Filing a Bicycle Injury Claim Against State of Michigan for Road Hazards
Though bicyclists, like motor vehicle drivers, can file an injury claim against the state of Michigan for road hazards, there are rules in place that make it more difficult to do than filing a traditional personal injury claim. The state is protected by the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity which means that aside from certain exceptions, the state cannot be held liable for your injuries and losses.
Exceptions to the Rule
One of the exceptions to sovereign immunity in Michigan is for highway maintenance. Every government agency that has jurisdiction over public roadways is required to keep it maintained and in reasonable repair, so that is safe for use. To be clear, the term highway is defined by our laws as a public highway, road or street that is open to traffic and includes crosswalks, culverts, trailways, sidewalks and bridges on the highway. It does not include alley, utility poles, trees, overgrown vegetation on private land, street lighting, traffic signals, nor bike paths, parking lots, or driveways.
Closed roads are not included in the exception, nor are paved areas that are not intended for pedestrian traffic, however, curbs may be included. Understand that maintenance problems or imperfections of a roadway are not considered a liability unless the defect makes the roadway unsafe for traffic.
Procedure for Filing Claims
You can only file a liability claim with the agency that has jurisdiction over the part of the road where your accident occurred. If you are unsure of the jurisdiction, contact the Michigan Department of Transportation for information. Be aware that the state will only consider damage awards above what was paid by your insurance company.
Before you can file a claim, you have to file a notice with the responsible government agency of the defect or hazard that caused your accident as well as the injuries or damage you sustained. The government is only held liable for defects or hazards that it was aware of (or should have been aware of) and failed to fix in a reasonable amount of time. Typically, this reasonable amount of time is at least 30 days.
You can file damage claims for less than $1,000 with the responsible agency, however, if your claim is for more than $1,000 you will have to file a lawsuit and sue the state for damages.