• Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Recognize On-The-Job Discrimination?

State and federal laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace, including during the hiring process. It also protects workers regarding termination, discipline, scheduling, compensation, retirement, benefits, and other terms and conditions related to their employment. An employer cannot take action against any employee or potential employee for reasons related to a protected characteristic.

On-the-job discrimination may include overly unfair treatment, bullying, or harassment. However, employment discrimination often occurs more subtly, including being passed over for promotions, paid less or denied bonuses, held to different standards for achievement, attendance, or performance, assigned to less desirable or lucrative schedules or locations, targeted for layoffs, and more.

In some cases, an employer's policies may effectively discriminate against a protected class of workers, even if they apply to all employees. A requirement that all workers work one Saturday a month, for example, may be an unfair burden for employees whose religion forbids them from working Saturdays, even if the employer intended no discrimination.

If you believe you've been the victim of or witnessed discrimination in your workplace, contact a Michigan employment attorney.

Am I Entitled to Overtime Pay?

A standard workweek in Michigan is 40 hours. If an employee works more than the normal 40-hour week, the additional hours are considered overtime. Under the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act, an employer must pay all non-exempt employees overtime pay when their workweek exceeds 40 hours. Under Michigan law, overtime pay must be at least one and a half times an employee's regular hourly wage. (If you are part of a union, the minimum wage and overtime requirements are governed by a Collective Bargaining Agreement.)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determines whether a position is entitled to overtime pay or is "exempt" and not eligible for overtime pay. An employee may be considered exempt if they meet all three of these criteria:

  1. The employee must earn a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed.
  2. The amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount. As of 2020, the minimum salary for exemption is $35,568, or $684 per week. (Previously, the minimum salary was $23,660, or $455 per week.)
  3. The employee's duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (the "duties test").

If any one of the three tests is not met, a position must be classified as non-exempt (entitled to overtime). Unfortunately, these three criteria aren't as straightforward as they seem.

Some employees, including business owners, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and outside sales employees, are exempt even if they don't meet the salary minimum. Employees in specific fields, including academic administrative personnel and computer employees, are subject to different earnings requirements. Determining whether an employee meets the "duties test" can require a detailed investigation into their actual job duties (rather than relying on the job description).

Individuals who are independent contractors rather than employees are not entitled to overtime pay. However, many employers misclassify their workers to reduce their liability for health and safety, justify denying benefits, escape paying state and federal taxes, and avoid paying overtime.

Michigan uses the 20-factor test adopted by the IRS to determine if a worker is accurately classified as an independent contractor. This test evaluates how much behavioral and financial control an employer exerts over the worker and other aspects of their relationship. Contact a Michigan employment attorney if you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor and may be owed overtime.

Can I Be Terminated For Reporting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Under Michigan law and federal laws, discriminating against employees because of their sex or gender violates a person's civil rights. Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment. State laws define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, favors, or verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature. 

If an employee believes they are a victim of sexual harassment or any other form of employment discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits retaliation against a person who makes a charge or files a complaint for workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment. Under this law, an employee cannot be lawfully terminated for reporting sexual harassment they witnessed or experienced during their employment.

Can I Get Fired For Talking To An Attorney?

Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is a state law protecting employees from discrimination in the workplace. An employer may not discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of age, race, sex, disability, marital status, nationality, height, weight, pregnancy, or childbirth. The Act also prohibits employers from retaliating against anyone complaining about such discrimination.

Employees have a right to seek counsel about their rights as victims or their obligations as witnesses. If an employer fires an employee after they talk to an attorney about an employment discrimination incident, it may be prohibited retaliation. If you have been discriminated against at work, have observed employment discrimination, or believe you've been fired for contacting an attorney, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. A Michigan employment discrimination lawyer can help you understand how to pursue legal action against your employer.

How Are Camp Lejeune Settlement Amounts Determined?

If you are a former resident, employee, or service member stationed at Camp Lejeune between the 1950s through 1985 and suspect you were exposed to VOCs, you may be entitled to compensation. Civilians, family members, and service members who aren't eligible for VA benefits may recover compensation by filing a lawsuit.

Camp Lejeune water contamination settlements are expected to total over $6.7 billion. To determine how much each person injured by Camp Lejeune's contaminated water should receive, the parties and their attorneys ask several questions. These include:

  • How long were you (or the injured person) exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune?
  • What kind of harm have you suffered? For example, what type of cancer or disease do you have?
  • If you're seeking compensation for a child or adult under your care, what happened to that person?
  • How high are medical costs for treating the harm caused? How much have you already paid? How much will ongoing or future care cost?
  • How much have you (or the injured person) lost from being unable to work? 

Other losses may also be included in the calculation. For example, if you hired help because your illness limits your ability to do ordinary household tasks, their wages may be included in the settlement discussion. 

Before starting the settlement negotiation process, your legal team will gather evidence to make a case for your specific settlement needs. This evidence may include medical records, testimony, and other items that provide information about your situation. Once your legal team builds a strong case, they will begin negotiations. 

The settlement process is often an easier way to receive compensation than going to trial. A successful settlement means you receive payment sooner and avoid the stress of a trial. However, as your legal team works to agree on a settlement, they will also prepare for trial; if negotiations don't work, trial remains an option. 

There is no guarantee you will receive any settlement in a Camp Lejeune injury case. Your legal team will work to build a strong argument that maximizes your chances of receiving the compensation you need. An experienced Camp Lejeune injury lawyer can help you understand your options and choose the best course of action for your needs.

Am I Eligible for VA Benefits Related to Contaminated Water? 

Military service members who served at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River or Camp Lejeune may be eligible for benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA benefits are available for veterans, reservists, and guardsmen who meet all three of the following eligibility requirements:

  1. The military service member served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987.
  2. The military service member was diagnosed with at least one of the medical conditions on the VA's "presumptive" list.
  3. The military service member has not received a dishonorable discharge.

There are eight diagnoses on the VA's "presumptive" list. They are:

  • Bladder cancer.
  • Kidney cancer.
  • Adult leukemia.
  • Multiple myeloma.
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Aplastic anemia or another myelodysplastic syndrome.
  • Liver cancer.
  • Parkinson's disease.

VA benefits for service members injured at Camp Lejeune include medical care and monetary compensation. Other benefits, including medical care, are also available for certain family members exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune

Injured service members must provide the VA with two pieces of documentation:

  • Military records showing your service at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days between August 1853 and December 1987.
  • Medical records showing you were diagnosed with one or more of the illnesses on the presumptive list. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers three ways to obtain benefits: filing online, talking to a VSO, or visiting a VA regional office.

What VOCs Were Found in Camp Lejeune’s Water?

In 1982, the Marine Corps discovered specific VOCs in the drinking water provided by two of the base's eight operational water treatment plants. Subsequent testing identified contamination in nearly every water source on the installation, including those supplying the family housing units.

Four specific types of VOCs have been identified in the water at Camp Lejeune. These included:

  • Vinyl chloride (VC).
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE).
  • Perchloroethylene, also known as tetrachloroethylene (PCE).
  • Benzene.

Some VOCs — including benzene, PCE, and TCE — can increase your risk for cancer if swallowed or inhaled in large amounts over a long period. At very high levels, they can cause damage to the nervous and immune systems and the kidneys and liver. Children are especially vulnerable because of their smaller size and developing brains and bodies.

An estimated one million soldiers, family members, and civilian workers were exposed to contaminated water during the contamination period. Some used it for drinking, bathing, and washing for months or years. Unusually high rates of certain cancers, congenital disabilities, and other VOC-related illnesses have been observed in individuals who lived at Camp Lejeune during that time. 

Many sources of contamination have been identified, but there may be additional sources that remain unknown. Evidence shows that a nearby dry-cleaning company was a major source of TCE contamination. Waste containment units on the base have been linked to PCE, VC, and benzene contamination. 

Today, the water at Camp Lejeune is likely safe for human consumption. When the U.S. Marine Corps discovered high levels of VOCs in the water in the early 1980s, they took steps to fix the problem. They shut down the most heavily contaminated wells and rerouted water supplies to treatment plants that tested within acceptable levels for VOCs and other contaminants.

What Are VOCs?

VOCs are organic chemicals in paints, pharmaceuticals, refrigerants, solvents, and many other products. They can also be byproducts of another chemical process, such as water source chlorination. VOCs continuously release gaseous organic compounds. Exposure to these vapors can cause many health problems, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. 

VOCs are common groundwater contaminants. They infiltrate the water system through industrial dumping, leaks, spills, or the use and improper disposal of household products. Households and businesses that rely on well water risk significant exposure if their groundwater is contaminated.

What Was in the Water at Camp Lejeune?

The U.S. Marine Corps found several toxic chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune, a 246-square-mile United States military training facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The base is home to over 34,000 people; approximately 137,526 marines, sailors, retirees, their families, and civilian employees work there daily. It is the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast; since construction began in 1941, millions of soldiers have been stationed or received training at the installation.

From at least 1953 through 1987, numerous water sources at Camp Lejeune were contaminated with toxicants at concentrations 240 to 3,400 times higher than those permitted by safety standards. These contaminants include volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Does insurance pay if the accident is not my fault?

