There are two types of claims that flow from a motor vehicle accident:
- “First-Party No-Fault” rights against one’s own no-fault carrier, to enforce the promises they made to pay for your medical care, wage loss, etc; and
- Claims against other drivers, also called “third-party”, or pain and suffering claims.
First Party No-Fault Claims (v. Your Auto Insurance Company)
To get a better idea of your “first-party” rights, under Michigan law, visit the No-Fault Insurance Matters page.
Third Party Auto Accident Cases (v. Negligent Drivers/Responsible Parties)
Since 1973, injuries must pass a threshold, before there is even a right to sue; of course, if you do not have a right to sue, there isn’t much to threaten an insurance company with.
There are three ways to meet the Michigan no-fault threshold:
- Injuries resulting in death;
- Injuries resulting in scarring or “serious and permanent disfigurement”; and
- Injuries resulting in “serious impairment of body function”.
Most cases fall within this third category, and are held to either meet, or not meet the threshold.
In all cases, the injuries must be caused by the motor vehicle accident.
Injuries Resulting in Death
Death: Did the motor vehicle accident result in the death of someone, for whose survivors a claim now needs to be made?
Injuries Involving Serious and Permanent Disfigurement
The next category of threshold cases involves scarring, or “serious and permanent disfigurement”. The statute requires the scar to be both “permanent” and “serious”, and Michigan cases require medical testimony, to support these issues. Arguably, the scarring threshold can be met by means of a surgical incision.
Injuries Resulting in Serious Impairment
The third and final category is that of “serious impairment.” To meet the threshold, one must have an accident-related injury, that is:
- Objectively manifested; and
- Adversely impacts the person’s ability to live his/her normal daily life.
While these seem like fact-driven issues that juries should decide, activist Michigan judges have held with some frequency, and for some time, that these are “issues of law” for them to decide.
Michigan law has swung back and forth on the issue of whether “serious impairment” can be decided, as a practical matter, by juries or by judges. The significance is this: any auto accident case that requires jury consideration is worth more, for a number of reasons.
First, jury verdicts take place at the very end of a case, after which an insurance company has often spent a large sum of money on attorney fees, paying a law firm to represent their interests. The sooner a case can resolve, the less expensive a case will be for either side.
Moreover, jury verdicts range from zero to extremely high figures, and insurance companies would prefer to avoid that exposure if they can.
Do We Sue or Do We Settle?
You may be asking yourself, don’t we want to settle quickly? Why do I need to care about juries and judges at all, if we settle? The reason is that a lawsuit is the only leverage an injured person has over a large and powerful insurance company.
I get more in settlements for my clients, by preparing their cases for trial. Pure and simple.
If the insurance company knows they will win, because the law is on their side for whatever reason, the threat of a lawsuit is not much of a threat at all. The greater the threat of a jury trial, all other things being equal (which they rarely, if ever, are), the more a case will be worth.
There are also potentially significant monetary “excess economic” claims that can be presented, that are not subject to the threshold requirements discussed above. For example, a young person, disabled for the rest of their lives, may have significant wage loss claims not covered under First-Party No-Fault rules.
In addition to the often complex rules on injury threshold, there are rules which sometimes allow health insurers, disability insurers, ERISA-qualified plans or governmental agencies (e.g., Medicare/Medicaid) to claim a part of your injury settlement.
You will need an experienced attorney to help you navigate through this often unfriendly legal thicket. Your battle may have to be waged on many fronts. Call an experienced attorney, who knows how to navigate these issues, and knows how to fight these battles.
The sooner you do, the sooner you call Jon Frank, the sooner I get to work on your matter, and the sooner the insurance company will start taking your devastated life more seriously.
Some folks say they are “not doing this for the money”. I do.
Give me a call today.
Accidents Outside of Michigan
Normally, I cannot handle matters outside the State of Michigan, but there are exceptions.
Most states have rules allowing attorneys from other jurisdictions to apply for temporary admission, or "pro hac vice". If you want me to assist in your out-of-state matter, and it makes sense for me to do so, I can apply for that temporary admission. If I do get temporary admission, I can represent you in your out-of-state matter.
What if you simply want to find an attorney out-of-state?
Other states' auto accident rules are often just as complex as Michigan's. You will still need experienced legal help, wherever your accident occurred.
I have access to the Nation’s top trial lawyers. I will gladly help you find qualified & skilled trial counsel in any State in the Union, through my extensive professional network.