36 Michigan municipalities represented by Timothy Smith of Smith & Johnson Attorneys are now closer to receiving pivotal Opioid Settlement funds to heal their communities from the effects of the ongoing opioid crisis. Judge Fresard of the 3rd Circuit Court recently sanctioned Ottawa County for filing a lawsuit that delayed disbursement of $81 million to nearly 270 local governments in the State of Michigan after finding that the county’s lawsuit demanding more funds made deceptive claims.

“Opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate based on where someone lives or how much money they make,” said Chris Forsyth, Deputy County Administrator, Grand Traverse County. “We are anxious to use settlement funds to help our community heal and prevent any more lives from being destroyed. Thankfully, this ruling finally allows us to move forward in that mission.”

Learn more about the lawsuit here.

What Kinds of Damages Can You Include in a Dog Bite Claim?

If you were bit by someone else’s dog, you may be entitled to compensation for the associated damages. The total amount you can seek will depend on the severity of your injuries and the laws in the state where the attack occurred.

In Michigan, for example, dog bite victims can pursue funds for both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses are those that are tangible and can be easily quantified. Non-economic losses are those that are more difficult to quantify because they’re intangible and don’t have a corresponding dollar amount.

Let’s take a closer look at the specific damages you may be able to include in a dog bite claim in Michigan:

Economic Damages

Economic damages make up a significant portion of most personal injury payouts and can be proven using dated documentation like receipts, bills, and invoices. Examples include:

  1. Medical Expenses

The cost of the care associated with treating your injuries, including doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgery, and physical therapy, is recoverable.

  1. Lost Wages

If you’re unable to work while recovering from your dog bite injuries, you may be able to include every missed paycheck in your personal injury claim.

  1. Property Damage

If the dog damaged any personal property in the attack, like clothing or glasses, you can seek compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing it.

Non-Economic Damages

Michigan tort law recognizes the fact that a victim’s non-monetary losses can be just as devastating as their monetary damages. As such, injured parties can include the following in their claims:

  1. Pain and Suffering

You may seek funds for any physical pain you experience over the course of your recovery. You can use medical records, doctor’s statements, and personal journal entries to demonstrate the extent of your suffering.

  1. Emotional Distress

Getting bitten by a dog is an inherently traumatic experience. If you suffer from depression or anxiety in the aftermath, you can account for such distress when putting together your damages claim.

  1. Disfigurement

Animal attacks often cause permanent scarring. If your injuries leave you disfigured in any way, you can seek additional compensation to cover the devastating psychological impact of the scars.

Punitive Damages

Most dog bite claims do not warrant punitive damages, but there are scenarios in which they may be called for. In addition to the compensatory damages listed above, you may be entitled to a punitive award if the animal’s owner or handler acted with malice or a willful disregard for your rights. For example, if they encouraged the dog to attack without any provocation, you could likely make the case that their actions were malicious.

Call 231-946-0700 to Speak with a Dog Bite Attorney in Michigan

If you were attacked by someone else’s dog and you want to file a claim in pursuit of damages, turn to Smith & Johnson. We’re determined to see every claim through to the end, even if that means going all the way to court. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a dog bite lawyer in Michigan.

5 Devastating Ways Car Accident Injuries Can Affect Your Life

Getting hurt in a car accident can be a life-changing event. In addition to the physical injuries you sustain, you will likely suffer significant emotional and financial devastation.

While you may be entitled to compensation for all the associated losses, you’re going to have to put together a compelling claim in order to seek it. This starts by logging all the damages that you do, in fact, incur, as well as the ways in which the accident has changed your life for the worse.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways getting hurt in a wreck can affect your life:

1. Emotional Turmoil

Car accidents can be traumatic events that can cause emotional distress. You may experience fear, anxiety, anger, and depression. You may also have flashbacks or nightmares about the accident.

These emotional problems can make it difficult to cope with the aftermath of the accident and can lead to problems at work, at home, and in your relationships.

2. Financial Strife

The cost of medical care and car repairs can be overwhelming after a wreck. Such losses are only compounded for those who are unable to work while recovering from their injuries.

If your condition is keeping you home, make sure to log every missed paycheck, so you can include the lost wages in your personal injury claim, as well.

3. A Loss of Independence

A car accident can force you to rely on others for help completing simple tasks, from bathing and grooming to preparing meals and running errands. You may also need to modify your home or car to accommodate your injuries and give up certain activities that you used to enjoy but demand a certain amount of self-sufficiency.

4. A Loss of Trust

After a car accident, you may have difficulty trusting other motorists, which can make it difficult to get back to your normal life. You may be unable to get behind the wheel for quite some time, forcing you to rely on others for transportation.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you may not want to get back on the road at all, even as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle. Naturally, this will seriously hurt your quality of life, forcing you to stay home even after the doctor has given you the okay to leave the house.

