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9 things to know if you've been injured in a Michigan car accident

Auto accident lawyer highlights important precautions and actions that will ensure a successful personal injury lawsuit

If you've been injured in an auto accident in Michigan, please consider the following information prepared by our auto accident lawyers. You're welcome to call Michigan Auto Law at for a free consultation.

  1. Michigan car accident victims must show impairment — not pain.
  2. You only have ONE YEAR to apply for No-Fault benefits.
  3. You have only three years to file a pain and suffering lawsuit — but you may have much less!
  4. Document all personal injuries (even minor ones) on your application for No-Fault benefits.
  5. Prompt medical attention for ALL injuries is essential.
  6. Don't hide information and always tell the truth.
  7. Expect surveillance.
  8. If you misrepresent, you lose your "right to sue."
  9. A "right to use" an uninsured vehicle may cost your "right to sue."

 

1. Michigan car accident victims must show impairment — not pain.

Michigan auto law requires that victims injured in a car or truck accident show a “serious impairment of body function.” This means someone can be in pain every day, but if he cannot show how his life is different after the auto accident, it is unlikely he will have a successful personal injury lawsuit.

How do Michigan auto accident lawyers and victims demonstrate “impairment?” Demonstrating impairment, or "lifestyle impact" is the most important way to have a successful case. The more ways you can show changes in your normal daily life, the easier it is to show how the car accident has affected your life. Courts will look at factors such as amount of time off of work, type and length of medical treatment, and what effect the car accident had on the ability to perform hobbies, recreational activities and interests.

2. You only have ONE YEAR to apply for No-Fault benefits.

Your Michigan No-Fault insurance will cover important benefits (also called personal injury protection (PIP) benefits) such as:

This is referred to as a first-party auto accident case. To obtain these No-Fault benefits, you must file an application for benefits with your auto insurance company. All Michigan auto accident victims have only one year from the date of the accident to file an application for benefits, regardless of age or competency.

All incurred No-Fault benefits must be paid within one year of the date the service is incurred. If an incurred expense remains unpaid by your auto company after one year, and an application for No-Fault benefits has not been filed on your behalf, then the amount owing is time-barred - no exceptions. This means that it's too late to ever file a lawsuit to recover those benefits.

3. You have only three years to file a pain and suffering lawsuit — but you may have much less!

Michigan auto accident victims have three years to file a pain and suffering lawsuit for injuries sustained from an auto accident. But in reality, injured victims may have much less time than that. Here’s the reason: Many accident victims have two additional types of coverage called Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM). These options may have notice provisions that are far less than the one-year statute of limitations in first-party No-Fault cases, or the three-year statute of limitations in filing a pain and suffering lawsuit against a negligent driver.

Please be sure to check your auto insurance policy immediately after a car crash, so you can provide timely notice to your insurance company. If you have any questions regarding the contractual provisions in your insurance policy regarding filing requirements or notice periods, consult with an auto accident attorney immediately. You can call Michigan Auto Law at for a free consultation.

4. Document all personal injuries (even minor ones) on your application for No-Fault benefits.

In 2004, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in Ross v. Allstate that a person who suffered injuries in a car accident but who FAILED TO GIVE SPECIFIC NOTICE OF EACH OF THOSE INJURIES to his No-Fault insurance company within one year, was later barred from having his No-Fault insurer pay medical bills for those injuries. Ross v. Allstate is an important example of how dangerous it can be for people who are hurt in auto accidents and fail to report all of their injuries to their insurance company.

For people who have suffered closed-head injuries or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), a more common problem is that important symptoms are often not documented early in medical records or reported to doctors, so payment for medical services can be later denied or refused.

For instance, symptoms like headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blurred vision, short-term memory loss, jarred concentration or emotional changes, might not be reported to doctors, because the auto accident victim dismisses them as minor concerns. But when these TBI symptoms become far more evident, such as when the masking effects of pain medications for accompanying physical injuries later stops, or when someone tries to return to a job that highlights underlying problems with short-term memory or concentration that were not as evident when the injured person was still off of work, it can be too late to get the medical treatment paid by the insurance company.

Michigan auto accident lawyers who understand the complexities of closed-head injury cases cannot stress this point enough to victims and their families: Do not try to determine on your own that your injuries are too minor to report. If something hurts, tell your doctors, and tell them as soon as possible. Again, report all of your injuries to your insurance company on your application for benefits immediately.

5. Prompt medical attention for ALL injuries is essential.

What seems like minor personal injuries or insignificant pain from a car accident can sometimes have devastating or fatal consequences. Always seek medical attention immediately if you struck your head or lost consciousness. Seek diagnostic testing for your brain to rule out bleeding as soon as possible. Back and neck pain, and other areas where you are experiencing pain must be documented as soon as possible, as well. A “minor” backache may be a ruptured spinal disk and extruded disk material that can cause paralysis.

Your health and well-being are too important. Please, if you or a loved one has suffered any injuries from a car or truck accident, be sure to seek medical care and treatment as soon as possible.

Also, never miss appointments. There is almost never a good reason to miss a doctor appointment. Not going to appointments or physical therapy can often be interpreted by a doctor (or a jury) that you don’t really care or aren’t really hurt.

6. Do not hide information and always tell the truth.

These two simple rules can prevent car accident victims from harming the value of their injury cases in Michigan. Violate them and you arm defense lawyers with a valuable weapon to attack your case and undermine the true value of your injuries.

