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Objective Manifestation Requirement In Michigan Auto Accident Injury Cases

Michigan Lawyers seeking to provide the best support for victims of auto accident injuries must clearly understand the definition of objective manifestation. The information below has been prepared by Michigan auto accident attorneys as a resource for lawyers throughout Michigan to ensure the best possible result for car accident victims. Personal injury lawyers that handle auto accident cases must explore any and all medical treatment and testing that might help the victim document and verify injuries resulting from auto accidents.

Objectively Manifested Impairment

The definition of objectively manifested in auto accident cases in Michigan has changed considerably throughout the years. As defined in 1995 PA 222, the new definition of serious impairment of body function is broken into three separate requirements. The first requirement is that an injury be objectively manifested. The current Standard Jury Instructions 2d 36.11 incorporates the Michigan Supreme Court’s 1986 definition of objectively manifested impairment found in the DiFranco decision. This standard jury instruction for Michigan auto negligence cases states: in order for an impairment to be objectively manifested, there must be a medically identifiable injury or condition that has a physical basis.

The meaning of objectively manifested has been changed throughout the past twenty years of Michigan third party jurisprudence, from cases such as Cassidy, DiFranco, and then after the enactment of Public Act 222 in 1995 with Jackson v. Blaine-Hasson. On August 28, 2002, in Jackson v. Blaine-Hasson Lomax, an important and published case regarding objectively manifested impairment, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed that the definition of objective manifestation comes from the DiFranco definition of medically identifiable. The Jackson court adopted the DiFranco definition as the last word defining objective manifestation. The current jury instruction which refers to DiFranco remains the proper instruction to use for the new Michigan auto negligence threshold definition of a serious impairment of body function.

In 2006, Netter v. Bowman, also published, further adopted the Jackson Court’s definition of objective manifestation but then modified the definition used in Jackson by adding that the term objectively manifested can be met either by an injury being visually apparent or subject to medical measurement. A more thorough analysis of the Netter decision, including how it will impact the objective manifestation requirement in Michigan car accident cases and how it will affect the ability of those who suffer closed head traumatic brain injuries as a result of automobile accidents to receive compensation can be found in our car accident section.

There is substantial disagreement amongst Michigan personal injury attorneys who handle car accident cases on what exactly Netter will mean. Some Michigan attorneys suggest Netter is a not so veiled attempt by an outcome motivated appellate court to change the definition objectively manifested impairment definitions of Jackson and DiFranco and return to a more restrictive Cassidy v. McGovern era definition of the term. After Cassidy, a subsequent appellate court in Williams v. Payne in effect threw out all automobile accident injury claims that were not subject to a medical measurement by objective means: symptoms of pain and suffering, limitations in motion, closed head injuries, traumatic headaches all failed the Michigan test of being subject to objective medical measurement. No matter how objectively demonstrated through muscle spasm, loss of normal lordosis, restricted range of motion and other orthopedic testing, these and other serious car accident injuries could never meet the demands of objective medical measurement test.

The latest consensus of Michigan personal injury attorneys who handle car accident cases seems to be that Netter did at least attempt to make the current definition of objectively manifested more difficult for auto accident injury victims. However, as the Netter Court was still bound to follow the preceding published case of Jackson v. Blaine-Hasson Lomax, which has not been over-ruled by the Michigan Supreme Court, it was unable to fully reinstate the old Cassidy era test and thus created the “either/or” test of being either visually apparent or subject to medical measurement.

Therefore, like much of our current auto accident jurisprudence in Michigan, there appears to be cases that can be used by both sides – plaintiff attorneys and defense lawyers – to support their arguments. As of this latest writing, Michigan auto accident lawyers still await final word from either the Michigan Supreme Court, or a new legislative definition by those who feel the Michigan Supreme Court strayed too far in Kreiner from the clear legislative intent behind PA 222.

Proving Objective Manifestation for Michigan Lawyers

It is the responsibility of Michigan lawyers handling automobile accident cases to explore all means of medical treatment and medical testing available to help your client document the injuries and impairments from his or her car accident. Regardless of whichever definition of objective manifestation the Courts ultimately will use in Michigan, if the goal of the personal injury lawyer is to achieve the most full and fair recovery possible on behalf of an injured client, then all avenues must be explored for documenting and verifying an injured person’s complaints of pain.

Some of the medical testing available for documenting and verifying pain and injury complaints in car accidents include:

  1. MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging;
  2. CT scanning;
  3. EEG’s;
  4. EMG’s;
  5. Spect Scanning;
  6. PET Scanning;
  7. Themography
  8. Dynamic Motion X-rays.

All of these different types of medical testing and documentation should be explored by Michigan lawyers handling automobile accident cases. It is not enough for Michigan attorneys to just rely on the doctor to explore different avenues of medical testing. Michigan, with its unusually harsh and restrictive threshold for recovery in automobile accident cases, demands that more emphasis be placed upon medical documentation of injuries so that the practitioner can survive Motions for Summary Disposition and scrutiny in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Moreover, many people today who are injured in car accidents are participants in different health care plans and organizations and face additional challenges to getting proper medical care and treatment. It is a sad reality that too many doctors who are enrolled as participating physicians in many of these health care plans can only make money by seeing people in volume and many doctors are actually penalized for ordering expensive diagnostic testing in these plans. These health care plans require primary physician referrals at a time when these same plans provide economic disincentives for doctors to send people injured in car accidents out for expensive medical testing such as magnetic resonance imaging.

While an injured person may suffer very serious injuries that will satisfy any future appellate interpretation of what an objective manifestation of injury is (for example a herniated spinal disk or a broken bone) months and years can pass before that car accident victim is referred out for the objective medical testing necessary to document and verify those injuries. In the meantime, the Michigan lawyer is faced with either pursuing a legal case for that person based upon the symptoms of a very real, but undiagnosed injury by focusing on the muscle spasm, lack of range of motion, reversal of the lordotic curvature in an injured person’s back, or other manifestations of the symptoms of an injury, or with the person paying for these diagnostic tests himself or herself to pass the statutory threshold requirement of a serious impairment of body function. This latter action flies in the face of the fundamental scheme of the No-Fault Act, the overriding principle of which is to provide generous medical and loss wage benefits for an injured car accident victim while at the same time imposing restrictions upon an injured person’s ability to sue in tort except for more serious auto accident injuries.

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