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Restoring Common Sense: Michigan Car Accident Victims Could Get Second Chance

On Election Day, Michigan residents took a stand by ousting Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Cliff Taylor in favor of his Democratic challenger, Judge Diane Marie Hathaway. Voices rang clear that people were fed up with the extreme right-wing agenda that has controlled the Court, leading Michigan automobile insurance companies to report record-breaking profits, as injured people were cast aside.

Throughout Hathaway’s campaign against the “sleeping judge” beholden to powerful insurance companies, she promised she could be fair. That’s why the personal injury attorneys of Michigan Auto Law believe Hathaway’s elevation will put a halt to the extreme grip on the Court by the so-called “gang of four,” which has devastated Michigan accident victims for a decade. We also believe the new Court could overrule one of its most unfair and notorious decisions, Kreiner v. Fischer.

If Kreiner is overturned, thousands of people who were seriously injured in car accidents throughout Michigan, and subsequently told they have no case by Michigan lawyers, would have a second chance. Additionally, those injured in future auto accidents would have an easier time under Michigan law obtaining pain and suffering compensation and needed insurance benefits.

Unfair Michigan Auto Accident Law Could Take a Turn

In the last few years, many people who sustained personal injuries in auto accidents were told they did not have cases. Many of these accident victims had tried returning to work with pain, and were punished by Kreiner, which focused only on impairment. For example, people who returned to work within months of an automobile accident, even with fractures, herniated discs and surgeries, were considered not to be “seriously impaired.”

But this draconian law that has hurt so many good people could likely change. Come January, when Hathaway takes the Michigan Supreme Court bench, the Court will consist of three Democrats, three Republicans and one moderate Republican who is considered the crucial swing vote, Justice Elizabeth Weaver. Justice Weaver has been an outspoken critic of the extreme agenda and judicial activism that the former four-block majority, anchored by deposed Chief Justice Taylor, had taken in the past decade.

In 2004, the “majority of four” overwhelmed car accident injury victims throughout Michigan with its interpretation of the state’s “serious impairment of body function” statute in Kreiner. It raised additional obstacles for accident victims to meet in order to sue for non-economic damages, such as “course or trajectory” and “physician-imposed restrictions,” which are found nowhere in the clear and unambiguous statutory definition of “serious impairment” (MCL 500.3135 (7)) enacted by the Michigan Legislature in 1995.

The dissent in Kreiner could soon become Michigan’s new auto law. In addition, MCL 500.3135 (7) could return to being construed the way it was written: “‘Serious impairment of body function’ means an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”

A Second Chance at Justice for Michigan Car Accident Victims

Our optimism stems from the fact that for the past decade, the Court has consistently issued sharply divided 4-3 opinions, ruling in favor of insurance companies almost 90 percent of the time and often completely disregarding the little guy. Like Michigan voters, even the other Supreme Court justices believe it’s time for a change.

On Justice Weaver’s Web site, she wrote, “I believe that with Judge Hathaway, the people of Michigan have chosen a fair and independent judge… I am hopeful that with the addition of Judge Hathaway, we can bring about reform of the operations and activities of the Supreme Court by, among other things, replacing secrecy with transparency, working to reform the selection of justices and establishing disqualification rules for justices, and helping the Supreme Court deserve the people’s trust and confidence.”

Democratic Justice Marilyn Kelly said in a published report to expect “significant changes” in the Court with Hathaway’s arrival.

Again, our law firm thinks the new Court could soon start deciding the laws of this state the way they were written; not the way the big insurance companies designate. This welcome change would have enormous and wonderful consequences for many people who have been hurt in auto accidents and had their rights ravaged in years past.

– This post was written by Steve Gursten, managing partner of Michigan Auto Law. Visit Steve Gursten’s LinkedIn profile.


Related information from Michigan Car Accident Lawyer Blog:

Michigan’s Auto Law, Version 3.0

Will Benefiel Restore Common Sense to Michigan’s Broken Auto Law?

Justice Corrigan Fails Children Injured in Car Accidents

Michigan Supreme Court Abuse

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights.

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