Yes. Understanding the types of insurance coverage that may apply to your case is helpful. First, Michigan requires residents to register their vehicles and to carry insurance. Under mandatory no-fault insurance laws, each policy must contain three types of protection: 

  1. Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Covers medical expenses and lost wages.
  2. Property Protection Insurance (PPI): Covers non-vehicle property damage and vehicular damage occurring while the car is legally parked. 
  3. Residual Liability Insurance: Consists of both bodily injury and property damage insurance. This coverage allows the victim to recover from the at-fault driver. State law requires drivers to maintain minimum policies: $50,000.00 in bodily injury for one person in one accident and $100,000.00 for two or more persons in one accident.

Besides the required forms of coverage, drivers can opt into additional protection plans. These include: 

  1. Collision Insurance: Covers vehicle repairs after damage to moving vehicles.
  2. Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UIM): Covers damages exceeding the at-fault driver's policy limits.
  3. Uninsured Motorist Insurance (UM). Covers the victim's injuries and damages when the at-fault driver is uninsured or unknown.

Even if an auto accident victim was at fault, they may still be able to recover damages. However, Michigan's comparative negligence law reduces an auto accident victim's pain and suffering compensation (non-economic damages) and economic damages by the amount that the victim was at fault. If the injured person was "more than 50% or more at fault for the auto accident, " the victim cannot recover any pain and suffering compensation (non-economic loss). But the victim would still be able to collect economic loss that would then be reduced by the amount they were at fault.

How long does it take to settle a car accident lawsuit?

Exact timelines vary, but a car accident case typically resolves within one to three years. 

A personal injury lawsuit begins with the injured party filing a summons and complaint. Next, the at-fault driver files an answer. The judge will then schedule a pretrial conference to set deadlines for the case, which may include the following: 

  • Gathering and producing evidence.
  • Filing motions.
  • Scheduling mediation.

At any stage of the process, the parties may agree to settle. This will, of course, cut the timeline short. However, cases that proceed to trial take an average of one to three years to resolve.

Should I admit fault in a car accident?

Many drivers automatically feel responsible after a car accident. However, knee-jerk guilt may not reflect what occurred. Fault is an objective conclusion based on both explicit and implicit legal standards. 

For example, most people assume they are at fault if they create the impact. But this may not be true if the other driver's violation of state and local traffic rules caused you to drive into them.

Therefore, you should rarely admit fault. Even if the full investigation reveals the other driver's negligence, your statements may be used against you in court.

What damages can I collect after a car accident in Michigan?

Car crashes are traumatic. Victims may suffer bodily injuries, property damage, emotional harm, and significant financial hardship. Given how dramatically the consequences affect lives, car crash victims are entitled to financial compensation. 

Depending on the circumstances, a  driver may receive the following damages after an accident: 

  1. Economic: covers quantifiable costs like medical expenses and time out of work. 
  2. Non-Economic: covers less tangible injuries like mental distress and emotional suffering.

Unfortunately, limitless funds are rarely available after an accident. The plaintiff's policy limits and the defendant's insurance generally place a ceiling on the victim's reward. In some cases, a jury may award damages over the policy limits. The defendant is responsible for paying this balance out of pocket, but many at-fault drivers cannot satisfy the debt financially.

Does the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act apply to everyone?

No. Some of the employees not eligible for paid leave under the MPMLA include:

  • Seasonal employees working 25 or fewer hours per week.
  • Part-time employees working 25 hours or less weekly.
  • Government employees.
  • Individuals who do not primarily work in Michigan.
  • Executive, administrative, and other employees exempt from overtime pay.
  • Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

There are other exceptions, so consult a reputable employment lawyer to determine whether you are entitled to paid medical leave in Michigan.

Even if the MPMLA does not cover you, you could be eligible for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. This protects you from termination or other adverse employment actions while you take the time you need to focus on your or your family’s medical needs.

What is the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act?

The Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act (MPMLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid sick leave for employees. The MPMLA applies only to employees for whom the employer must withhold federal income taxes. If you’re an independent contractor or work for an employer with fewer than 50 employees, the MPMLA doesn’t apply.

You may take leave under the MPMLA for yourself or a family member for physical or mental illness or injury. MPMLA can also be used for relocation, social and legal services, and attending court proceedings related to domestic violence.

Can you be forced to work overtime in Michigan?

Not without additional compensation. The Michigan Workforce Opportunity Wage Act defines a workweek, overtime, and pay rates. Under the Act, a workweek is defined as 40 hours. If you’re asked or scheduled to work more than 40 hours a week, your employer must compensate you with the overtime pay rate of one and one-half times your standard rate.

Your employer can’t necessarily make you work overtime, but if you’re an at-will employee, you can be legally fired for refusing to work the extra hours.

What compensation can I get if I was wrongfully terminated?

Each case is different. Generally, if you are terminated illegally, you may be able to seek damages for lost wages, emotional trauma, and lost benefits.

Compensation could include back pay, which includes the wages you lost when you were terminated. This would be a calculation of what you would have earned if you weren’t illegally terminated.

Compensation may also include “front pay.” Front pay includes wages you would have earned in the future if you hadn’t been wrongfully fired.

And don’t underestimate the stress of getting fired - your financial award could also include compensation for non-economic damages such as anxiety, depression, and loss of reputation caused by your illegal termination.

What is considered harassment in Michigan?

Harassment is unwanted physical or verbal behavior toward a person in the form of repeated or continuous unwanted contact that causes emotional distress. Sexual harassment is a type of harassment that includes unwelcome sexual advances, conduct, or communication of a sexual nature. It is a form of sex discrimination under Michigan law.

Labor laws protect you from harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace. If you are harassed at work because of your race, sex, age, gender, weight, height, or other protected characteristics, you may have a claim for employment discrimination.

Harassment is a civil violation, and the victim may file a lawsuit or file a claim against the harasser with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Harassment may also be prosecuted as a criminal act depending on the circumstances.

Is it hard to prove wrongful termination?

It can be. Remember, employment in Michigan is at-will unless an employment contract states otherwise. Because your employer doesn’t have to have a good reason (or any reason) to fire you, it can be hard to prove wrongful termination without the help of an attorney with significant experience handling employment claims.

To prove wrongful termination, you must produce evidence of discrimination, illegal employment practices, or retaliation.

You may be able to demonstrate wrongful termination if you can prove your employer has a routine practice of firing employees in the same manner or circumstance. If your employer habitually fires people of the same legally protected class, such as race, gender, or age, that may be evidence of wrongful termination based on discrimination.

The Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act protects you from adverse action for reporting violations of law. If you produce evidence that your employer fires employees right after or soon after they file a complaint with a regulatory agency, that could support a claim for wrongful termination or retaliation.

Do I have a right to take a break during the workday in Michigan?

Only if you’re under 18. Michigan law requires employers to give a 30-minute break every five hours to workers under 18. If you’re 18 or older, your employer doesn’t have to give you time to take a break for meals or rest periods.

Even if an employer provides breaks or meal periods, they don’t have to pay you for them. Employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must provide nursing mothers a reasonable break period to express their milk, but those breaks do not have to be paid. Otherwise, federal law does not require employers to give breaks during the workday.

What is considered wrongful termination in Michigan?

If you were fired based on discrimination or in retaliation for asserting your legal rights, you might have been wrongfully terminated.

But just because you were fired doesn’t mean you were wrongfully terminated. Most employment arrangements in Michigan are at will. This means an employee or employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason (or for no reason).

However, at-will employees are protected from being fired under certain circumstances. Discrimination based on race, gender, nationality, religion, marital status, age, disability, and other protected classes is illegal. Under federal law and Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, the reason for termination can’t be based on an employee being a member of a protected class.

If you’re fired for filing a complaint or asserting your rights, you may have a valid wrongful termination claim based on retaliation.

Can I sue my employer in Michigan?

Absolutely. While not every situation allows you to sue your employer, you may be able to pursue legal action if your employer violated your rights in the workplace.

Unless you’re exempt under a particular labor law, your employer must comply with the law. It’s illegal to be demoted or fired for asserting a right guaranteed to you under federal or state employment law.

If an employer has violated your employment rights, or if you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated, you should contact an experienced Michigan employment law attorney so you understand your legal options.

What rights do I have under Michigan labor laws?

In general, you have the right to be paid a fair wage, the right to work in a safe workplace, and the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. You also have the right to make a complaint about workplace conditions without suffering retaliation.

Federal and state labor laws govern the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers. The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) and several Michigan laws protect the rights of employees in the workplace and provide remedies when employers fail to comply.

Federal and state labor laws:

  • Guarantee a minimum wage.
  • Define a workweek.
  • Regulate overtime pay.
  • Guarantee the right to choose whether to join a union.
  • Guarantee a safe working environment.
  • Protect workers from retaliation for exercising legal rights.
  • Protect employees against discrimination and harassment.

State labor laws also provide the right to compensation under the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act (MPMLA) for employees who have medical conditions or must take care of a family member with a medical condition.

Should I get personal injury protection for my car when I have health insurance?

Because Michigan is a no-fault auto insurance state, personal injury protection (PIP) is mandatory for all drivers. However, under recent state law, drivers do not have to buy unlimited PIP if they have a certain level of health insurance coverage. Drivers can opt out of PIP coverage if they have health insurance that is qualified under the following criteria:

  • Not exclude or limit coverage for auto accident injuries and have an annual individual deductible of $6,000 or less
  • Or the coverage is Medicare Parts A & B

Michigan drivers can keep their unlimited PIP coverage, choose from different PIP coverage options according to budget and needs, or opt out from coverage if they qualify for the health insurance provision. When making a decision, remember that PIP coverage is broader than health insurance plans. Along with medical expenses, PIP insurance also covers lost wages, in-home nursing care, childcare, housing modifications, and other auto accident-related costs.

