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How Does the Process of Filing a Personal Injury Claim Against a Government Entity Differ?

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What is the Tort Liability Act?

The Tort Liability Act grants general immunity to government agencies and the people who work for them for any wrongful conduct injuring a person or a person’s property if the government entity is performing a governmental function with injury or damage occurs. Government agencies, in this case, include the State of Michigan and its subdivisions, such as cities, counties, townships, and more. However, there are exceptions to immunity where a claim can be brought against a government entity.

What Does Immunity Mean?

In this case, immunity means that the state of Michigan and its subdivisions are not legally obligated to pay damages for injuries they are responsible for. The Act also determines when immunity is waived or voluntarily given up and the specific circumstances for that to occur. For this waiver to be enacted, the two following rules must be followed:

  • Only certain types of claims can be filed
  • The government must be notified quickly of the claim

When is Immunity Waived?

The Tort Liability Act will partially waive immunity in seven categories of cases:

Public Sidewalks Exception to Immunity

Municipalities are required to keep all sidewalks adjacent to a road in reasonable repair.

Any person who claims to be injured under this exception must prove that the government knew or should have known of the dangerous condition at least 30 days before the injury occurred but failed to fix it. Because Michigan law presumes that the government maintains its sidewalks, it is up to the injured party to disprove that presumption through proof of a dangerous condition.

Motor Vehicle Exception to Immunity

In most cases, the government is held responsible when an employee’s negligent driving results in an accident or injury. When a person is injured by a government employee, the driver must satisfy the same tort threshold as any other motor vehicle accident before a claim can be filed.

Public Highways Exception to Immunity

State law requires government agencies who have authority over any stretch of road to keep it reasonably safe for travel.

This exception will not apply unless the government knew or should have known of the dangerous road condition and had adequate time to fix it. If a dangerous condition existed and was apparent for a minimum of 30 days prior to an injury, then the law presumes that the danger was known to the government and that there was time to address it.

Public Buildings Exception to Immunity

All government agencies are responsible for reasonably maintaining and repairing all buildings that are open to the public. Liability for injuries occurs in the following circumstances:

  • The agency knew or should have known of a building’s dangerous condition AND
  • The agency failed to fix the danger in a reasonable time or protect the public from it

If a dangerous condition existed and was apparent for at least 90 days prior to an injury, then the law presumes that the danger was known to the agency and that there was time to address it.

Medical Malpractice Exception to Immunity

Treatment procured from a hospital that is owned by the Michigan Department of Community Health or the Michigan Department of Corrections cannot be held liable for medical negligence. Other government agencies are not immune from malpractice claims. Courts have also stipulated that county jail staff, community mental health agencies, and social workers may face liability.

Sewage Disposal System Exception to Immunity

When a defective swerve, storm, or other drainage system fails to be repaired in a reasonable time frame and results in an injury, the government agency that owns or operates the system can be held liable if the entity knew or should have known of the danger but failed to make repairs.

Noneconomic damages for emotional distress or pain and suffering cannot be petitioned unless the defect results in death, serious impairment, or permanent disfigurement. The government agency responsible for the injury must be given written notice of a claim within 45 days of when the injury was or should have been discovered.

Proprietary Function Exception to Immunity

The government is not immune to liability when the government’s activities are proprietary. In this case, proprietary refers to the intention to gain monetary profit from something besides taxes or fees.

What is the Statute of Limitations to File a Claim Against a Government Entity?

Claims against government entities differ from civilian claims in that a written notice must be provided to the agency. Then, if the government denies the claim, the injured party is allowed to file a lawsuit.

Claim notice deadlines are as follows:

  • Injury caused by dangerous roads or buildings: within 120 days from the date of injury or 180 days if the injured party is under 18 years old at the time of the injury. The notice must include:
    • The exact location and nature of the dangerous condition
    • The resulting injuries and
    • The names of any witnesses to the accident
  • Other claims against the State of Michigan: a notice must be filed with the clerk of the Michigan Court of Claims within six months from the date of injury
  • Other claims against a local government: Check with the clerk or attorney for the local government to inquire about requirements
  • Deadline for filing a lawsuit: If the government denies the claim, then the deadline for a lawsuit will vary. Consult a Michigan personal injury lawyer to determine the deadline for an exact situation.

Do I Need an Attorney?

A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will understand the complexity of liability and its exceptions. Call Sigal Law Firm today at 248-671-6794 or fill out a contact form for a free consultation.

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