When to Hire a No-Fault Lawyer in Detroit
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Detroit remains one of the most challenging driving areas in Michigan. Of the twenty most dangerous intersections in the entire state, all but four are in Detroit, with 1,084 fatalities at these intersections in 2020.
The recent change in the no-fault laws provides more individual choice for insurance coverage, but may also lead to more complications in recovering full compensation in the event of a severe and life-altering accident.
To understand your legal rights and options as a Detroit driver today, it is helpful to have a clear overview of the recent changes to Michigan’s no-fault laws. Driver’s should be aware of how they compare to the previous no-fault compensation benefits to make an informed decision about what coverage is sufficient for them.
A Primer on No-Fault Insurance in Michigan
From 1973 up until July 2021, the only auto-insurance option for Michigan drivers to purchase was the unlimited no-fault coverage stipulated by Michigan’s no-fault law. The no-fault framework meant that an individual’s “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP) would pay for medical treatment and associated costs arising from a car accident, regardless of who was responsible.
PIP benefits apply explicitly to monetary damages. This means that compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering must be pursued through civil or third-party lawsuits, such as personal injury lawsuits against the negligent party.
Michigan’s previous PIP benefits covered all medical costs resulting from an accident, up to 85% in lost wages for up to three years, and replacement services worth up to $20 a day for someone requiring help with household chores or grocery shopping due to the accident.
These PIP benefits extended to a spouse, family members residing in the home of the policyholder, and any motorcyclist hurt in an accident involving the policyholder’s car. It even extended to a pedestrian or bicyclist injured in a collision involving the vehicle belonging to the policyholder.
Important Changes to Michigan No-Fault Law
In May of 2019, Governor Whitmer signed into law the most significant changes to Michigan’s no-fault law since its inception. These took effect on July 1, 2021 (some provisions already took effect in July 2020) and were designed to help decrease Michigan’s insurance premiums, which were exceptionally costly due to the vast array of benefits they guaranteed.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), this resulted in as many as one in four Michigan drivers taking a chance without auto insurance in 2019, the second-highest rate in the United States after Mississippi. Instead, to make PIP affordable to everyone, six options are now available where drivers can choose the policy that best suits their budget and circumstances.
The first PIP coverage option provides the same unlimited coverage as before, allowing someone who wants to have the same benefits and can afford the premium to stick with that policy. The next three options are divided into different coverage ceiling classes: option 2 provides up to $500,000 in coverage, and option 3 provides $250,000 in coverage.
Option 4 also provides up to $250,000 in coverage but excludes some or all users of the insured vehicle in the same household of the policyholder (with the addendum that deductibles must remain beneath $6,000). Option 5 is designed for people already enrolled in Medicaid, requiring them to pay up to $50,000 in PIP. Finally, option 6 enables drivers to opt out of PIP medical coverage if they are already insured by Medicare Parts A & B and meet various other eligibility criteria.
What Happens When Damages Surpass PIP Benefits?
Medicare coverage takes over when the PIP limits are surpassed in options 2, 3, and 4. However, it may come up short if an individual has suffered life-altering changes due to a serious accident.
With the new laws taking effect, anyone involved in a serious motor vehicle accident may need to pursue a third-party or civil lawsuit against the negligent driver. An accident victim should seek additional compensation if they require long-term medical care, lose the ability to work for an extended period or suffer from non-economic damages that PIP doesn’t cover.
The Order of Priority in Michigan
When preparing to claim auto insurance benefits following a motor vehicle accident, the first thing to do is look at what your PIP option covers. Order of Priority refers to who will pay the no-fault benefits through their insurance policy in an accident. The Order of Priority in Michigan, as outlined in the Michigan No-Fault Act Statute MCL 500.3114, broadly covers drivers and passengers in car accidents.
The order of priority in Michigan auto accidents can be broken down into four priority levels, indicating whose insurance provider pays. If an accident occurs, the first priority is the no-fault insurer of the injured occupant of the vehicle. If the occupant has no PIP auto insurance, the second priority is the no-fault insurer of the driver’s spouse. If neither spouse has auto insurance, the third priority becomes the resident relative, e.g., a family member who lives with the accident victim.
If none of the above has auto insurance, the victim must apply to the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan, which evaluates the accident and provides coverage accordingly.
Exceptions to the Order of Priority
There are exceptions. These include accidents involving vehicles in the business of transporting passengers, such as buses, taxi cabs, commercial vehicles, and company vehicles operated by ride-sharing services, where the insurer of the vehicle
has first priority. In accidents involving employer-provided vehicles such as
truck accidents, the employer’s insurer is the first priority.