What information is needed as evidence in an automobile accident personal injury case?

For the best chances of recovering the compensation you deserve after a motor vehicle accident, it is essential to support a personal injury case with strong evidence. Here are types of information and evidence typically gathered in auto accident claims:

  • Police reports
  • Photos of vehicle damage, accident scenes, and injuries
  • Medical bills and records
  • Witness testimonies
  • Information from passengers and other drivers involved in the crash, including name, phone number, address, insurance company, and license plate.

Solid evidence is vital for proving negligence. A personal injury lawyer can explain the specific information needed to support your auto accident case. The attorney will thoroughly investigate your claim and help you gather all the necessary evidence, including items you may not be able to obtain yourself.

What should I look for in a personal injury lawyer?

Hiring the right personal injury lawyer is crucial to getting the compensation you deserve. Before choosing an attorney to represent you, discover as much as possible about the law firm and track record.

Given the complexities of personal injury law, identifying a competent lawyer who thoroughly understands the legal system is a must. The personal injury attorney should also be familiar with the locality of where your lawsuit will be filed. This ensures they know the court system, medical providers, and similar past outcomes.

Experience is another critical factor to consider. Look for a lawyer who has been practicing personal injury law for several years focusing on your particular type of case, such as product liability or car accidents.

Find out about the personal injury attorney's past results. Ensure they have handled cases similar to yours and gotten favorable verdicts and settlements. Also ask if they have any actual courtroom trial experience.

Ask a lot of questions when speaking with lawyers you may want to hire. For example, inquire about the cost of their legal services and what your expected role will be during the lawsuit process.

Ultimately, an excellent personal injury lawyer will make the legal process smoother and less stressful so you can focus on your recovery while also having the best chances of receiving the maximum settlement. They will also provide a realistic picture of how your case is likely to play out. Many personal injury law firms, including Sommers Schwartz, P.C., offer a free initial consultation. We understand that choosing an attorney to represent you is one of the most important decisions you may ever make. Speak to one of our personal injury lawyers today to determine whether we are the right fit for you.

How do I sue for personal injury?

If you were hurt in an accident, you might be able to pursue a personal injury claim to recover compensation. The first step is to contact an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who can help you determine whether you have a viable claim, who is at fault for your injuries, who is liable, and what damages you may recover.

If the claim can't be resolved out of court, the next step is to file a personal injury complaint with the court that clearly states the nature of the accident or incident, the injuries you suffered, and why the negligent party is responsible. Because personal injury claims involve complex laws, the process of bringing a lawsuit can be confusing and difficult without proper legal guidance.

There are also important time limits called statutes of limitation that establish how long you have after you were injured to file your complaint. In Michigan, a plaintiff (the one filing the complaint) generally has three years from the date of an injury in which to file a claim for negligence.  A medical malpractice claim must be filed within two years of the negligent case. Any delays or mistakes with filing a personal injury claim can mean you lose your right to pursue compensation for your injuries.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options with the experienced Michigan personal injury lawyers at Sommers Schwartz. We understand that filing a personal injury claim can seem daunting. Our team of attorneys are ready to help you navigate the legal process.

What types of problems can occur with premature birth?

Most mothers deliver a baby after about 39 to 40 weeks of pregnancy. Premature birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks. About 380,000 babies each year—or just under 10 percent of all babies—are born prematurely. When a baby is born preterm, the likelihood of a birth injury significantly increases. 

Premature birth is a sign that something went wrong during the pregnancy. However, it is not always easy to determine the reason for premature birth. The following are all risk factors in the mother that increase the chances of a baby being born prematurely:

  • Being underweight or overweight before getting pregnant.
  • Conceiving through in vitro fertilization.
  • Diabetes.
  • Having a previous premature birth.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Infections.
  • Multiple miscarriages or abortions.
  • Physical injury or trauma.
  • Pregnancies that occur within six months of another child's birth.
  • Pregnancies with twins, triplets, or other multiples.
  • Problems with the uterus, cervix, or placenta.
  • Smoking cigarettes or using illegal drugs.
  • Stress.

Premature babies are also at risk of injury because their organs have not had time to develop fully, which can lead to a wide range of problems. 

Some birth injuries are apparent either immediately after birth or shortly afterward. These include:

  • Brain problems.
  • Breathing problems.
  • GI problems.
  • Heart problems.
  • Immune system problems.
  • Metabolism problems.
  • Temperature control problems.

Other times, babies are born with no noticeable issues but later experience symptoms of a birth injury. These include:

  • Behavioral problems.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Chronic health conditions, such as asthma.
  • Cognitive development issues.
  • Dental problems.
  • Hearing problems.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Vision problems.

Contact the dedicated Michigan birth injury lawyers at Sommers Schwartz, P.C., for immediate assistance if your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy or born with a serious birth injury. Our medical malpractice birth injury attorneys have a nationwide reputation for excellence and are steadfastly committed to advancing our clients' interests at every possible opportunity. We also offer free consultations and can be reached at https://www.sommerspc.com/.

My baby was stuck in the birth canal; what problems might it have later?

Childbirth is a physically traumatic experience for both mother and child, even when everything goes as planned. However, complications can arise during the labor and delivery process that put a child's health at risk. One of the most common birth complications involves a baby getting stuck in the birth canal, which can lead to severe injuries to both the mother and child. 

Before delivery, doctors determine how a baby is oriented in the birth canal. Ideally, a baby's face will be turned toward the mother's back, with their head pointing towards the mother's feet. This allows the safest passage for a baby through the birth canal. However, sometimes babies are situated in dangerous positions, including:

  • Face presentation –The baby's neck is hyperextended.
  • Breech presentation – The baby's feet are positioned to come out first.
  • Shoulder presentation – The baby is curled against the mother's pelvis.

In these situations, a doctor may recommend a cesarean section to reduce the chances of serious injury during the birthing process. Some issues that can occur if a baby gets stuck in the birth canal include:

Erb's Palsy: Erb's palsy is a nerve condition characterized by weakness or an inability to move one or both arms. Often Erb's palsy occurs when a baby's neck is stretched too far during delivery. It can also happen when a baby's shoulders cannot safely pass through the birth canal, often in cases of shoulder dystocia. In rare cases, some babies who suffer from Erb's palsy are paralyzed due to permanent damage to the nerves in the shoulder.

Laryngeal Nerve Injury: A baby may experience vocal cord injury if their head flexes or rotates during labor and delivery. It can cause a baby to have a hoarse cry or experience difficulty swallowing. A baby's condition will often improve within a few months of birth. 

Bone Fractures: Sometimes, the trauma of a difficult birth can cause a fracture, or break, in a baby's bone. Usually, the affected bones are in the shoulder or arm. 

Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of nervous system disorders characterized by physical and cognitive development issues. Cerebral palsy has several potential causes, one being a lack of oxygen during the birthing process. If a baby gets stuck in the birth canal, it may place excessive pressure on the baby's head, neck, chest, or umbilical cord. This can cause oxygen deprivation. A baby deprived of oxygen for a long enough period may develop cerebral palsy. Contact the dedicated Michigan birth injury lawyers at Sommers Schwartz, P.C., for immediate assistance if your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy or born with a serious birth injury. Our medical malpractice birth injury attorneys have a nationwide reputation for excellence and are steadfastly committed to advancing our clients' interests at every possible opportunity. We also offer free consultations and can be reached at https://www.sommerspc.com/.

Can you prove a doctor’s negligence caused a birth injury?

Provided mother and baby receive adequate medical care, most births go smoothly. However, if a doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, or any other healthcare worker makes a mistake during the labor and delivery process, the likelihood of a birth injury rises significantly. 

Establishing that a doctor's negligence caused a birth injury requires a plaintiff to prove the elements of a Michigan birth injury claim:

  1. A doctor-patient relationship existed.
  2. The care provided by the doctor fell below "the degree of diligence and skill which is ordinarily possessed by the average of the members of the profession in similar localities."
  3. The doctor's negligent care resulted in harm to the mother or child.
  4. The mother or child suffered legally recognizable damages, such as a worsening medical condition.

Because most birth injuries have multiple potential causes, it's challenging to establish causation in a birth injury case. In almost all birth injury cases, the person bringing the claim must obtain an expert affidavit from a doctor who practices in the same field as the allegedly negligent provider. In this affidavit, the expert must explain the relevant duty of care and provide an opinion that the care provided by the defendant doctor fell below that standard. The expert requirement helps weed out cases not caused by a doctor's negligence and allows the judge or jury to understand the complex scientific and medical background necessary to evaluate these claims. 

Contact the dedicated Michigan birth injury lawyers at Sommers Schwartz, P.C., for immediate assistance if your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy or born with a serious birth injury. Our medical malpractice birth injury attorneys have a nationwide reputation for excellence and are steadfastly committed to advancing our clients' interests at every possible opportunity. We also offer free consultations and can be reached at https://www.sommerspc.com/.

What causes a birth injury?

Birth is inherently risky, and sometimes even the best medical care cannot prevent injury. Factors that tend to increase the likelihood of injury are:

  • Birth complications.
  • Cesarean deliveries.
  • Infections during pregnancy.
  • Jaundice.
  • Large size.
  • Low birthweight.
  • Multiple births.
  • Premature birth.
  • Use of fertility treatment before pregnancy.

