Michigan Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws

Here are the State of Michigan car accident and liability laws you need to know. Protect your right to compensation for injuries caused by a negligent driver.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of Michigan, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and personal injury claim.

You’re entitled to seek compensation for car accident injuries caused by a negligent driver, whether you were waling, riding, or driving another car.

In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. For your convenience, we provide a summary of each law, along with a direct link to the Michigan state statutes for each section.

Pedestrian Traffic Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

During a green traffic signal, vehicles turning right or left, must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

During a steady yellow traffic signal, vehicles must stop before entering the crosswalk. If the stop cannot be made safely, a vehicle may drive cautiously through the intersection.

MI Stat. § 257.612

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don’t Walk are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  • Walk. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  • Don’t Walk. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk signal is showing.

MI Stat. § 257.613

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway

MI Stat. § 257.655

Michigan Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.

MI Stat. § 257.611

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Upon a roadway with three marked lanes of traffic
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic

MI Stat. § 257.634

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane.

Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.

MI Stat. § 257.636

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without interfering with oncoming traffic.

MI Stat. § 257.638

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
  • On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.

MI Stat. § 257.637

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.

MI Stat. § 257.643

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while using a mobile electronic device to send, read, or write a text message or use a handheld mobile telephone, except for the purpose of contacting emergency services.

MI Stat. § 257.602b

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.

MI Stat. § 257.649

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection must yield the right of way to vehicles approaching from the opposite direction.

MI Stat. § 257.650

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.

MI Stat. § 257.652

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.

MI Stat. § 257.657

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway.

A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.

MI Stat. § 257.660

“Lane Splitting”

Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as “lane splitting,” motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper.

To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.

MI Stat. § 257.660

Helmet Law

A person who is operating a motorcycle is not required to wear a crash helmet if the person has had a motorcycle endorsement on their license for not less than 2 years or if the person passes a motorcycle safety course.

MI Stat. § 257.658

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must equipped with at least one and not more than two head lamps.

MI Stat. § 257.685

Driving Offenses and Accident Rules

Careless Driving

A person who operates a vehicle on a highway, on a frozen public lake, stream, or pond, or on any other place open to the general public, in a careless or negligent manner that is likely to endanger any person or property, but without wantonness or recklessness, is responsible guilty of careless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.

MI Stat. § 257.626b

Reckless Driving

A driver who operates a vehicle on a highway, on a frozen public lake, stream, or pond, or on any other place open to the general public, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.

MI Stat. § 257.626

Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident must give the driver’s and owner’s names and addresses, and the vehicle registration number, and show their driver’s license to persons or police officers involved in the accident.

Also, the driver must immediately, by the quickest available means of communication, notify a state police officer, or the sheriff’s office of the county in which the accident occurred.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must give the driver’s and owner’s names and addresses, and the vehicle registration number, and show their driver’s license to persons or police officers involved in the accident.

Also, the driver must immediately, by the quickest available means of communication, notify a state police officer, or the sheriff’s office of the county in which the accident occurred.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting in property damage must give the driver’s and owner’s names and addresses, and the vehicle registration number, and show their driver’s license to persons or police officers involved in the accident.

Also, the driver must immediately, by the quickest available means of communication, notify a state police officer, or the sheriff’s office of the county in which the accident occurred.

Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in $1000.00 or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.

MI Stat. § 257.622

Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments

The officer receiving a vehicle accident report must immediately forward each report to the director of the department of state police. The report form must be completed in full by the investigating officer.

A copy of the report and copies of reports must be retained for at least 3 years at the local police department, sheriff’s department, or local state police after the making of the report.

MI Stat. § 257.622

Open Alcohol Container Law

A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage while the car is on Michigan roadways.

An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle, behind the last upright seat, in an area not normally occupied by the operator or a passenger, in a locked glove compartment if the vehicle does not have a trunk.

Passengers of a hired vehicle can consume and possess an opened container.

MI Stat. § 257.624a

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.

In Michigan, a driver is guilty of the offense of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

MI Stat. § 257.625

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device.

The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device.

If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge.

At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.

MI Stat. § 257.319

Michigan Liability Laws

Michigan Dram Shop Law

Michigan has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

Under Michigan law, a person who sells or provides alcohol to a minor or a visibly intoxicated person is liable for the injuries and property damage caused by the minor or visibly intoxicated person.

MI Stat. § 436.1801

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of Michigan, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $20,000 per person
  • At least $40,000 for two or more people
  • $10,000 per occurrence for property damage

MI Stat. § 257.520

Comparative Negligence

In Michigan, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

If the victim contributed to the accident more than all the other parties combined, then the compensation that the victim receives is reduced by their percentage of fault.

MI Stat. § 600.2959

Example of Comparative Negligence

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane.

At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way.

However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

Michigan’s No Fault Car Insurance

In Michigan, the law requires car owners to purchase no-fault car insurance. No-fault insurance allows a person, who is injured in a car accident or whose property is damaged, to file a claim with their own car insurance company.

No-fault insurance allows a person to avoid pursuing a negligent driver for compensation for damages.

No-fault insurance does not compensate for pain and suffering, and the amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance purchased by the injured party determines their coverage.

Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services

Statute of Limitations

Michigan has a three (3) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims.

This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim file a lawsuit within the three (3) year period following the accident or the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.

MI Stat. § 600.5805

Small Claims Courts

In Michigan, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $5,500, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.

For more information about filing a claim with a small claims court, see the Michigan Courts website.

Michigan Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity

In Michigan, it is generally not possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage unless the act amounts to gross negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees.

Gross negligence means conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results.

The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.

MI Stat. § 691.1407

Example: Government Worker Causes Accident

If Melissa, an engineer with the Detroit Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Detroit would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused by her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Detroit can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

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