In car accidents involving pedestrians, the first, second, and third priorities are the pedestrian’s auto insurance, their spouse’s, or their resident relative’s respectively, with the fourth priority being the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.
The first and second priorities in motorcycle accidents are the car owner and car driver’s auto insurance. The third and fourth priorities are the motorcyclist and motorcycle owner’s auto insurances, while the fifth priority is the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.
Steps to Consider After a Detroit Car Accident
If you are involved in a car accident, the first thing you need to do is evaluate your health. If you’re conscious and can move, make a quick check of the injuries you think you have sustained, and call the authorities immediately.
Then collect as much information as you can. Do not just rely on the police report when the authorities arrive – be sure to ask the other driver(s) involved for their contact and insurance information, such as who their insurance provider is and their insurance policy number. Check if there were witnesses to the accident. If so, ask for their contact details as well. Call for medical care, and if you can, take photos of the crash scene with your cell phone while you wait.
As soon as you’re in a position to do so – and before you even file an insurance claim – you should contact specialized auto accident lawyers, such as the experienced Detroit car accident attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C.
It’s important that you consult legal counsel before contacting your insurance provider to understand your options when handling negotiations with them. Contacting an attorney for legal advice first could impact your compensation because you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit that covers expenses your no-fault PIP coverage cannot or will not accommodate.
A civil lawsuit could ensure full and fair compensation for your injuries. Detroit car accident attorneys Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. are experienced in handling personal injury cases arising from automotive accidents and understand the complexities of Michigan law. Our attorneys can evaluate your case in a free initial consultation and provide advice on the best way forward to receive the compensation you may be entitled to, depending on the facts in your accident.
We have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of our clients to ensure these companies do not take advantage of accident victims. With us in your corner, you stand the best chance of obtaining a settlement you deserve, not the one the insurance company is willing to pay at the first offer.
Are Police Reports Important?
Police reports are extremely important. When you call the police or 911 to report a motor vehicle accident, the police report of the accident scene is a central piece of evidence that will be consulted in a personal injury case and may help support your claim.
Even if you think you are uninjured, you must call the authorities, as they will respond with medical personnel who check for injuries you may not yet be aware of. All documentation in an accident report is important for any eventual lawsuit arising from the accident.
Can I Sue The At-Fault Driver?
Yes, it’s important to remember this when assessing what compensation you will need beyond PIP if you were involved in a serious accident. If you suspect the driver can be held liable for negligible behavior behind the wheel, such as drunk or reckless driving, you can file a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit in the tragic event that a family member was killed in a motor vehicle accident.
The burden to prove negligence will be on you and your attorney, but your attorney will determine the case’s viability based on the evidence available.
Who is Liable in a Detroit Car Accident Case?
The person who is found to have acted in a way that caused or led to the accident can be held to have acted negligently towards the injured party, and therefore liable, in a Detroit car accident case.
While each driver’s own auto insurance pays for their own compensation, the driver who is at fault can still be held liable for the accident in a civil case and forced to pay further compensation.
Who Pays Damages if I’m Injured in a Car Accident?
It depends on what PIP insurance option you have chosen, the order of priority according to your family situation, the circumstances of the accident, and who was at fault. In a car accident third-party or civil lawsuit, the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company must pay the damages.
Where you’re forced to file a personal injury suit, the economic and non-economic damages sought in the legal process may exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage, and the at-fault driver or at-fault parties may be ordered to pay out of pocket if proven liable.
What If I’m in a Car Accident and the Other Driver Has Little or No Insurance?
If the at-fault driver has little or no insurance coverage, they can still be made to pay. However, your ability to recover compensation may be limited by the driver’s ability to pay and their lack of personal assets.
How Long Do I Have After a Detroit Car Accident to File a Lawsuit?
If you’re considering a personal injury lawsuit, the statute of limitations is three years. However, you should not wait to file a lawsuit if you have been in a car accident in Detroit. Personal injury lawsuits can be complicated, drawn-out affairs because of their serious nature and the need to prove negligence.
You may need the damages a personal injury lawsuit can secure to deal with financial demands or other issues arising from insufficient PIP insurance. In addition, you will almost certainly be feeling additional financial stress from medical bills. This can be relieved considerably if you choose to go ahead with a lawsuit where your attorneys will focus on securing economic restitution on your behalf, allowing you to concentrate on healing.
In addition, you may have sustained severe injuries that cause long-term or permanent disability, or you may have experienced the serious impairment of a body function or permanent disfigurement. Such serious conditions may not be covered under the PIP insurance option you have chosen under the new law, especially if you selected options 2, 3, or 4, which have lower limits.
