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Michigan Car Accident Injury Cases: The Important Body Function Requirement

Michigan car accident lawyers must satisfy three requirements in order to
help car accident victims be compensated in tort for their accident related
injuries. The first is that car accident victims suffer an objectively
manifested impairment. The second is that the body function impaired by the
car accident be to an “important body function”. The third prong of
Michigan’s third party auto negligence threshold law requires the car
accident victim be able to show a significant lifestyle impact.

The following information has been prepared by Michigan car accident lawyers
to assist personal injury attorneys in achieving the best possible result
for auto accident victims.

Section 3135(7) provides the Michigan statutory definition of serious
impairment in car accident personal injury cases. And it is this definition
where the requirement that the body function impaired be an important body
function is found. This requirement was initially imposed by the Cassidy
decision. The DiFranco court later rejected this important body function
requirement. The requirement was then resurrected, and that portion of
DiFranco legislatively overruled by 1995 PA 222. Thus, trial courts in
Michigan deciding automobile accident personal injury cases will today
decide what is and is not an important body function as a matter of law
before a car accident injury victim can be awarded compensation for personal
injuries he or she sustained in a car accident.

The Michigan Standard Jury Instructions, as amended in May of 1997, SJI2d
36.11 includes a parenthetical instruction on what is or is not an
“important body function.” The court is directed in the notes to this jury
instruction that if it has concluded that a body function is important as a
matter of law, the court must then instruct a jury that the specific
function involved is an important body function.

The following are some of the Michigan third party auto negligence cases
that have already held as a matter of law that the injury claimed in the
underlying lawsuit involved important body functions. As the Michigan
Supreme Court has indicated that the Michigan legislature largely intended
to restrict tort recovery in car accidents in Michigan by resurrecting
Cassidy, the older Cassidy v. McGovern era auto negligence jurisprudence on
what injuries are an important body function remain good law today for
Michigan lawyers.

These cases include:

  1. Cassidy v McGovern, 415 Mich 483, 330 NW2d 22, 30 (1982) “Walking is an
    important body function.”
  2. Meklir v Bingham, 147 Mich App 716, 383 NW2d 95, 98 (1985) “We do not
    doubt that the ability to move one’s back is an important body function.”
  3. Meklir, supra, at p 98 “We would also agree that movement of one’s neck
    and hand are also important body functions.”
  4. Kanaziz v Rounds, 153 Mich App 180, 395 NW2d 278, 280 (1986): “We agree
    with plaintiff that the correct functioning of the heart is an important
    body function.” (Her contusion demonstrated by an irregular
    electrocardiogram following plaintiff’s trauma with a steering wheel.)
  5. Sherell v Bugaski, 140 Mich App 708,364 NW2d 684 (1984) Where a back
    injury and the absence of a normal spinal curvature “does impair important
    body functions.”
  6. Range v Gorosh , 140 Mich App 712, 364 NW2d 686, 689 (1984) (after
    remand): “Breathing is an important body function”. (Plaintiff suffered
    fractured ribs and a fractured clavicle).
  7. Harris v Lemicex , 152 Mich App 149, 393 NW2d 554, 560 (1986): “In the
    instant case, we find that plaintiff’s ability to move her back is an
    important body function”. (A diagnosis was made by a chiropractor of a low
    back strain with myofascitis.)
  8. Argenta v Shahan , supra , which is now the law: “It is obvious that
    plaintiff’s ability to his back is an important body function.”

Under these cases, the ability to walk, use one’s legs, use one’s hands,
one’s neck, mid-neck, back or chest in breathing are all important body
functions.

It should be further noted that as of this writing, there has not been one
case in Michigan, published or unpublished, that has found that an injured
part of a person’s body failed to be an important body function. Indeed,
almost all of the auto accident cases that have failed to survive defense
lawyer motions for summary disposition on serious impairment of body
function as a matter of law have usually involved the third requirement
under Michigan threshold law: that the injury affect the person’s general
ability to lead his or her normal life.

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