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 car. 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're required to report a crash to your own insurance company, no matter whose fault it was.

With no-fault laws, you cannot sue or be sued due to a crash unless:

  • You cause an accident where there is a serious injury, disfigurement, or death as a result.
  • The accident involved a non-resident occupant in a car not registered in Michigan.
  • You're in an accident in a state where lawsuits are allowed.
  • You're 50% or more at fault in an accident and there are damages to the other car not covered by insurance (up to $3,000).

There is one time you can sue (or be sued) under Michigan's no-fault laws. This is called a "mini-tort claim."

A "tort" is a legal term for an act that causes damage or injury to people or property. Torts tend to result in court actions, with money as the award for damages. As defined by Michigan no-fault laws, a mini-tort is an action and lawsuit for damages from an accident. This means even though there is a no-fault law in the state, you have the right to sue an at-fault driver for up to $3,000 if your car is damaged.

How a Mini-Tort Claim Works

If you were not at fault in the accident, this kind of claim makes it possible to get some help from the at-fault driver's policy. To file a mini-tort claim, you'll need to make sure that:

  • Your car has physical damage.
  • You have insurance on your car.
  • You can identify the at-fault driver.
  • You have costs that aren't covered by insurance.

If the at-fault driver hits you and runs, you cannot file a mini-tort. This is because the at-fault driver's policy pays any money awarded, and there is no one to file the claim against.

Let's say another driver hit you. You have personal liability and property damage (PLPD) coverage on your car, and there is a lot of damage. You can file a mini-tort claim against the other driver because you were not at fault and do not have collision coverage.

The mini-tort claim has a limit on how much it covers. Here are some rules to be aware of:

  • The payout is capped at $3,000.
  • It does not cover injuries (those are covered by personal injury protection).
  • Damages are assessed based on comparative fault (how much each driver was at fault in a percent form).

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 tend to be handled in small claims court. The parties in the case also have the option to move the case to a higher court.

Uninsured Drivers

Mini-tort laws do not protect uninsured, at-fault drivers. If you're uninsured and at fault, you can be sued for the full amount of damage done to the other car. There is no $3,000 limit if you're not insured. You'll need to pay for the damages you caused.

Also, if you are not at fault in a crash and are not insured, you cannot attempt to sue the other party under the mini-tort law, because you have to have insurance to file a suit.

Limited Property Damage Coverage

You can purchase extra coverage called limited property damage liability. This type of coverage protects you against a mini-tort claim. It provides a $3,000 payout limit for damages if you're found to be at fault. As long as you have an active insurance policy with limited property damage, you are covered.

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

Collision Coverage

You have the option to have collision coverage on your insurance policy or remove it in Michigan. Keep in mind that you're limited to recovering the $3,000 maximum under mini-tort law if you don't have collision coverage. There is only one case where the at-fault driver's policy will pay for all repairs without collision; if you're parked legally and they run into your car.

The mini-tort only helps with costs after an accident. Repairs are often much more than the $3,000 the court can award you. This is by design: when the state made the law, it did not intend it to be used to replace repair costs. Rather, mini-tort is intended to refund the not-at-fault driver for out-of-pocket costs like a deductible.

If you're worried about paying for damages, you should look into collision coverage to help cover any repairs after a crash.

Key Takeaways

  • You can file a mini-tort claim in Michigan if you have damage to your car 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.