Seems like common sense. So why do auto accident attorneys consider these to be the two biggest mistakes made by accident victims? Trial advocacy essentially boils down to a pair of simple issues: Being credible and being likeable. Because jurors want to do the right thing, they need to believe something is true if they are going to be motivated to help. In turn, jurors tend to give more money to people that they like and believe to be credible.

In a personal injury lawsuit, the accident victim’s entire medical history can be discovered. So a proper history must be provided immediately to doctors, and it must be as accurate as possible. Remember that we live in an age of computers, private investigators and Social Security numbers. If an injury ever appeared in your medical or work records, it will be found. An old or minor injury that occurred years ago to the same area injured by a new car or truck accident must be disclosed, so doctors can properly differentiate between old and current automobile accident-related injuries.

Always admit what you can remember, as it prevents defense lawyers from later claiming that you tried to “hide” information or were exaggerating your injuries. We have repeatedly seen that clearly inadmissible information, such as an old criminal record, can become admissible evidence because the injured party did not disclose the information when asked by doctors in depositions or lawsuit interrogatories. Remember, if you have hired a Michigan auto accident lawyer, he or she is on your side, but your attorney has to know about your history to help you.

7. Expect surveillance.

Surveillance by defense is expected for serious auto accident cases in Michigan. We typically find that almost everyone tells the truth. The danger occurs when an accident victim almost never performs a specific task, say, taking out the garbage, except for one day when there is no one around to help. So the injured person may take out the garbage and forget about the task in a deposition. In turn, the defense lawyer can make accusations of lying or exaggerating, instead of seeing this as an honest mistake. Unfortunately, this type of mistake has the potential to destroy a car accident or truck case. Even if the task was truly performed just once, it could be caught on video and the jury could believe that this is something that has been done on a routine basis.

Ethical auto accident attorneys recommend that if there’s any basis of truth to the question you’re being asked, even if it was just one time, admit it. There’s no reason you cannot disclose something, and explain the circumstances behind it. Maybe it was just a good day, and you were on pain medication. Maybe it was the first time you attempted the task and just wanted to see if you could do it. Telling the full truth is always the right answer.

8. If you misrepresent, you lose your "right to sue."

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM and UIM) are optional types of coverage that provide many important protections. If an insured person makes a misrepresentation that is considered material, the insurer may be entitled to cancel the insurance policy.

An insurance company also has no obligation to pay benefits if an insured person has misrepresented where an automobile is principally garaged for lower rates, or if an insured person has not disclosed other drivers who are also regularly driving the vehicle.

The consequences in Michigan for not telling the truth can truly destroy your chances of receiving a fair and full measure of compensation for your accident injuries.

9. A "right to use" an uninsured vehicle may cost your "right to sue."

In 2004, Twichel v. MIC General Insurance Corp. was issued by the Michigan Supreme Court. Overnight, thousands of completely innocent, seriously injured Michigan residents lost their right to bring a lawsuit for their auto accident injuries.

According to the court precedent, a person does not have to actually drive an uninsured vehicle a certain number of times in order to be considered a “constructive” owner. The essential inquiry is the “right to use” that vehicle for a 30-day period. If that “right to use” exists, even if the person who has been injured in a car or truck accident has only driven the vehicle a handful of times, then that person will be found to be a constructive owner of that vehicle.

Michigan auto accident lawyers find this so important because if someone is found to be a constructive owner of a vehicle then they are also, by definition, an uninsured owner of that vehicle. And in Michigan, an uninsured owner of a car or truck not only loses the ability to receive No-Fault insurance benefits, but that person also loses the ability to sue for pain and suffering against the at-fault driver.

This law is deliberately harsh and punishing. For example, even if you are paralyzed for life by a drunk driver, if you are found to have had the “right to use” an uninsured car, you cannot sue for your injuries.

Communication with your auto accident lawyer is vital.

Alert your auto accident attorney regarding any doctor visits or medical examinations that your insurance company is asking you to attend.

Never give a statement — recorded, or otherwise — to anyone, including your own insurance company, without contacting an attorney first. Often, these examinations under oath (EUOs) are used by experienced defense lawyers to take advantage of an injured person who does not have a lawyer. In this situation, questions are asked and topics explored that have no importance or relevance to the claimed areas of investigation. The only true reason for the interviews is to lessen later exposure in a lawsuit. Because EUOs are recorded and under oath, they can be used against you in your car accident lawsuit.

Tell your auto accident attorney everything that worries you: Often, many things like a past DUI, bankruptcy or old injury can cause clients substantial worry and concern. Unfortunately, too many clients decide to hide this information from their auto accident lawyers and doctors. Normally, this information would be inadmissible if disclosed. But it can become admissible if a person tries to hide the information or fails to disclose it when asked.

Remember, experienced and ethical auto accident attorneys are 100 percent on your side with one common interest — to make sure you receive the most fair settlement and full benefits. But we have to know about your concerns if we are truly going to help.

Get the help you need from an auto accident lawyer now

To avoid dangerous pitfalls, it's best to speak with one of our experienced auto accident attorneys. Call Michigan Auto Law at or fill out our free consultation form.

Review

Attorney Steve Gursten

by BB Rosson, Detroit, MI
July 28, 2011

5

Steve Gursten makes you feel as if you are his only client

My auto attorney Steve Gursten is absolutely wonderful. I was actually referred to him from another law firm.

He is caring and very prompt with responding to any concerns that I may have had. He actually makes you feel as if you are his only client. He is very aggressive and knows his stuff; and talks with you in understanding terms (instead of the legal mumble jumbo).

I actually call him for any legal questions that may arise – even not car accident related - and he takes the time to help. I would recommend anyone at anytime to Steve Gursten and Michigan Auto Law.