Types of Claims After Your Michigan Auto Accident
For many years, drivers in Michigan have paid some of the highest insurance rates in the nation. This has resulted in a staggering 20% of motorists driving without insurance. With the new changes to Michigan’s no fault laws, the potential for confusion is huge and many drivers will end up with lower coverage than they have now, which could in turn lead to pressure on health insurance policies or even bankruptcy due to inability to pay medical bills.
What are the main types of claims you can pursue if you have been in a Michigan car accident?
No Fault Claims
This is the standard type of claim under Michigan’s no fault – or Personal Injury Protection – insurance laws. Every driver in Michigan is required by law to carry this type of insurance. When you take out one of these policies, it covers your entire family. So, for example, if your son was a passenger in a third party’s vehicle and was injured in an accident, then your PIP insurance would cover them.
PIP/no fault insurance covers most financial losses you may incur. If you are the injured person, it will cover all necessary medical treatment with no limits set (though that will change later this year). It will also pay 85% of any wage loss you incur due to missing work with a time limit of three years. It can also cover some elements of personal care if needed and also any adaptations to your home or vehicle that are needed. And if your vehicle caused property damage in the accident, then your policy can pay out up to $1 million in damages.
While that may sound straightforward, the reality is that insurance companies do not like paying out and will often make low or incomplete offers. The general idea of the no fault law is that blame is shared 50-50 with the other parties, though if there is proof of liability that share can change. The law is also designed to protect you from being sued though there are exceptions to that:
- Where you caused the accident and someone was killed, permanently disfigured (for example, losing a limb), or was seriously injured (for example, suffering a spinal cord injury).
- When the other party in the accident is not a resident of Michigan and the vehicle they were in is registered in another state.
- Where the accident takes place outside of Michigan.
- When you are 50% or more to blame for the accident and the damage caused to another vehicle is not covered by insurance (to a limit of $1,000).
Third Party Claims
The normal catalyst for these claims is where there is proof that another driver was mostly or wholly liable for the accident. This could be as a result of them testing positive for alcohol or drugs or if they were in violation of any of the state’s road or vehicle laws.
As most medical expenses and loss of salary are covered by PIP insurance, normally a plaintiff who wants to file a third party claim would pursue non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, as well as any excess expenses not covered by PIP (such as transport costs to access medical treatment). This claim would be filed against the other driver’s insurance company.
However, there is one caveat to this type of claim. In order to file a claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they have suffered “serious impairment of body function.” This amendment to the laws took effect in 1996 and defined that threshold injury impairment as:
“…an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”
This in itself can be a contentious point and an experienced Michigan auto accident lawyer will seek to prove such impairment through medical records and expert testimony. But this part of the law has been amended as of 2019 as part of the new no fault law. The three parts that most concern this definition say:
(a) It is objectively manifested, meaning it is observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions by someone other than the injured person.
(b) It is an impairment of an important body function, which is a body function of great value, significance, or consequence to the injured person.
(c) It affects the injured person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life…
This does not change the duties of the law firm in demonstrating to the court the extent of your injuries, it only changes the parameters of the definition,
Michigan has a high percentage of uninsured drivers at around 20-21%, much higher than the national average of 12.18%. This may be partly explained by the very high cost of insurance in the state but it is a worrying statistic nonetheless.
This type of accident lawsuit can be pursued only when you have suffered injuries in an accident caused by another driver who is uninsured. But in order to file this claim, you must have these circumstances covered in your own auto insurance policy.
As with the uninsured motorists claim, you have to have purchased this specific coverage as part of your own policy. This type of claim will happen when an at fault driver is liable for the accident but they have insufficient insurance at the time of the accident to cover all the damages you claim.
Once you have claimed the maximum amount available from their insurance, you would then seek to claim any balance from your own policy. We may see more claims of this type when the new PIP policies are fully in effect.
If any property, including a vehicle, has been damaged in the accident, then you may be able to pursue a claim to recover the value of the damage done. Additional coverage on your insurance policy can cover any potential damage that may happen. If you do not have additional coverage, then the maximum you will be able to recover is $1,000 under Michigan’s mini-tort law.
With the imminent changes to no fault law in Michigan and the introduction of six different levels of insurance coverage, the complexities of making claims after a car accident may increase greatly. The new changes appear to favor the insurance companies more than the state’s motorists and have already met with a lot of criticism.
If you have been involved in a car crash in Grand Rapids or the surrounding area, Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have the experience to help you navigate through any claim. We have represented thousands of clients in court and in negotiations with insurance companies.
If you feel you have a legitimate claim, or are unsure of the legitimacy, contact us at (866)-779-7331 for a no obligation case evaluation. Our law firm operates on a contingency basis and never charges a fee unless a recovery is made.