While some birth injuries are unavoidable, others are caused by negligent or inadequate medical care. Determining whether a healthcare provider's negligence contributed to a birth injury can be complicated, particularly when multiple risk factors are also at play. The counsel of an experienced Michigan birth injury lawyer can help families understand their options and how to pursue them. 

If your child was born with a serious birth injury, contact the dedicated Michigan birth injury lawyers at Sommers Schwartz for immediate assistance. Our medical malpractice birth injury attorneys have a nationwide reputation for excellence and are steadfastly committed to advancing our clients' interests at every possible opportunity. We also offer free consultations and can be reached at https://www.sommerspc.com/.

What is a birth injury?

"Birth injury" describes any injury to the mother or child before, during, or after the labor and delivery process. Contrary to popular belief, the United States is the most dangerous country in the world to deliver a baby. Recent statistics estimate over 50,000 US mothers per year experience serious injuries during the birthing process, and 700 die during or shortly after childbirth. An estimated half of these injuries are preventable.  

Some of the most common types of birth injuries include:

What is sexual assault?

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, a person is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds in the United States.

A sexual assault (also known as “sexual abuse” or “sexual violence”) is when someone forces or coerces another person to engage in non-consensual sexual contact. Michigan law defines “sexual contact” as intentional touching of the victim’s or perpetrator’s intimate parts or the clothing covering the area of the intimate parts for sexual arousal or gratification, for a sexual purpose, or in a sexual manner.

Survivors of sexual violence are men, women, and children of all ages and backgrounds. People can be sexually assaulted by anyone, including a spouse or romantic partner, stranger, date, family member, doctor, coach, friend, or acquaintance. Sexual assault is not determined by a victim’s relationship to the assailant; the critical factor defining sexual assault is lack of consent.

Non-consensual sexual contact comes in two forms: individuals who do not consent and individuals who cannot consent. Sexual contact with someone who does not consent includes:

  • Rape
  • Sexual coercion
  • Fondling

Individuals who legally cannot consent to sexual contact are:

  • Minors under the legal age of consent
  • Individuals with a mental disability
  • Intoxicated persons
  • Unresponsive people (sleeping or unconscious)

A person must always have consent before legally having sexual contact with another person. Once a person withdraws consent, any previous consent is no longer valid. Prior consensual encounters do not constitute present consent for the same or similar acts. Just because a person consented to sexual contact yesterday does not mean they consent to it today. Finally, a person can limit consent. For example, agreeing to one type of sexual activity does not mean they have agreed to participate in other sexual conduct beyond the consented activity.

In Michigan, “criminal sexual conduct” is the term used for sexual assault. There are four degrees of wrongdoing under the state’s Criminal Sexual Conduct Act. First- and third-degree charges involve penetration by force or coercion, while second- and fourth-degree charges involve different kinds of sexual contact.

First, second, and third-degree criminal sexual conduct are felony charges, while fourth-degree conduct is a misdemeanor. The possible penalties under each degree of criminal sexual conduct are:

  • First degree: 25 years to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
  • Second degree: Up to 15 years imprisonment and possible lifetime electronic monitoring.
  • Third degree: Up to 15 years imprisonment.
  • Fourth degree: Up to 2 years imprisonment, fines up to $500, or both.

It is important to note that a survivor of sexual violence can pursue both criminal charges and a civil action. In a civil action, the survivor can seek monetary damages from the perpetrator and potentially others be responsible for the perpetrator’s acts, such as an employer or supervisor. Survivors of sexual violence should report incidents of sexual assault to local law enforcement, who will work with state prosecutors to determine whether it is possible to charge the accused perpetrator with a crime and pursue a criminal case.

Because the law requires many claims to be brought within a certain period after the occurrence (known as the “statute of limitations”), waiting too long to report sexual violence can make it impossible for the state to pursue criminal charges or for a survivor to pursue a civil case. The statute of limitations varies depending on the alleged conduct, the age of the survivor, and other factors. If you have survived a sexual assault and are concerned or confused about your options, consult with an attorney immediately.

What actions are considered sexual harassment?

Employees have the right to work in environments free from harassment and discrimination. One form of employment discrimination recognized in the state of Michigan is sexual discrimination, which includes sexual harassment. State law defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct or communication that is sexual in nature under any of the following conditions:

  • Making a submission to a sexual request or behavior a term or condition to obtain employment.
  • Making a submission to or rejection of a sexual request or behavior a factor in an individual’s employment.
  • Conduct that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a person’s employment or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment.

The roles (victim and harasser) are not gender-specific; both parties can be of different or the same gender identity.

Although the definition of sexual harassment includes conduct and communications of a sexual nature, it is not necessarily sexually based. Sexual harassment laws arose out of sex discrimination, which encompasses discrimination based on the sex of an individual. Therefore, a person may also be sexually harassed because of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientation.

For example, a supervisor consistently ridicules a homosexual employee, making frequent remarks about his sexual orientation and marriage in front of coworkers, clients, and other managers. The employee feels intimidated, and his work performance suffers due to the frequent comments. The employee does not get promoted, which he believes is partially based on his supervisor’s behavior and his work environment. This employee may be able to bring a claim for sexual harassment (in addition to a possible workplace discrimination claim).

The victim of sexual harassment may be unsure whether what they experienced in the workplace is sexual harassment. Laws and cases at the state and federal levels recognize many different actions that can constitute sexual harassment. These include:

  • Offensive remarks about gender in general.
  • Frequent or severe harassing actions or comments that create a hostile or offensive work environment.
  • Bringing attention to a person’s body or sexual characteristics.
  • Offensive and degrading words, comments, or sounds regarding sex, sexual orientation, or of a sexual nature.
  • Inappropriate or uncomfortable terms of endearment.
  • Inappropriate physical contact.

It may be difficult to identify sexual harassment, especially when sexual favors and advances are not present. If you believe you may be a victim of harassment or discrimination based on your sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney.

Learn more at https://www.sommerspc.com/employment/sexual-harassment/.

Can an employee waive a meal break?

Under Michigan law, an employer does not have to provide breaks of any kind, including meal breaks, to employees who are over 18 years old. Employers must provide minor employees a thirty-minute uninterrupted break or rest period when they work more than five continuous hours. This requirement may not be waived by either the employee or the employer. 

Under federal law, if an employer allows short breaks (from five to twenty minutes), these must be compensated as part of the workday. Although employers are not required to give meal breaks for employees eighteen years or older, they have the option to provide a thirty-minute or more break. Federal law does not require meal breaks. However, if an employer provides bona fide meal breaks, they are not a part of the work time and are unpaid. If the employee is still obligated to do work during their break or be “on call,” the time is compensated.

Sometimes, employees may not want to take a meal break. An hourly employee may not want to lose the wage from their paycheck by taking a thirty-minute or more break. Since state and federal labor laws do not require adult employees to take a meal break, an employee may waive their meal break unless the employer requires otherwise in the employee handbook, company policies, or employment contract.

How can I help a child with cerebral palsy?

Caring for a child with cerebral palsy can be extremely challenging. Parents and caretakers should focus on securing necessary medical treatment, providing appropriate therapeutic services, and creating a supportive environment.

Staying on top of your child’s medical care is critical to ensuring their growth and development. Treatment for cerebral palsy has come a long way in recent decades, and many options can significantly improve quality of life. Physical and speech therapy are generally crucial to a child’s ability to manage the challenges of the disorder.

Unfortunately, children who suffer from cerebral palsy face many hurdles beyond their physical symptoms. Because they often have difficulty speaking and expressing themselves, many sufferers can struggle with self-esteem issues. Having a supportive family environment does wonders to help children cope with these challenges, and counseling can be useful.

Of course, supportive care services can be expensive. While health insurance will cover many costs related to cerebral palsy, there are limits on the amount and variety, and advanced treatment options are rarely covered. 

If your child’s cerebral palsy was due to a preventable medical error, you might be able to pursue a compensation claim. Compensation can help patients and their families face the challenges of the diagnosis. 

Is cerebral palsy hereditary?

Cerebral palsy can be hereditary, although medical experts believe that familial cerebral palsy is rare. Just 1 percent of all people with cerebral palsy have a sibling who also suffers from the disorder.

According to experts, cerebral palsy is most often caused by a series of events that injure the brain. The single most significant risk factor for cerebral palsy is premature birth. Other risk factors include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Prolonged oxygen deprivation during birth
  • Post-birth jaundice
  • Blood-clotting issues
  • Blood-type incompatibility between mother and child
  • Maternal infection

While risk factors alone do not cause cerebral palsy, they make the odds of developing the disorder more likely. For example, being born prematurely does not in and of itself cause cerebral palsy. Other issues that tend to accompany a premature birth put a child at higher risk.

Does cerebral palsy affect speech?

Yes. While every case is different, many with cerebral palsy have difficulty speaking, and some cannot speak at all. Speaking relies on a coordinated effort between the muscles around the mouth, neck, and throat. When a cerebral palsy diagnosis impacts these muscles, speech can be difficult.

Cerebral palsy can cause a broad range of speech-related difficulties, including:

  • Difficulty making certain sounds or pronouncing certain letter combinations
  • Trouble completing sentences without interruption
  • Difficulty controlling the tone or volume of voice
  • Challenges expressing oneself using words
  • Difficulty swallowing

Many who suffer from cerebral palsy benefit greatly from speech therapy to learn to speak more effectively or communicate through sign language. The sooner children with cerebral palsy learn to communicate, the more quickly they can overcome many of the disorder’s challenges. 

