St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Personal Injury Cases

How are Damages Calculated?

Personal Injury Cases

How are Damages Calculated in Personal Injury Cases?

If you have been injured as a result of someone else negligent conduct, you may be considering a lawsuit to recover compensation. The compensation awarded to you, called damages, falls within two categories: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for actual losses sustained, and are further divided into special damages and general damages.

Special damages are those fixed amounts relating to your actual losses, such as medical expenses, lost income or costs to repair your property. General damages, on the other hand, include non-monetary losses, such as pain and suffering, your decreased ability to perform certain functions, or the loss of a loved one. Punitive damages, sometimes called exemplary damages, are designed to punish a defendant or deter similar conduct in the future.

The damages to which you are entitled are typically calculated based on the severity of your injuries, the underlying circumstances of the incident in question, and whether the case settles or proceeds to a trial. The following factors are typically considered:

  • Medical treatment expenses
  • Estimated costs of future medical treatment or therapy
  • Past lost wages or income
  • Future lost wages or income
  • Costs to repair or replace damaged property
  • Your out-of-pocket expenses, such as insurance deductibles or copayments
  • Rental car expenses
  • Funeral expenses, in wrongful death cases
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages, if the underlying act was particularly egregious or intentional

In the American legal system, damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff sufficiently to make him or her whole, i.e. restore the plaintiff to the same position he or she was in prior to the accident or injury. If you mediate your dispute or otherwise settle it out of court, the parties and lawyers will negotiate each item and come to an agreement. If your case is tried in a court, the judge or jury will calculate how much you are entitled to receive, based on the evidence presented at trial.

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Dog bite cases

Is Your Dog’s Bite Your Crime?

Dog bite cases

Michigan has a statute making it a crime, even a felony in some circumstances, for your dog to bite someone. Another statute says that you are liable for the damages of that bite even if you did not know your dog was dangerous.

But a recent Court of Appeals decision does cut dog owners a little slack. The court said that to be criminally liable, the owner had to know ahead of time that the dog was dangerous, or there had to be a previous court determination the dog was dangerous.

Also, the dog still has to be dangerous at the time of the attack. This seems obvious, but a dog is not considered dangerous if the person the dog bites:

  • Is knowingly trespassing on the dog owner’s property
  • Is provoking or tormenting the animal, or
  • Is protecting a person acting lawfully or who is the subject of an assault.

Interestingly, even though the dog in question was a rescued pit bull, the court did not raise the question of breed. Instead its decision addresses the violent or dangerous tendencies of the particular animal regardless of breed stereotypes.

Nor is it enough for the person to reasonably have known the animal’s violent nature. It is not enough to infer the danger from the breed or background of the animal. The court’s opinion requires the prosecution to demonstrate that the defendant had actual knowledge that the particular dog was dangerous.

All together, this means that dog owners who don’t have specific knowledge that their dogs are dangerous will not face criminal charges as the result of a dog bite (unless a court has previously found it to be dangerous). But that same owner will still have to pay for any damage the dog did with the bite.

*Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular case which may result in an outcome other than is described above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.

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Tire Safety Hazards

Tire Safety Hazards

Tire Safety Hazards

5 Tire Safety Hazards

Proper maintenance of your vehicle is an important step toward ensuring your safety on the road. Tire failures at high speeds can result in vehicle rollovers, serious injuries and death. Below are five safety hazards to watch out for; the presence of any of these conditions can indicate that your tires should be repaired or replaced – before it is too late.

Tires Not Inflated to the Proper Air Pressure: Incorrect tire pressure compromises both the comfort and safety of your ride. Improper pressure affects braking, cornering, stability, mileage and tire life. Furthermore, tires that are not inflated to the proper pressure face a higher risk of catastrophic failure resulting in a serious accident. Low tire pressure causes increased friction and can overheat the tire, causing tread separation. The recommended tire pressure is always less than the maximum allowable pressure stated on the tire itself. Your vehicle recommended tire pressure can be found in the owners manual, or the label on the car drivers side door, glove compartment or gas tank door.

Worn Tread: If the tread on your tires has worn down, you are at an increased risk of a blowout or hydroplaning accident. Additionally, worn tread may indicate a more serious problem, such as improper balance, suspension or alignment. Finally, tires with worn tread are more likely to be underinflated, affecting steering, braking and mileage, and causing further safety risks due to improper air pressure.

Tire Repeatedly Loses Air Pressure: If you often notice that one of your tires seems low, despite the fact that you have inflated the tires to the proper pressure, this could indicate a leak. There may be a small puncture in the tire tread, perhaps caused by driving over a nail, or it may be caused by a poor seal between the tire and rim or a damaged valve. These problems can often be repaired, rather than having to replace the tire. Ignoring the problem can lead to a sudden drop in tire pressure while on the road, which can result in a blowout or loss of control.

