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How Michigan's new auto accident law will affect car accident victims and personal injury lawyers

Personal injury lawyer Steven Gursten teaches what McCormick v. Carrier means for accident victims and lawyers at Michigan Association for Justice legal seminar in Southfield

Michigan has an important new auto accident law that will result in enormous changes in the months ahead for car accident victims, personal injury lawyers for both the plaintiff and defense of these accident claims, and the auto insurance companies in this state. The new law was released by the Michigan Supreme Court on August 1, 2010, and the case is McCormick v. Carrier.

The ruling has overturned Michigan’s previous (and the nation’s harshest) auto accident threshold law. This new interpretation of Michigan’s auto accident threshold law will open the door for legal pain and suffering recovery for many innocent and seriously injured car accident victims seeking compensation and who were barred by the old law.

On September 1 and 2, I will be speaking about McCormick v. Carrier and its effect on Michigan Auto Law requirements to other Michigan personal injury lawyers, during the Michigan Association for Justice No-Fault Institute in Southfield, Michigan. My presentation is called “The Tort Threshold in Car Accident Cases: McCormick v. Carrier.

Lesson for personal injury lawyers in Michigan: Making injuries real

Over the past month, nearly every personal injury lawyer, insurance claims adjuster, and trial judge has been scrambling trying to figure out what this decision, weighing in at more than 100 pages, really means for people injured in car accidents in Michigan. My hope is this presentation will help my fellow auto accident attorneys and trial judges better understand this landmark lawsuit.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned after Kreiner v. Fischer . Don’t misunderstand, I’m glad it’s gone. I’ve written extensively about how Kreiner was the worst possible public policy in Michigan. What made the old law under Kreiner so frustrating for personal injury lawyers in Michigan was the focus on duration and temporal factors that punished people who suffered very serious injuries of near total incapacitation but of shorter duration.

Also punished were good people who tried, despite the pain and medical restrictions of their injuries, to gut it out and try to get back to work as quickly as possible. The irony is this: despite the terrible public policy of Kreiner actually punishing these people who tried to go back to work in pain by throwing out their pain and suffering lawsuits, the focus on impairment required under Kreiner still provides a valuable road map for Michigan personal injury lawyers in auto cases in reaching today’s jurors.

For example, we as lawyers should still try to “objectively show” injuries and prove they have a physical basis, even if this is no longer the law. The requirement that things be objectively manifested, that is, be objectively identifiable or have a physical basis has now changed after McCormick. This will require the M Civil JI 36.11 definition of objectively manifested to now be changed as well.

But this old law and its relentless focus on objective injuries and showing impairment is still great advice for all personal injury lawyers. Lawyers should strive to make every personal injury as real and objective as they can. Lawyers should blow up x-rays so skeptical jurors can see them with their own eyes. The challenge is to make every injury real – something jurors can point to and see. In other words, something that is medically identifiable and that has a physical basis, even if that legal requirement is now changed after McCormick.

Remember, as a rule, jurors don’t like lawyers, especially plaintiff personal injury lawyers, and the jury pool has been poisoned by 30 years of insurance industry propaganda about people exaggerating injuries and the need for “tort reform.” Jurors will be naturally suspicious. Anything you can do to reduce suspicion and increase credibility will improve your chances of successfully achieving a great trial result.

Michigan’s auto negligence jury instruction will now need to be changed

During the Michigan Association for Justice seminar, I will also cover the new jury instruction in Michigan auto cases, contained in M Civ JI 36.11 after McCormick v. Carrier, and tactics and strategy for how personal injury lawyers should present proofs in Michigan auto accident cases.

Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top personal injury lawyers handling serious car and truck accident injury cases and auto insurance No-Fault litigation. He is co-chair of the Michigan Association for Justice Auto Accident No-Fault Committee. Steve speaks and writes extensively on McCormick v. Carrier and is available for comment.

Related information on McCormick v. Carrier and Michigan’s auto laws:

McCormick v. Carrier blogs

Video: Michigan Supreme Court sets new standard in injury lawsuits

Michigan Auto Law is the leading largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state for more than 50 years. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you.

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