Can you develop cerebral palsy later in life?

No. Cerebral palsy begins early in life, and there is no such thing as adult-onset cerebral palsy. However, the challenges posed by a diagnosis can become more difficult with age, making the illness appear to worsen. In truth, cerebral palsy is a non-progressive condition; while the symptoms may be harder to live with as the body ages, the disorder itself does not become more serious.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy refers to a group of nervous system disorders characterized by coordination problems and other movement issues. Symptoms of cerebral palsy, which include muscle weakness and involuntary movements, typically show up within the first year or two of life. However, not every cerebral palsy case is caught early. Without access to consistent and qualified healthcare, some children can evade diagnosis until their toddler years or even later.

There are several causes of cerebral palsy. Sometimes, the disorder is inherited through family members. In others, cerebral palsy can result from a birth injury. If you or your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the attorneys at Sommers Schwartz can help you understand your options.

How are whistleblowers protected in Michigan?

A whistleblower is an employee who reports or brings the wrongdoing of their employer or another employee to the attention of the government or law enforcement. When the person contacts the authorities, they usually have specialized knowledge or verifying documentation to support their revealing information. Such information often threatens the finances, reputation, or freedom of the employer. By divulging their employer’s legal wrongdoings, an employee may risk their own reputation or safety

Whistleblowers are a vital part of ensuring employers comply with many laws that protect the public. State and federal legislatures have enacted legal protections for whistleblowers to help encourage workers to report wrongdoing and minimize their risk. The Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act and the federal Whistleblower Protection Act specifically protect employees who lawfully disclose information regarding wrongdoing, report violations, or participate in court actions, hearings, legislative inquiries, or investigations regarding:

  • Violations of laws, rules, or regulations.
  • Gross waste of funds.
  • Severe danger to public health.
  • Abuse of authority or power.
  • Gross mismanagement.

The Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act prohibits employers from retaliating against whistleblowing employees, provides penalties for employers that violate the Act, and gives whistleblowers legal remedies if they still suffer retaliatory treatment. Under state and federal law, employers cannot discharge, threaten, or discriminate against any employee who engages in protected whistleblowing behavior. 

Unfortunately, discrimination and retaliation do happen. Examples of this include negatively impacting or changing a whistleblowing employee’s

  • Wages or compensation.
  • Employment terms.
  • Workplace conditions.
  • Workplace location.
  • Benefits or privileges.

An employee who is the victim of retaliatory treatment by their employer may be entitled to several civil remedies. The whistleblower can file a lawsuit against the employer for injunctive relief, actual damages, or both. 

When a plaintiff asks for injunctive relief, they seek an order from the court to tell the defendant to do or stop doing something. In a retaliation lawsuit, the plaintiff often seeks a court ruling that orders the employer to halt vindictive behavior.

If the employee wins their case, the court may order one or more of these remedies:

  • Reinstatement of employment.
  • Back wages.
  • Reinstatement of full benefits.
  • Actual damages.
  • Court cost.
  • Attorney’s fees.

A whistleblower who has experienced retaliation must file a timely lawsuit for injunctive relief or monetary damages. The statute of limitations to file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit is just 90 days from the date of the claimed violation. Claims that are not filed within 90 days will not be allowed, and you may lose your chance ever to seek justice or compensation. Do not wait—contact an experienced attorney today to learn more about Michigan whistleblower protections. 

Learn more at https://www.sommerspc.com/employment/whistle-blower/.

Can I sue my company for not giving me a lunch break?

Unfortunately, neither Michigan nor federal law requires employers to provide lunch breaks to employees 18 or older. But employers must give employed minors at least a 30-minute paid lunch break when they work more than five continuous hours. 

However, employers may choose to provide lunch breaks as outlined in their employee handbooks or negotiate lunch breaks in an employment contract or union agreement. If an employer agrees to provide employee lunch breaks, it must allow its employees to take those breaks. If the employer withholds the breaks required under the agreement, the employee may sue for breach of contract.

Additionally, when employers offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours that must be paid. Longer breaks do not need to be counted as time worked, but your employee may not interrupt these unpaid breaks with work tasks.

Employees with disabilities may be entitled to take breaks to control or attend to their conditions. An employee with a disability protected under Michigan’s Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act and the federal American with Disabilities Act is entitled to reasonable accommodation of their condition in their workplace. 

Reasonable accommodation for disabled employees may include providing a lunch break or other periodic breaks. For example, workers with diabetes must manage their disease with treatment regimens like glucose monitoring, taking insulin, eating or drinking, and physical activity. For these workers, taking a meal break may be a reasonable accommodation. However, employers need not provide a requested accommodation if it would cause undue hardship to the employer. If an employer refuses on these grounds, the employee must prove the accommodation would not impose an undue hardship on the employer. If an employee with a disability can show that accommodation is not an undue hardship, they may be able to win a lawsuit against their employer.

You can learn more at https://www.sommerspc.com/employment/breach-of-contract/.

Are employers required to offer breaks to all employees?

Michigan law does not require employers to provide breaks to employees who are 18 or older. Minors, on the other hand, are entitled to a meal or rest period. Michigan state law requires employers to provide employees under 18 with at least a 30-minute break if they continuously work more than five hours. 

Employers may choose to provide breaks and guarantee rest and meal periods in employment contracts, company policies, or employee handbooks. 

Michigan employers commonly offer two types of breaks: rest periods and bona fide meal periods. Rest periods are short breaks, usually between five to twenty minutes. Employees remain on the clock during short breaks, so this time is counted as paid work hours. Bona fide meal periods are longer than rest periods, usually at least 30 minutes. Employees do not get paid for the time they take for a meal break. Because of this, while on a meal break, workers must completely stop their work duties (although they need not leave the premises). 

If the employment contract between the employer and employee or an applicable company policy explicitly requires breaks, the employer must offer breaks and allow employees to take them under the terms of the agreement. If the employer does not, the employee may have grounds for a breach of contract action.

How are tipped employees’ overtime wages calculated?

The calculation can also be different for tipped employees. The employer may be able to claim a maximum “tip credit” of $5.12 per hour allowed under federal law. In calculating the overtime rate for a tipped employee, an employer must multiply the minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), subtract the tip credit ($5.12 per hour), and multiply that figure by the number of overtime hours worked.

  • Example: A tipped employee works 50 hours in a workweek, but receives more than $5.12 per hours in tips. The employee must receive wages equal to 40-hour multiplied by the minimum wage after the tip credit (40 x $2.13 = $85.20), plus 10-hours multiplied by the minimum wage multiplied 1.5 and subtracting the tip credit ($7.25 x 1.5 = $10.88; $10.88 – $5.12 = $5.76; $5.76 x 10 = $57.60) or $142.80 for the workweek ($57.60 + $85.20 = $142.80).

To read more about “Overtime” under the FLSA, please see U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #23.

How do you calculate your regular pay rate?

An employee’s regular rate of pay includes all compensation for employment except certain payments excluded by the FLSA. Compensation for employment may be determined on a piece-rate, salary, commission, or some other basis. The regular rate of pay is computed on the basis of the average hourly rate derived from such earnings (by dividing the total pay for employment in any workweek by the total number of hours actually worked).

Payments which are not part of the regular rate include pay for expenses incurred on the employer's behalf, premium payments for overtime work or premiums paid for work on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, discretionary bonuses, reporting time pay, bona fide profit-sharing plan, gifts and payments in the nature of gifts on special occasions, and payments for occasional periods when no work is performed due to vacation, holidays, or illness. But bonuses and commissions that are based on fixed pre-established standards must be included.

Accordingly, the formula to compute the regular rate is:

Total compensation in the workweek (except for statutory exclusions) ÷ Total hours worked in the workweek = Regular Rate for the workweek

Here are some helpful examples of these formulas in practice:

  • Example for Commission employee: An employee works 52 hours in a work and is paid $15 dollars and hour. But the employee also receives $160 dollars in commissions and a holiday bonus of $250 dollars. The first 40 hours will be paid at $15 per hour (or $600). The following 12 hours of overtime has to be paid at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate. This employee’s regular rate is 52 hours by the employee’s hourly rate ($780) plus the employee’s commissions ($160) divided by the hours worked (52): $18.08 per hour. The holiday bonus is not included because it is not compensation for work, but more akin to a gift. Accordingly, the employees 12 hours of overtime is compensated a 1.5 times their regular rate of $18.08, for $325.44 (12 hours multiplied by $18.08 multiplied by 1.5 overtime premium.
  • Example for a Salary employee: A non-exempt employee works 52 hours in a work and is paid a weekly salary $1,100. To determine the employee’s payment for the 12 overtime hours he or she worked over the 40 hour threshold, we must first determine his/her regular rate. To do so, we take the employee’s weekly earnings and divide by the number of hours worked in the workweek ($1,100 divided by 52 hours) or $21.15. Because the employer has already paid the employee for the workweek through their salary, you only will multiply the regular hourly rate by 0.5 (instead of 1.5) to get the overtime hourly rate. This would be $10.58. You then multiple the overtime hourly rate ($10.58) by the number of overtime hours worked (12 hours) for a total of $126.96.
  • Example for a Piece-Rate employee: An employee works 52 hours in a work and is paid $50 dollars per delivery made. If this employee made 18 deliveries in the workweek for a total $900 ($50 multiplied by 18 deliveries). To determine the employee’s payment for the 12 overtime hours he or she worked over the 40 hour threshold, we must first determine his/her regular rate. We still take the employee’s weekly earnings and divide by the number of hours worked in the workweek ($900 divided by 52 hours) or $17.31. Because the employer has already paid the employee for the workweek through their piece rate, you only will multiply the regular hourly rate by 0.5 (instead of 1.5) to get the overtime hourly rate. This would be $8.66. You then multiple the overtime hourly rate ($8.66) by the number of overtime hours worked (12 hours) for a total of $103.92.