Bulge in the Sidewall: Any budge, regardless of size, indicates that the tire integrity has been compromised and the tire should be replaced immediately. This could be due to an impact with a curb or pothole. When such a bulge occurs, the steel belts inside the tire have weakened and can no longer ensure safe operation of the vehicle. Care should also be taken to ensure that the impact that caused the tire bulge did not also cause damage to the wheel itself.

Old Tires/Vehicles in Storage: If your tires are old or the vehicle has been immobile for a lengthy period of time, the tires may be affected by a form of dry rot. Regardless of how climate-controlled the storage environment is, tires that sit for extended periods will weaken over time until they are unsafe for travel. Similarly, old tires will show signs of degradation. You can identify this problem by examining the tire for small cracks in the tire sidewall. If any cracks are present, the tire should be replaced.

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Settling a Case

The Pros and Cons of Settling a Case

Settling a Case
If you have been injured by the negligent actions of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, permanent physical impairment or disfigurement, lost income, decreased earning capacity, property damage, or other economic losses. Deciding whether to settle a personal injury lawsuit without taking the case to trial is a major decision demanding the full consideration of many factors.

Some plaintiffs wish to settle the matter quickly, while others want to let a judge or jury determine whether damages should be awarded and how much. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option; only you can decide what is best for your specific situation but an attorney can help you put the pros and cons of each option into perspective.

The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits never see a courtroom, evidence that the benefits of early settlement are compelling to a great number of injury victims. Settling a case is often more advantageous to the injured party, rather than taking the case to trial. If you have received a settlement offer from the defendant or the defendant insurance company, you should review the offer with your attorney as soon as possible.

Settlement agreements have many advantages. Settling your case is much quicker than taking your case to trial, which can take up to a year or more, depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the case. You can receive the money, or at least a portion of it, immediately so you can pay off your medical bills and repair property damage. Your attorneys fees and other legal costs are greatly reduced by avoiding protracted discovery and the trial itself. Additionally, the emotional benefits are undeniable. You have the peace of mind of knowing exactly how much money you will receive, and you can get emotional closure right away so you can move on. Finally, settlement agreements can remain confidential, whereas court proceedings are public records.

On the other hand, there are tradeoffs. In exchange for the benefits stated above, you will typically have to accept a smaller monetary award than you might get if the case goes before a judge or jury.

Taking your case to trial, letting the court decide the outcome, also has its advantages and disadvantages. If you go to trial and win, you may feel a sense of emotional satisfaction having prevailed in the lawsuit. And, as noted above, you may be awarded a much higher amount than what was offered in the settlement negotiations.

However, there is never any guarantee that you will win your case at trial, or that the amount awarded will be more than what you could have settled the case for. The value of any settlement offer or potential court verdict must be weighed against the increased costs of dragging the case out for many more months before a trial can take place. In considering your options, an experienced personal injury lawyer can provide you with a realistic assessment of whether a settlement offer is fair, and the likelihood of winning a greater award at trial.

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Michigan’s public defense system


Michigan’s public defense system
Michigan’s public defense system is disjointed and, by all accounts, broken. With no state supervision the quality of representation received varies widely from county to county. In 2008 the National Legal Aid and Defender Association called Michigan’s system a constitutional crisis. But a recent vote in Lansing assured that the state’s public defense is slowly but surely on the mend.

Governor Snyder will likely sign House Bill 4529, the Michigan indigent defense commission act, into law in early July. The act creates a new Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) that will oversee the state’s 165 county public defense systems. The 15 member panel will create best practices and minimum mandatory standards that each county’s system will have to meet.

But they will have plenty of time to gear up for it. There is no deadline for the MIDC to create its minimum standards. Once it does those rules will be submitted to the Supreme Court for approval within 120 days (4 months). Then each county will have 60 days (2 months) to come up with a plan to meet the standards, which the MIDC has to approve within another 60 days. If it disapproves the plan the county has 30 days (1 month) to submit a new plan for approval. This can happen up to 3 times. That means even once the MIDC decides its minimum standards, public defender systems will likely have half a year before they even begin to change their procedures.

The reason for the delay? Money. Each county is only required to put the same amount into meeting the MIDC’s minimum standards each year as they put into their unregulated systems the year before the standards are approved. Any excess cost has to be approved by MIDC. Then the local systems can receive grants from any source including state appropriations through MIDC to make up the difference. These appropriations take time and are likely the reason for the long deadlines in the act.

For the average defendant, nothing will change for at least 6 months. Then slowly the systems will adapt. Defendants will be screened for financial need by their first court hearing at the latest. They will have a single attorney assigned to their case rather than their courtroom, and their attorney will have fewer cases and more time (and eventually space) to work with them. Together with additional lawyer training, this should ensure better representation for those that qualify as indigent, eventually.

*Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular cas which may result in an outsome other than is descriged above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.

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