The steps involved in filing a lawsuit after being injured in a crash
When people are hurt in a car accident, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and have no idea where to start. I recently received this common question from a car accident victim who was asking about how to file a lawsuit, and I wanted to share my answer with you today.
Q. My husband and I were in an auto accident yesterday and I’m curious about how we can sue.
A. In Michigan, you can sue for a car accident. You have three potential cases:
1. Mini tort – For physical damage to your vehicle only. You can recover a maximum of $1,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance.
2. No-Fault benefits (your first-party case) – For No Fault benefits provided through your own auto insurance, including medical expenses, attendant care (also known as in-home nursing care), replacement services for help with children and around the house, and you can recover 85% of your lost wages if you miss time from work.
3. Pain and suffering (your third-party tort case – also known as an injury case) – For compensation from the at-fault driver, and at-fault driver’s insurance company for your injuries and pain and suffering.
The good news is, for your No Fault benefits and vehicle damage and mini tort claims, you might not even need a lawyer. Here’s information on filing an application for your No Fault benefits and for your mini tort claim.
The pain and suffering lawsuit, however is usually a different story. Michigan also has a unique injury threshold law that requires that a person injured in a car accident have a “serious impairment of body function.” This means the injury you suffer must be sufficiently serious in order to recover money damages in a lawsuit against the insurance company of the driver who caused your car accident.
That doesn’t mean you always will need an attorney, and there are many times where I tell people they don’t. But there are a lot of potential traps for the unwary who do choose to go it alone. One common example I’ve seen is when seriously injured people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in underinsured motorist coverage, because they settled directly with the insurance company for the at-fault driver and did not give proper notice.
An experienced auto accident lawyer can help guide you through this process in order to prove your injuries and your impairments. And an attorney can ensure you receive adequate compensation for the other driver’s wrongdoing and your injuries, and that the other side is not trying to take advantage if the insurance company from the other driver has contacted you and offered to settle the case.
It always helps to speak with an injury attorney first. You can get your initial questions answered at no charge and make sure you’re not missing any important deadlines. That first free phone call can buy you a lot of peace of mind.