5. Social Isolation

It’s not uncommon for car accident victims to isolate themselves while recovering. If your friends and loved ones reach out offering help, though, don’t be too proud to accept it. They want to be there for you, and spending time with them will inevitably boost your morale.

Speak with a Michigan Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a car accident, the experienced attorneys at Smith & Johnson can help you seek the compensation you deserve. We will fight for your rights and help you pursue the full value of your damages. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a car accident lawyer in Michigan.  

Strengthening Your Drunk Driving Accident Claim

If you were recently struck by an impaired motorist, you probably don’t know what to do or where to turn. Should you have grounds for legal action, though, it’s imperative to handle the aftermath properly, so you can protect your right to compensation.

To help you get started, here are five steps you can take immediately to give your personal injury claim the best chance of success:

1. Visit a Doctor

Even if you feel relatively okay, it’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some injuries may not be apparent right away, and waiting too long to seek treatment could result in complications that ultimately jeopardize your claim.

Putting off treatment will also make it difficult to prove causation. Since there won’t be any dated medical records linking the accident to your condition, the opposing party may try to argue that you were hurt in some other way and you’re merely trying to hold them liable since it’s convenient.

2. Save Evidence from the Scene

Preserve any potential evidence you have from the scene. This might include photographs of the wreckage, statements from eyewitnesses, black box data, and dash camera footage.

If you hire a resourceful car accident attorney, your legal team should be able to conduct a comprehensive investigation on your behalf. You can support their efforts—and streamline the proceedings—though, by handing over whatever evidence is already in your possession.

3. Track Your Associated Expenses

Keep a detailed log of all the costs you incur as a result of the crash. Examples include vehicle repair expenses and hospital bills. Tracking your economic damages diligently will make it easier to seek every dollar you deserve.

As for tracking your non-economic damages, start writing daily entries in a journal. As long as you record how your condition is hurting your quality of life, you may use these entries to demonstrate damages like mental anguish and emotional distress.

4. Stay off Social Media

It’s advisable to lay low online until your claim has been resolved. You can be sure the insurance adjuster will be monitoring your online activity in an effort to find cause to challenge your claim.

Since you cannot stop them from spinning what you post, it’s best to avoid posting altogether. If you must use social media, however, you can protect yourself by activating the strictest privacy settings. You should also avoid posting about anything that has the potential to be misconstrued.

Speak with a Michigan Car Accident Attorney

At Smith & Johnson, we know all too well the devastating toll that a drunk driving accident can take on the whole family. If your life was turned upside-down by an impaired motorist, you deserve justice, and our tenacious team will help you seek it.

We have been representing Michigan citizens since 1965, and we know what it takes to resolve even the most complex legal disputes. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a car accident lawyer in Michigan.

$7.2 million and change: That’s how much money is coming to northern Michigan from an early round of federal opioid lawsuit settlements. Check out this article from the Traverse City Ticker.

5 Tips for Corresponding with Your Ex During Divorce Proceedings

Ending a marriage is one of the most stressful scenarios you will ever face. Even if the divorce is your decision and you anticipate a relatively amicable split, you can expect to face both emotional roadblocks and financial hurdles along the way.

For many couples, one of the biggest challenges is simply interacting with each other over the course of the proceedings. Thankfully, there are a few strategies for handling these interactions in a peaceful way, so they can remain productive.

If you find corresponding with your especially difficult, here are a few tips for going forward:

1. Focus on the Issues at Hand

Oftentimes, maintaining laser focus and only addressing the logistics in question is the best way to keep the conversation from derailing. If your ex tries to steer the discussion in another direction, stand firm and keep guiding it back to the issues at hand.

2. Keep Everything in Writing

Having all communications with your ex in writing could protect you down the road if disputes over asset division or child custody end up arising. Make an active effort to say everything you need to say via email or text message, and then save the conversations in a secure place in case you ever need to refer to them at a later date.

3. Remember That Anger Is a Secondary Emotion

Mental health professionals often say anger is a secondary emotion. That means there’s usually something else fueling it, whether it’s sadness, fear, or betrayal. If your ex has a tendency to get angry during your interactions, consider what’s actually behind their emotion. If you can gain a little understanding, it will keep you from stooping to their level and getting angry, too.

4. Vent to Friends or Loved Ones

When you have an outlet, you’ll be much less inclined to have negative interactions with your ex because you’ll be releasing all those feelings elsewhere. Vent to friends and loved ones if you can. Depending on how powerful your emotions are, it may also be wise to consult a professional who specializes in helping those who are going through a separation or divorce.

