Michigan Auto Accident Injury Law: Important Changes
Case Impact on Auto Accident Law in Michigan: Must provide SPECIFIC notice of accident related injury
Cunningham v. Auto Owners Insurance Company
No. 259521, 2006 WL 2355509 (Mich.App. Aug. 15, 2006); Ross v. Allstate, No. 245165 (2004).
Michigan auto accident injury victim must provide his insurance company with notice of a specific injury within one year of the motor vehicle accident.
IMPORTANT: The Cunningham case should be considered in light of the Michigan Supreme Court’s unanimous November 9, 2017, order in Dillon v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company where the justices concluded that:
- A car accident victim cannot satisfy the No Fault law’s notice-of-injury rule “by merely providing notice that she was physically injured.”
- The rule’s requirement that the victim “indicate in ordinary language the … nature of his injury” “refers to an injury’s inherent characteristics.”
- “A description of symptoms that are traceable to a diagnosed injury is sufficient to constitute” the “notice” required by the No Fault law.
- No Fault “does not require” a victim “to provide a precise medical diagnosis, as this would not constitute ‘ordinary language.’”
This Michigan auto accident victim suffered a closed head injury in a 1983 car accident, after which he immediately hired a Michigan attorney to file a No-Fault suit for benefits. On his No-Fault application for benefits, he claims he injured his head, but does not specifically state that he has suffered a closed head injury or a traumatic brain injury as a result of his car accident. The auto insurance company stops paying No-Fault benefits at some point thereafter, and a lawsuit was filed in 2003 by a Michigan attorney seeking due and owing Michigan No-Fault insurance benefits.
The Court of Appeals reasoned that an insurance company needs to have reasonable notice of a claim. An injury to the head does not give an insurer reasonable notice of a closed head injury.
Michigan lawyers experienced with accident injury cases find Cunningham, and Ross v. Allstate (a related 2004 decision) an absurd result. Doctors in Michigan who provide medical treatment to injury victims are simply appalled that the Courts would adopt a rule so contrary to basic medical knowledge.
Not all serious personal injuries get better over time. Some remain serious and some injuries get progressively worse over time. Other injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, can first be identified by subtle impairments that can prove debilitating but that may not become evident to someone until serious physical injuries resolve and the injured person returns to employment. Still other personal injuries can be masked by severe pain and months of recuperation from surgeries before becoming discovered, and some injuries can be disguised by strong pain medications and little physical activity for long periods of time.
When lawyers and judges who have never handled car accident injury cases decide, without any medical or scientific foundation first, that a person such as Mr. Cunningham, who suffered a blow to the head but who was not diagnosed with a closed head injury until after the one year that his Michigan insurance company was not provided with enough specific notice is alarming. Without those lawyers having the necessary medical background and knowledge of traumatic brain injuries to justify such a result, cases like Cunningham and Ross remain tragic and troubling.
Here is the official Michigan Court of Appeals opinion on Cunningham v. Auto Owners Insurance Company.