What Is a Mini-Tort Claim?

Mini-Tort Claims Explained

Drivers Fill Out an Accident Report
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A mini-tort claim is when you file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver for damage to your vehicle. This type of claim is unique to Michigan, which has no-fault auto insurance laws.

Learn more about mini-tort claims and how they work.

What Is a Mini-Tort Claim?

In Michigan, you always report a crash to your own insurance company, no matter whose fault the accident was.

With no-fault insurance, you typically can't sue or be sued due to an accident except in very specific cases (death or serious injury). But there is an exception to Michigan's no-fault rules, called the "mini-tort claim."

With a mini-tort, you have the right to sue the at-fault driver for up to $3,000 if your vehicle is damaged.

How a Mini-Tort Claim Works

If you were not at fault in the accident, a mini-tort claim makes it possible to get some coverage out of the at-fault driver's policy. However, to file a mini-tort claim, certain conditions apply:

  • Your car must be damaged physically
  • Your car must be insured
  • The at-fault driver must be known
  • You must have costs that aren't being covered by insurance

If the at-fault driver in an accident runs, no coverage is provided by a mini-tort because the coverage comes from the at-fault driver's car insurance policy.

Let's say you were rear-ended by another vehicle. You have personal liability and property damage (PLPD) coverage on your insurance policy, and the damage to your vehicle is extensive. You can file a mini-tort claim against the other driver because you were not at fault and do not have collision coverage.

The coverage provided by a mini-tort claim is limited. Here are some restrictions to look out for:

  • The payout is limited to $3,000
  • It does not extend coverage for injuries (those are covered by personal injury protection)
  • Damages are assessed based on comparative fault

The law states that comparative fault must be taken into account. So if you sue the driver for $1,000 and they are only 75% at fault, they are responsible for $750.

Mini-tort claims are usually handled in small claims court, but the parties involved have the option of moving the case to a higher court.

Uninsured Drivers

Uninsured, at-fault drivers have no protection against mini-tort claims. If you are uninsured and at fault, it is possible to be sued for the full amount of damage done to another vehicle in a collision—the $3,000 limit does not apply. You are still personally liable for the damage you caused.

On the other hand, if you are not at fault in a crash but you are driving uninsured, you cannot recover damages under the mini-tort.

Limited Property Damage Coverage

You can purchase additional coverage called limited property damage liability, which protects you against a mini-tort claim. It provides a $3,000 limited payout for damage to another vehicle if you're found to be at fault. As long as you have an active insurance policy with limited property damage, you are protected.

Understanding insurance coverages can be tricky. If you have questions, you can ask your insurance agent. You can also consult the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, which is the state department that regulates insurance.

Collision Coverage

Michigan's no-fault law makes it a difficult decision to remove the collision coverage from your car insurance policy. Without collision, you're limited to recovering the $3,000 maximum under mini-tort—which can be frustrating if you're not the one who caused the accident, but you still have to pay out-of-pocket for repairs.

The mini-tort helps in an accident, but it often doesn't come close to repairing all of the damage to your car—nor is it intended to. Rather, it's intended to compensate the not-at-fault driver for out-of-pocket expenses such as a deductible.

If you're concerned about paying for vehicle damage, collision coverage, which is an optional addition to your policy, will go much further in covering vehicle damage after a crash.

Key Takeaways

  • You can file a mini-tort claim in Michigan if you have damage to your vehicle that's not covered by insurance and the other driver is at fault.
  • You can recover up to $3,000. 
  • You must be insured to recover damages under the mini-tort.