5. Enlist Legal Help

If you hire an attorney, you can refer all correspondence from your ex to your legal team. Your divorce lawyer will handle every interaction on your behalf, so you don’t even have to worry about engaging with your ex. For many couples, having their attorneys handle the logistics of their divorce is often the best and easiest way to keep conflicts from arising and to ensure the proceedings stay on track.

Discuss Your Case with a Divorce Attorney in Michigan

If you’re facing divorce, you can count on the strategic team at Smith & Johnson for compassionate counsel every step of the way. We have a track record of successfully representing individuals in all the most complex divorce and custody disputes. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce lawyer in Michigan.

5 Qualities to Look for in a Child Custody Attorney

If you’re facing a child custody battle, it’s imperative to find the right attorney to represent you. Few disputes have more at stake, after all, than those regarding parenting time.

While it can be challenging to narrow down the options—unless you live in an undeveloped area, there are undoubtedly dozens of family law firms near you—there are a few qualities you can look for to make the process easier. Read on to learn what to look for in an attorney so you can hire one with confidence:

1. Applicable Experience

Just because an attorney practices family law doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to be familiar with all the nuance of your unique case. Before hiring someone, make sure they’ve counseled clients who were facing disputes similar to your own, so they have relevant experience to draw upon.

2. Compassion

Navigating a custody battle is inherently stressful, and it’s natural to experience a vast range of emotions at every milestone. As such, you’ll want to find someone who understands all that you’re going through and treats you with compassion.

At the end of the day, your attorney should make you feel comfortable enough to open up to them, so they know exactly what you want, need, and deserve. Consequently, they’ll be able to fight for your best interests with confidence.

3. Tenacity

It’s not uncommon for parents to face hurdle after hurdle when fighting for custody; however, attorneys who practice with tenacity don’t let those challenges stop them. They will leave no stone unturned when advocating for clients in the hopes of securing the best possible outcomes given the circumstances. If necessary, they will even take the opposing parties to court.

4. Integrity

Sadly, some firms aren’t above taking advantage of those who are facing the hardest chapter of their lives. You can determine whether the attorney you’re considering practices with integrity by seeing what past clients have to say about the counsel they provide. You should also evaluate their reputation within the legal field and the wider community in general.

5. Availability

You’re inevitably going to have questions and concerns over the course of the proceedings, and when you do, you deserve your lawyer’s attention. Ask how quickly it will take them to get back to you when you reach out.

You should also inquire about regular updates. Weeks or even months can pass without much progression during custody cases. Regardless, you deserve to have regular contact with your legal team, who should keep you in the know at all times.

Speak with a Michigan Child Custody Lawyer

At Smith & Johnson, we know how stressful family law disputes can be. Those involving custody are especially challenging, which is why we fight tirelessly on behalf of our clients.

If you’re facing a custody dispute, we’ll advocate for your rights aggressively at every stage of the proceedings. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a child custody attorney in Michigan.

3 FAQs About Writing a Last Will & Testament

A last will and testament is the foundation of every comprehensive estate plan. Often referred to as just a “will,” this document includes legally binding terms that dictate how the estate should be settled upon the testator’s death.

Considering your own mortality is never easy, but at the very least, you should draft a will. This will allow you to protect your loved ones in all eventualities. It will also ensure your wishes are honored after you pass.

If you’re unsure how to get started, read on. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject:


1. What Can You Include in a Last Will & Testament?

For many people, a last will and testament is the only document they need to ensure their affairs will be in order upon their death. This is why drafting one is the best place to start when it comes to estate planning. In a will, you can:

  • Name an executor,
  • Appoint a guardian for any minor children, and
  • Distribute assets and personal property to beneficiaries.

If you choose to write your own will, it’s wise to run it by an attorney once you’re done to ensure its terms are legally binding. The document is also going to have to meet certain requirements before it’s considered valid. In Michigan, for example, a will must be signed by the testator (or by someone at his or her discretion and in his or her conscious presence) and by two other witnesses.

2. Who Can Write a Will?

In the state of Michigan, anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sufficient mental capacity can—and should—write a will. It’s worth noting that in some states, like Georgia, individuals as young as 14 can draft a will.

Since life is utterly unpredictable, it’s advisable for every adult of sound mind to create a will. If you do take a proactive approach to estate planning, however, it’s important to review your documents periodically and update them as needed. After all, your circumstances will inevitably change over time.

3. How Often Can You Update Your Will?

You can update your will as often as needed. Estate planning attorneys generally advise clients to review and update their documents every four to five years. It’s also wise to evaluate the terms of your will after every major life event or change in circumstances. Examples include getting married, starting a business, having children, receiving an inheritance, acquiring a sizable asset, and getting divorced.

Call 231-946-0700 to Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney in Michigan

At Smith & Johnson, you’ll find a seasoned team of estate and trust attorneys who are equipped to help clients prepare for all eventualities. From wealth transfers and business succession planning to guardianship and special needs planning, we do it all. To schedule a free initial consultation with an estate planning lawyer in Michigan, call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form.