To read more about “Regular Rate of Pay” under the FLSA, please see U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #56A or the Department’s Handy Reference Guide.

How do you calculate overtime wages?

For hourly employees, who receive no other compensation, overtime under the FLSA is easy to calculate: the first 40 hours of the workweek are paid at the normal hourly and any additional hours are paid at one and a half times the normal hourly rate. Where an employee in a single workweek works at two or more different straight-time rates, the regular rate for that week is the weighted average of such rates (the earnings from all such rates are added together and this total is then divided by the total number of hours worked).

A fixed salary or other different compensation plans for a regular workweek longer than 40 hours does not discharge FLSA statutory obligations. For employees that receive compensation in addition to their hourly rate, or are paid under a different pay structure, it can be more difficult. First your will have to determine the regular rate of pay. That means if you receive commissions, bonus, or other compensations and your employer does not base your overtime on this additional compensation, you may be underpaid.

What are the federal overtime wages and when are employee’s entitled to overtime?

Federal Law does not limit the hours that an employee can work. But, unless exempt (for more information for FLSA exemptions, click here), employees covered by the FLSA must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay. This is based on the employee’s workweek, which can be different then the calendar week. A workweek can begin on any day and at any hour of the day established by the employer. But this day has to be fixed and may not arbitrarily change from workweek to workweek. Additionally, calculating overtime by averaging the hours for multiple workweeks in a pay period is not allowed.

Overtime under the FLSA is not limited to hourly workers; employees who receive salary, bonus/commission, or work a piece-rate (paid per task completed) may also be entitled to overtime. Tipped employees may also receive overtime. This is because overtime is based on the regular rate of pay and not the hourly rate.

Are deductions from wages allowed?

The FLSA does not allow deduction from an employee’s wages for items which are considered to be primarily for the benefit or convenience of the employer, including uniforms with company logos, tools, safety equipment required by law, and other work related equipment. This is also true of pre-employment physicals and other examinations. However, employers may deduct the costs of certain items, by agreement of the employee, in very limited circumstances.

To read more about “Deductions from Wage” under the FLSA, please see U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #16.

Important Note: The FLSA may be supplemented by higher standards set in your state. For more information about state specific laws, click here.

Is there a different minimum wage for tipped employees?

Under the FLSA, tipped employees (individuals engaged in occupations in which they customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips) may be paid less then federal minimum wage. The employer may consider tips as part of wages when calculating an employee’s minimum wage, but the employer must pay the employee at least $2.13 an hour.

The employer who elects to use tips as a credit against an employee’s minimum wage must inform the employee in advance and must be able to show that the employee receives at least the applicable minimum wage (see above) when wages and tips are combined. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.

An employee must retain all of their tips, except to the extent that they participate in a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement. A tip is the sole property of the tipped employee regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit. The FLSA prohibits any arrangement between the employer and the tipped employee whereby any part of the tip received becomes the property of the employer.

To read more about “Tipped Employees” under the FLSA, please see U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #15.

What is the Federal Minimum Wage?

Effective July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The minimum wage does not increase automatically. Congress must pass a bill which the President signs into law in order for the minimum wage to go up. There are some exceptions to the federal minimum wage. Workers under the age of 20, workers with disabilities, full-time students, and student-learners may be paid less the minimum wage under limited circumstances.

How does the FLSA treat meal breaks and rest periods?

Short rest periods, ranging from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry and must be counted as hours worked. So short restroom and coffee breaks should not be deduced from the time worked.

However, bona fide meal periods are not work time. Such periods must be 30 minutes or more is longer and the employee must be completely relieved of all work duties. This ensures that the employee can use their meal period for their own purposes. The employee is not relieved if they are required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating. For example, an office employee who is required to eat at his desk or a factory worker who is required to be at his machine is working while eating is entitled to pay.

What about waiting time and on-call time?

Often employees are required to wait for their first or next work task of the workday. This may be called “waiting time” under the FLSA. Whether waiting time is time worked under the FLSA depends upon particular circumstances. The Court will look to the agreements between employer and employee, the nature of the work, its relation to the waiting time, and all of the circumstances.

When an employee is on duty, but is simply awaiting their next assignment, this time is compensable and must be paid. For example, an employee may be waiting for their next customer or waiting for a machine to finish, but they are still on duty and must be paid. Only when a period of inactivity is long enough to enable an employee to use the time effectively for their own purposes and they are completely relieved from their duties are they off-the-clock.

On-call time occurs when an employee is expected to be available to come into work, usually with short notice, to carry out their working duties. An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises or so close thereto that they cannot use the time effectively for their own purposes is working while ‘‘on call’’. Therefore, this time must be paid. But, an employee who is not required to remain on the employer’s premises, but is merely required to be reachable should they be needed is not working while on call.

How does travel time factor into my compensation?

While employees are not paid for their normal commute to work, employees may be paid during work-related travel. Under the Portal-to-Portal Act, employers are not required to pay for the time that an employee takes to travel to or from their home to a normal job site. However, if an employee is require to travel an inordinately long way to, different job site, that time may be compensable as time worked. This would include work trips that require an employee to travel out-of-town. But there may be some exceptions for travel periods that extend more than one work day.

Additionally, if an employer requires their employees meet at a particular location and travel together to a work site, or use an employer provided vehicle, this travel time may also be compensable. Similarly, the Portal-to-Portal Act requires employers to pay employees for their time spent traveling from one work site to the next.

Whether travel time is compensable as hours worked under the FLSA is often difficult to determine.

To read more about “hours worked” under the FLSA, please see U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #22.

How do I determine the number of hours I work according to the FLSA?

Whether determining minimum wage and overtime under the FLSA, the first step is to calculate the number of hours you work. In general, a person is “employed” when they are “suffered or permitted to work. Thus, the number of hours worked is not the same as an employee's scheduled shift. Instead, Courts look at the period between the time, on any particular day, when such employee commences his/her "principal activity" and the time on that day at which he/she ceases such principal activity or activities.

  • Example: An employee is required to start their computer and login into a number of programs before starting their shift. This pre-shift computer boot up process if compensable time and should be paid.
  • Example: An employee is required to put on protective equipment before starting their shift. This preshift “donning and duffing” activity is essential for their employment and should be paid.

Even if the employer does not request that an employee stay before or after their shift, this is compensable time. For example, an employee may voluntarily continue to work at the end of the shift to finish a call or complete a task. The reason is immaterial, this time must be paid.

Does federal law require that employers pay overtime or a minimum wage?

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) establishes federal minimum wage and overtime pay standards for most private employers. Enterprises having workers engaged in interstate commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for such commerce by any person, are covered by the FLSA. In practice, this includes most employers in the United States.

However, not all employees are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay under the FLSA. The FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. For more information regarding the FLSA exempt employees and misclassification of employees, click here.

What are the potential rewards for successful qui tam whistleblowers?

The False Claims Act incentivizes whistleblowers to file qui tam lawsuits by providing them with compensation if their efforts successfully reveal fraud and recover unlawfully obtained funds. In a qui tam lawsuit in which the government participated, the whistleblower may receive between 15 to 25 percent of the money recovered by the government, whether through settlement or trial. In cases where the government declined to intervene, a successful whistleblower could receive as much as 30 percent of any amounts recovered. The amount of compensation depends on how much the whistleblower's information and involvement throughout the case aided the government's recovery.

What happens after filing a qui tam lawsuit?

After a whistleblower files a qui tam lawsuit (with the required help of an attorney), the government begins an investigation into the complaint's allegations of fraud. This process can take considerable time to complete. Once it concludes its investigation, the government will decide whether it will join in the case. If the government declines to do so, the relator may still pursue the lawsuit on their own, and the government retains the right to intervene at a later date. If the government takes up the case, the relator and their attorney remain active and involved in the lawsuit.

What kinds of fraud can support a qui tam lawsuit?

Any act or omission that involves defrauding the federal government out of money can form the basis of a qui tam action. Common types of wrongdoing that often lead to False Claims Act cases include:

  • Healthcare fraud
  • Medicare fraud
  • Pharmaceutical fraud
  • Financial fraud
  • Government contracts and procurement fraud
  • Defense contracting fraud
  • Government grant fraud
  • Education fraud

Who can become a whistleblower and file a qui tam lawsuit?

Any person or organization can file a qui tam lawsuit provided they possess sufficient information regarding an act of fraud against the federal government to support their claim. Most often, qui tam lawsuits are filed by current or former employees of companies that do business with the government, special interest groups, state and local governments, and competitors of the alleged wrongdoer.

Are whistleblowers protected under the False Claims Act?

To encourage people to come forward and report fraud without fear of retaliation or other adverse consequences, the False Claims Act contains robust protections for whistleblowers. The law allows whistleblowers who experience retaliation for their actions to sue for reinstatement, double back pay with interest, compensatory damages, legal costs, and damages for noneconomic harm incurred, such as emotional distress.

What is the False Claims Act?

