.
As one can see, any person who is on another’s property who is injured due to a dangerous condition on the property may be able to sue the landowner for damages, including medical bills and lost wages. These cases can be extremely complicated, but Ernst Charara & Lovell, PLC has specialists in premises liability / slip and fall cases who have a proven track record of success against landowners.
In addition to the auto accidents described above, Michigan law states that a bar who overserves a patron may be liable for injuries caused if the patron drunkenly causes an auto accident. This liability is referred to as “dram shop” liability and allows an injured person to sue the drunk driver and the bar who overserved him.
Additionally, a social host who serves a minor alcohol may be liable if the minor then causes an auto accident.