Your PIP insurance may also be insufficient to address non-medical considerations, such as mental suffering, leading to an inability to work and earn an income. In this case, filing a personal injury suit or third-party claim may be your only option to collect the damages that fully reflect the extent of your suffering.
The Detroit injury lawyers at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have extensive experience securing settlements for individuals or families involved in accidents in Michigan that have life-altering consequences, including wrongful death cases. These settlements help the injured parties rebuild their lives by helping alleviate the financial worries that compound the trauma of a car accident.
What are the No-Fault PIP Claim Time Limitations?
The statute of limitations for a no-fault PIP claim is one year from the date of your accident. Failing to apply in time will result in losing benefits related to that specific accident forever.
About Michigan’s Auto No-Fault Benefits
To make the best decision for yourself when purchasing no-fault insurance coverage in Michigan, it’s critical to understand what protection you receive from each policy option. Regardless of your coverage, you should consult with an attorney if you are injured in an auto accident.
Who is Disqualified from No-Fault Benefits?
The actions that disqualify someone from fault insurance benefits are:
- If the victim in the accident was using a stolen vehicle, if the owner or registrant of the car was not insured as required by the no-fault law
- If the victim was not a Michigan resident driving a vehicle not registered and not insured in Michigan
- If insurance company policy excludes the motor vehicle from insurance coverage
How Do You Make a No-Fault PIP Claim?
According to the no-fault statute, you are required to file a no-fault application with your auto insurance provider. They can provide you with the relevant forms.
What are the Penalties for Non-Payment of No-Fault Benefits?
Auto insurance companies are often guilty of wrongfully denying a party benefits and due payments in Detroit and broader Michigan. The penalties for doing this are unfortunately small, but the no-fault law has a provision that provides for penalty interest at 12% per year from 30 days after reasonable proof is delivered to an insurance company following an auto accident in Detroit.
Can Unlicensed Drivers Receive No-Fault Benefits?
Under Michigan law, unlicensed drivers are disqualified from no-fault benefits under the Uninsured Owner provision. This means the same laws apply as they would if the driver has an uninsured vehicle.
Find Out if You Have a Case
If you were involved in a car accident in Detroit, talk to an auto accident lawyer about your options. Where another driver’s negligence resulted in your injuries, and you are not more than 50% at fault for the accident, you may be able to pursue compensation outside of PIP benefits by filing a lawsuit.
Auto insurance companies are difficult to deal with and often try to find ways to avoid paying you your benefits. They may try to get you to settle for a lower amount than you are rightfully owed. If your auto insurance company is wrongfully denying you due payments, it’s better to let experienced car accident lawyers like Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. deal with them directly. We have many years of experience negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of our clients and fighting for the rights of car accident victims throughout the state of Michigan.
Need Help With Your Michigan No-Fault Insurance Claim?
If you or a family member have been in a car accident in Detroit and you have sustained severe injuries, it’s in your best interests to contact the legal team at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. to schedule your free consultation today. If you are struggling with the insurance company to recover medical expenses, or if you’re considering filing a third-party claim, we can help you recover the compensation you deserve.
We will assess your case and fight on your behalf to ensure you receive maximum compensation from the insurance company. If you decide to file a third-party claim during the difficult time of your long road to recovery, our firm’s contingency fee means that we only get paid if we win your case. This means that there is no risk to you if you decide to move ahead with a personal injury claim, and you don’t need to rely on your own financial resources to file a lawsuit.
What are the common causes of car accidents in Detroit?
The most common causes of car accidents in Detroit are distracted or drunk driving, tailgating, teen drivers, speeding, reckless driving, poor roads, and bad weather.
What’s happening with Michigan’s no-fault insurance? Is it going away?
No, Michigan drivers are still required to have a no-fault automobile insurance policy with Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. However, the no-fault auto insurance law is now subject to changes that first took effect in July 2020 (with additional changes in July 2021), including giving Michigan drivers options in their level of PIP coverage.
Can you sue for pain and suffering in Michigan?
Yes, you can sue the driver who was at fault for the accident to demonstrate negligence and gain compensation for pain and suffering. This may be necessary if the PIP benefits in the auto insurance option you chose under Michigan’s new law do not cover your damages. A negligence claim in Michigan is also known as a third-party claim.
If you are considering filing a negligence claim in the Detroit area, Oakland County, Genesee County, Macomb County, Wayne County, Livonia, or Farmington Hills, contact the law firm of Detroit personal injury lawyers Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.