The federal False Claims Act originated during the Civil War to stop rampant war profiteering that defrauded the federal government out of millions of dollars. The act, which has been amended several times since its enactment, provides financial incentives to individuals for exposing fraud against the federal government. Specifically, the law gives "whistleblowers" the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of the government against the perpetrators of the fraud. If a whistleblower's False Claims Act lawsuit (also called a qui tam suit) results in a judgment or settlement in the government's favor, the whistleblower can receive up to 30 percent of any amounts recovered.

How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?

The basis of a valid medical malpractice case is that a doctor or other medical professional breached the duty of care owed to you or your loved one and that that breach directly caused harm. 

You might know that this occurred because of complications that arise after a medical procedure or care. The doctor or provider also might admit to making a mistake that has caused you harm. You may also discover that a provider did not provide informed consent and performed a procedure or treatment that you did not know about or approve of, which hurt you. Any of these scenarios could become grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

What do I need to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?

To file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Michigan, the prospective defendant (the doctor or other medical professional) will need to be served a Notice of Intent to Sue, also known as an NOI. This NOI must be served at least 182 days before the start of a lawsuit. The statute of limitations is paused during this period and does not affect the two-year (or six month) statute of limitations.

What is the statute of limitation on medical malpractice?

Michigan law grants two years from the date of the doctor's negligent actions or six months from the discovery of the negligence for a claimant to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. All claims must be brought within six years since the original incident except in cases involving harm to the patient's reproductive systems or when the provider has actively concealed their negligent actions.

How to find a medical malpractice attorney?

Medical malpractice cases are legally complex and can become complicated and involved. This means that the success of a medical malpractice case rests heavily on your attorney's skill and experience. For this reason, you must find a skilled malpractice attorney who can handle every aspect of your case and the challenges it might present. 

To find the best attorney, you will need to do some research. Start with an internet search for medical malpractice attorneys near you and spend time exploring each of their websites. You will want an experienced medical malpractice attorney with a proven track record of success for plaintiffs. You can further investigate each potential attorney by checking online for reviews from former clients. 

You can schedule consultations with the attorneys you find to discuss your case and get a feel for their style and personality. You will also want to know how they charge for their work in medical malpractice cases. Some work on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorney will take a percentage of any award or settlement that is ultimately given to you in the case. If you do not win, you will pay the attorney nothing. 

If you or a loved one suffered as the result of an incident of Michigan medical malpractice, contact the dedicated team of attorneys at Sommer Schwartz, P.C. Our team of experienced attorneys handle all types of medical malpractice cases.

When is a birth injury medical malpractice?

Not everything that goes wrong in the delivery room is the result of a medical mistake. But when doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals breach their duty of care by failing to use the judgment, make the decisions, and take the actions required to prevent injury to the baby, it can constitute medical malpractice.

Examples of medical errors that often cause birth injuries and form the basis of medical malpractice lawsuits include:

  • Failure to recognize and address fetal distress
  • Failure to recognize and respond to preeclampsia
  • Misuse of forceps
  • Misuse of a vacuum extractor
  • Failure to treat meningitis
  • Fetal heart rate monitoring errors
  • Failure to address prolonged labor
  • Labor induction and Pitocin errors
  • Failure to prevent and resolve neonatal and postnatal infections
  • Deciding not to conduct an emergency C-section
  • Improper prescription or administration of medication

What are common examples of birth injuries?

Some birth injuries are minor and resolve themselves with minimal, if any, long-term impact on the child. Many more result in serious, permanent, and debilitating health problems, as well as death, including:

What kind of complications can cause birth injuries?

One of the most common labor and delivery complications that leads to birth injuries – and can be the basis of a birth injury lawsuit – involves insufficient oxygen supply to the baby (anoxia/hypoxia). Without a steady and sufficient oxygen supply, babies can suffer catastrophic and permanent brain injury, lifelong developmental disabilities, or death. A child’s brain can suffer oxygen deprivation due to a physician’s failure to detect and address a twisted umbilical cord. Misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors can also damage an infant’s brain by putting undue pressure on it or depriving it of sufficient blood flow.

Other frequent complications that cause birth injuries include:

  • Premature delivery
  • Prolonged labor and delivery
  • Umbilical cord issues
  • Abnormal presentation
  • Placental abruption

Is a birth injury the same thing as a birth defect?

No. While birth injuries occur during labor and delivery, birth defects develop during pregnancy. Birth defects typically involve problems with the child’s nervous system, organs, or bones. Genetic mutations or fetal exposure to toxic substances and medications are frequent causes of birth defects, though some may involve medical errors.

What are birth injuries?

Birth injuries occur when a baby suffers an injury or a health problem during labor and/or delivery. Most often, birth injuries occur due to physical pressure the baby experiences as they move through the birth canal or because of oxygen deprivation during or near the time of birth. While birth injuries are often the result of unavoidable complications, many cases occur due to the negligence of doctors, nurses, and other delivery room personnel.

How long do I have to file a personal injury case?

Statute of limitation laws vary from state to state, but in Michigan, you have three years to bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. Time is always of the essence, so consult an attorney immediately to allow for enough time to investigate your case and pursue the most favorable outcome.

How much money could I recover if I sue for my injury?

Personal injury damages depend on the extent of your injuries and the specific facts of the case. There is no way to tell exactly how much your claim may be worth before we investigate the events that led to your injury. You may be entitled to recover economic damages, such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage, and sometimes noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

How do I know if I have a case when I have been injured?

The simple answer is that you have a personal injury case when another person’s negligence caused your injury. This may be difficult to prove, so it is important to contact a personal injury attorney like the lawyers at Sommers Schwartz. We will review the details of your case and determine who may be potentially at fault.

How does a birth injury differ from a birth defect?

A birth injury usually occurs when something goes wrong during labor and delivery and the baby is harmed. A birth defect is a physical or chemical abnormality that develops before birth and may be inherited, or the result of an environmental influence.

How do birth injuries typically occur?

Countless situations can result in harm to baby or mother during labor and delivery, but many birth injuries result from oxygen deprivation, the use of excessive force during delivery, or the delay of a cesarean section when one becomes necessary.

What are some common birth injuries?

Common birth injuries include fractured collarbones or arms, shoulder dystocia, bruising to the face and head, brain damage, cerebral palsy, and Erb’s palsy. Some birth injuries may be resolved without lasting damage, while others cause lifetime disability or death.

I have not been able to work since my car accident, and money is tight. How can I afford to pay a lawyer?

The attorneys at Sommers Schwartz work on a contingency fee basis. This means you only pay for our legal services after we have successfully won or settled your case. Your initial consultation is free, and absolutely no payment is required until we get you a favorable outcome.

Can I recover damages for pain and suffering resulting from my car accident?

To obtain damages for the pain and suffering you sustain in an auto accident, you must meet four requirements:

  1. You must establish that another driver was at least 50 percent at-fault for causing the crash.
  2. You must demonstrate you were injured in the accident, which you can do with medical records and other documentation. 
  3. You must prove your injuries resulted from the accident and not another cause.
  4. You must prove that you (or a loved one) “suffered death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement.” 

This last element is considered a “threshold injury,” and without it, you cannot recover damages for pain and suffering.

What are the potential damages I can recover after my car accident?

Under Michigan’s no-fault laws, when a motor vehicle accident results in bodily injury or death, you may be entitled to damages in four categories:

  • Allowable Expense Reimbursement, payable for life without a cap, includes expenses for medical treatment, barrier-free residential accommodations, vocational rehabilitation, special transportation and medical mileage, guardianship or conservatorship fees, and the services of an independent case manager.
  • Work Loss Benefits compensate an injured person who is unable to work because of a motor vehicle accident. There are various limitations and restrictions, including a monthly maximum that is adjusted every year.
  • Replacement Service Expenses include the cost of having others perform necessary housekeeping, meal preparation, and yard work. An injured person may receive reimbursement of up to $20 per day for those costs if he or she cannot perform those activities.
  • Survivor’s Loss Benefits may be paid to the dependents of a person killed in an auto accident for up to three years and are subject to the same monthly maximum of the work loss benefits.

Why should I hire a lawyer after my car accident when I have car insurance?

If you are injured in an auto accident, you cannot rely on your insurance company (or another party’s insurer) to look out for your best interests. Auto insurance companies are notorious for finding any reason to reduce your payout, and you cannot rely on them to recover damages for your injuries.

Michigan is a no-fault state, meaning insurance companies will pay up to a certain amount for injuries and damages sustained in an accident regardless of who caused it. Under a no-fault system, there are limited options for suing for damages. Because every accident is unique, however, an experienced attorney, like the lawyers at Sommers Schwartz, will fight for your rights and make sure you are treated fairly by the other parties and insurance companies involved.

How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim?

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases varies from state to state. In Michigan, you have two years from the date of the healthcare professional’s negligent act or omission to file a medical malpractice claim. If the malpractice resulted in the patient’s wrongful death, you have additional time to file. If a patient (or a deceased patient’s loved ones) do not discover the negligence until after the two years have passed, he or she has six months from the time he or she discovered or should have discovered the malpractice – but no more than six years after the act or omission – to bring a claim.

Plaintiffs pursuing medical malpractice claims in Michigan cannot immediately file a civil lawsuit. Instead, they are first required to give written notice – a notice of intent – to the healthcare professional accused of malpractice.

Because of the complexities in initiating and proving a medical malpractice action, you should consult an experienced attorney, like the attorneys at Sommers Schwartz.

How do I know if I have a potential medical malpractice claim?