What to Ask Before Hiring a Divorce Attorney

If you’ve decided to end your marriage, it’s wise to enlist legal help. Even if you anticipate a fairly amicable split, a seasoned attorney will help you navigate the proceedings with ease, all the while advocating for your rights.

It’s important to remember, however, that not all lawyers are equipped to handle divorce cases. Consequently, you shouldn’t turn to just anyone for counsel.

To ensure your case ends up in good hands, it’s imperative to do your due diligence. This generally starts with scheduling an initial consultation and then asking the following questions before the meeting ends:

1. Have You Counseled Many Clients Who Were Facing Circumstances Similar to My Own?

While every marriage is undeniably unique, many share a lot of the same elements, and it’s important to turn to someone who is familiar with those that apply to your situation. If you have children with your spouse, for example, you need guidance from someone who’s well-versed in the child support and custody laws in your state. If, on the other hand, you started a business together, you’ll want to make sure you enlist help from a lawyer who knows how to address sizable assets.

2. Do You Have Litigation Experience?

Ending a marriage is a highly emotional endeavor, and the sad reality is even those who expect a clean break can find themselves in the middle of a contentious legal battle. As such, it’s wise to hire someone who can take your case to trial if settling proves impossible.

By hiring an attorney who has litigation experience, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that no matter what happens, your case will proceed in capable hands.

3. How Accessible Will You Be over the Course of the Proceedings?

You might not be the firm’s only client, but you certainly deserve to feel like you are. At the very least, your lawyer should make you feel as though they care as much about the outcome of your case as you do.

Put another way, you deserve frequent and detailed updates on the status of the proceedings. You also deserve prompt answers to any questions or concerns that arise along the way.

You can gauge a firm’s commitment to customer service by reading reviews from past clients. It’s important to inquire about the lawyer’s availability, as well. During your first meeting, for example, ask how long it will take them to get back to you when you reach out.

4. What Is Your Fee Structure?

Since divorce can get complicated quickly, you should be wary of anyone who promises to take your case for a low flat rate. Should issues arise along the way, they may not be willing to put in the time to resolve them as favorably as possible.

Discuss Your Case with a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan

At Smith & Johnson, we know how stressful divorce proceedings can be. That’s why we strive to provide personalized, attentive, and strategic counsel to those in the throes of ending their marriage. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce attorney in Michigan.

When Can You Change a Child Custody Arrangement in Michigan?

Since children thrive when they have a predictable routine, the courts rarely like to change custody orders. That doesn’t mean your initial arrangement is permanent, however. There are scenarios in which you can request modifications and, depending on the circumstances, a judge may be willing to grant them.

If you’re hoping to change an existing order, you probably have a lot of questions on the subject. To help you get started, check out the answers below:

1. When Will the Court Modify a Custody Arrangement?

Generally speaking, judges are willing to change custody orders when at least one party can present proper cause or demonstrate a significant change in circumstances. Since every family’s dynamic is unique, there are no universal rules regarding what constitutes either. Some of the most common examples, however, include:

  • One party has started abusing drugs or alcohol,
  • One party has started neglecting or abusing the children, or
  • One party is failing to provide routine care for the children.

2. How Do You Ask the Court to Change a Custody Order?

Even if both parties agree on the modifications, they must submit a formal motion in order to change the arrangement in the eyes of the law. The party filing the motion is called the moving party, while the other is the respondent.

Unless the moving party wants to change an ex parte order, they must submit the Motion Regarding Custody form and pay the associated fee. Upon filing this document, they must ask for a hearing date. Then, they must mail the motion to the respondent at least nine days prior to the hearing, or they must give it to them in person at least seven days in advance.

At the hearing, a judge will review the request and decide whether to modify the arrangement based on the evidence presented.

3. What Do Judges Consider When Deciding Whether to Change Custody Orders?

When considering a custody order, whether it’s a new arrangement or a modification of an existing one, the judge’s primary concern is the best interests of the children involved. In Michigan family courts, there are 12 factors that come into play when determining the children’s best interests. Such factors include:

  • The love, affection, and emotional ties that exist between each party and the children;
  • The capacity and disposition of each party to provide what the children need;
  • The moral fitness of each party;
  • The mental and physical health of each party;
  • The willingness and ability of each party to facilitate the children’s relationship with the other; and
  • Any history of domestic violence on the part of either party.

Speak with a Michigan Family Law Attorney

If you want to modify a custody order in the Great Lake State, turn to Smith & Johnson for help. We have been representing Michigan citizens since 1965.

Our team fights tirelessly on behalf of our clients, and you can be sure we’re equipped to address all aspects of separation and divorce. Call 231-946-0700 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a family lawyer in Michigan.