Filing an Accident Claim Against the Government of Michigan for Road Hazards
Most state governments are protected from most personal injury claims through a legal doctrine called sovereign immunity that prevents government agencies and their employees from being held liable for injuries or damages they may cause. However, many states, including Michigan waives this immunity for certain situations, though this doesn’t necessarily make it easy to file a liable claim. In fact, our state has strict rules that must be followed before a claim can be filed, and if you don’t follow these rules, you may be banned from being able to file a claim at all.
Some of the specific situations in which immunity is waived by the government include sewage disposal, medical care provided to a patient, performance of the proprietary function of government entities, public building defects, and maintenance of public highways, and negligent operation of a government-owned motor vehicle.
MCL-691.1402 defines the rule for maintenance of public highways including that government agencies that have jurisdiction over a highway are required to keep it in reasonable repair and reasonably safe for traffic. Roadways that are closed to public travel are not included in the exception, though those that are open but barricaded may be.
The law says the defect or hazard has to be more than a general maintenance problem or a mere imperfection in the road to trigger the exception unless the defect renders the roadway unsafe for traffic. Claims for injuries or losses must be filed against the entity that has jurisdiction over the road on which the accident occurred. The law confines state and county liability to improved roadways used for vehicular travel and does not include sidewalks, street signs, traffic signals, some street lighting, or untamed vegetation on private property.
Filing a Claim
Before you file a claim, be aware that the state will only award damages over what your insurance will pay. Claims under $1,000 can be filed with the TSC office or municipal employee appointed to the region where the incident occurred. The state suggests you call your local Department of Transportation or county road commission to verify which agency has jurisdiction over that part of the road.
Before you can file a claim be aware –
- The government agency responsible for the roadway must have notice of the defect and the injury,
- No agency can be held liable unless they knew or should have known about the defect for at least 30 days and failed to repair it,
- You must provide written notice to the agency within 120 days of the accident, and provide details about the exact location of the defect or hazard, the direction you were traveling and the lane you were traveling in, the distance to and the name of the nearest cross road, the injury or loss that you sustained, and witness information.
To file a claim –
- Download and print Form #3600 from http://mdotcf.state.mi.us/public/webforms/public/3600.pdf
- Fill the form out completely and have it notarized
- Attach evidence to support your claim including copies of out-of-pocket expenses and car repair costs
For claims that are over $1,000, you will have to file a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Transportation to recover any damages.