A successful medical malpractice claim has three essential elements:

  • Existence of a doctor-patient or provider-patient relationship. You must show that you sought medical treatment from the healthcare provider and that the provider agreed to treat you. Establishing this relationship is not difficult if the doctor or other medical professional saw and cared for you or provided a consultation
  • The doctor or provider violated or deviated from the standard of care. You must establish that the way the physician or provider diagnosed or treated you deviated from or violated the standard of care that a reasonable and prudent professional of similar training would have followed under the same or similar circumstances.
  • The doctor’s or provider’s negligence caused you specific harm. You must prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence (deviation from the standard of care) caused or contributed to your injuries. Sometimes, the causation is clear, but where other factors, diseases, or conditions are present, it may be more difficult to show the connection between substandard care and a specific injury. Specific harm may include physical or emotional pain, additional treatment you would not have otherwise needed and additional medical bills, loss of income, or lost earning potential. 

What are common types of medical malpractice claims?

Medical malpractice involves the professional negligence of licensed healthcare practitioners and healthcare facilities. The details of each malpractice victim’s experience are unique, but most medical negligence cases arise in these circumstances:

  • Failure to diagnose. A doctor may wrongly interpret diagnostic tests, overlook test results, or neglect to order tests that would provide an accurate diagnosis. Had the physician properly diagnosed the patient’s condition, the patient could have received appropriate or more timely treatment and had a better outcome. 
  • Improper treatment. A healthcare provider may treat a patient in a way that differs from the treatment that most providers in the same situation would have rendered. If a provider fails to provide “to the patient, the patient may seek compensation for his or her economic and non-economic injuries. 
  • Failure to warn patients of potential risks. Healthcare providers have a duty to inform patients of the risks associated with a procedure or treatment. When a risk that a patient would not have otherwise undertaken becomes a reality, the provider may be held liable for medical malpractice.

What steps should I take after a car accident?

Car accidents can happen so quickly that the impact of the collision may cause victims to feel confused, upset, or overwhelmed. In the aftermath of an accident, it is hard to know what to do next. Be prepared for what to do in the aftermath of a car collision by following these steps:

  1. Under Michigan law, drivers must stop immediately after an accident. They must move their vehicles out of the way of traffic, but only if it is safe to do so without causing further damage to the cars.
  2. Even in a minor crash, call 911. Check to be sure everyone involved is out of immediate danger and see who needs immediate medical attention.
  3. Someone who is not injured should take pictures of the accident scene and the surroundings.
  4. Exchange contact information, registration number, driver’s license, vehicle owner’s information with the other motorist(s) involved in the accident. Unless it is unsafe, any driver involved in a car accident who leaves the scene may face jail time, a fine, or both.
  5. Speak to any witnesses of the accident and exchange information with them.
  6. Even if the accident was minor, seek medical attention. Many injuries may not manifest right away. Keep all receipts from doctor visits, medications, and treatments.
  7. Obtain the police report of the accident. Check that all the information is accurate and correct.
  8. Inform your insurance company of the accident. Do not speak to the other driver’s insurance company without a lawyer.
  9. Contact an attorney to advise you about your rights to compensation for your injuries and damage to your vehicle.

Is Michigan a no-fault insurance state?

Yes, Michigan is a no-fault insurance state. All parties involved in an accident can receive compensation from their insurance companies, regardless of fault, and state law requires all drivers to have no-fault insurance.

The no-fault insurance policy has three parts: Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Property Protection Insurance (PPI), and Residual Liability Insurance. Personal Injury Protection covers the injuries and damages of the insured, regardless of who is at-fault in the accident. The person in the car accident files a PIP claim against his or her own insurance company to seek compensation.

Property Protection Insurance provides coverage for damage that an at-fault driver’s vehicle causes to properly parked vehicles or fixed properties such as buildings or lampposts. It does not cover damages to the other vehicle(s) involved in an accident unless parked. Michigan drivers must have PPI to obtain license plates.

Residual Liability Insurance covers bodily injury to the other drivers or passengers of other vehicles who suffer an injury that meets the threshold in a Michigan accident caused at least in part by your negligence. It also covers damages over and above the personal injury protection limits. In an out of state accident, it covers the damages allowable under the laws of that state.

How much time do I have to file a car accident lawsuit in Michigan?

After a car accident, victims of the collision or their families may want to bring a claim against the at-fault driver. To file a lawsuit and obtain compensation for injuries and damages, car accident victims need to be aware of the amount of time they have to initiate an action, also called the statute of limitations.

Under Michigan law, a victim has three years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit against the other driver. If the victim does not file his or her lawsuit within the time limit, the law may prevent him or her from ever suing the driver responsible for the accident.

If the other driver is uninsured or underinsured to fully compensate you for your injuries, and you purchased uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits, you have a claim under your own insurance policy to collect those benefits. The statute of limitations for breach of contract is six years, but many policies have language shortening the period of time to bring an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, some as short as one year. Attorneys are familiar with reading policy language and can determine the time frame for bringing your claim.

Should I hire a lawyer after a car accident?

Michigan state law outlines what drivers must do after an accident. Drivers must give their contact and vehicle information and file an accident report with the police. However, Michigan law does not advise drivers about whether they should hire a lawyer after a car accident.

There were 24,687 car accidents in Detroit in 2017. Automobile accidents, even those that seem like minor collisions, often turn out to be complex. Many cases involve legal concepts such as negligent operation of the motor vehicle, driving while under the influence, and comparative negligence. Many serious injuries are not apparent immediately after the accident. Understanding and tackling such obstacles alone is not recommended.

Immediately after a car crash, you should consult a lawyer. Even if the accident is your fault, you are entitled to certain benefits from your own insurance carrier. These benefits include things like lost wages, medical expenses, replacement services, and attendant care. These benefits, which are due irrespective of fault, can be significant and insurance companies often do not pay the full benefits to which people are entitled. Attorneys have the legal knowledge and training to know how to proceed with an insurance claim or lawsuit.

Are there special class action lawyers?

Any lawyer licensed to practice can file a class action lawsuit on behalf of his or her client. But class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation are complex and require attorneys with specialized skills and firms with tremendous resources. Thus, it is wise to retain an experienced class action lawyer.

The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’ Class Action group have the background and skills to pursue class actions and MDL litigation across the country. We have successfully brought and resolved class actions in unpaid wage and overtime cases, complicated insurance matters, consumer cases, RICO and antitrust actions, securities cases, and pharmaceutical drug and medical device cases. Whether you are a consumer, business or municipality with an issue worthy of class action or MDL consideration, we would be happy to discuss your case.

What does it mean to “opt in” or “opt out” of a class action settlement?

In certain types of class actions, a member of the plaintiff class (those bringing the lawsuit) may decide to participate (opt in) or not participate (opt out) in a negotiated settlement. A class member may choose to opt out in favor of bringing an individual lawsuit. Unless the class action notice indicates otherwise, class members who do not opt out are bound by the terms of the settlement.

Why do courts use class actions and MDLS?

Class action lawsuits and MDL litigation are both effective in leveling the playing field when individuals or small businesses sue powerful organizations. Like most of us, courts have limited resources, and class actions and MDLs provide a method to process the same legal and factual issues together. This efficiency extends to the defendants, too, who are saved from having hundreds of people answer questions hundreds of times by hundreds of different lawyers in several courts in multiple states.

Class actions and MDLs avoid that chaos, reducing the cost of expensive litigation for everyone and allowing courts to attend to other cases. They are valuable tools for seeking compensation, implementing an injunction, or determining the legal rights of a large group of people all at one time and in one court.

What is multidistrict litigation?

When several individual lawsuits arising out of the same basic facts are filed in multiple federal courts, the cases can be coordinated into one district court. This process is known as multidistrict litigation, and the coordinated action is referred to as an MDL.

The judge in an MDL oversees all pretrial activities, just like a class action, and achieves many of the same efficiencies. Unlike a class action, however, an MDL preserves the individual’s claim separately – there is no class or class representative, just hundreds or even thousands of individual lawsuits assigned to one judge for pretrial proceedings.

What is the advantage of a class action over an individual lawsuit?

Quite simply, a class action is often a more efficient form of litigation, both for the litigants and for the courts. Further, a person’s individual claim may be too small to pursue cost-effectively, so combining several people’s similar smaller claims into a larger pool of plaintiffs can justify the expense of litigation – especially against large corporations – and improve the chances of a successful outcome.

What types of claims may be brought as class action lawsuits?

In general, many claims involving product defectsantitrust violationsviolations of consumer protection (false advertising and deceptive sales practices) lawswage and overtime violations, illegal background checks, ERISA and insurance disputesmass tortssecurities fraud, and shareholder oppression are best pursued as class actions. Both state and federal courts hear class actions, and the procedures are generally the same. In some cases involving violations of certain federal statutes, the class action can only be brought in federal court.

What is a class action?

A class action is a lawsuit filed in state or federal court by a person, business, or small group who share a similar legal claim with a large number of other people, businesses, or groups. An example of a class would be all individuals who purchased a defective product and were similarly harmed by the product. If a court determines that the person or group who filed the lawsuit adequately represents the interests of the entire class of people injured by the wrongful conduct or negligence of the defendant (such as the manufacturer of a defective product), they can be “certified” as a “class” allowing the lawsuit to proceed as a class action. Once the lawsuit has been resolved by way of a settlement or verdict, all the members included in the class are bound by the outcome unless they affirmatively opt-out of the settlement.

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