Michigan Auto Accident Injury Law: Important Changes
Case Impact on Auto Accident Law in Michigan: Document injuries and inform insurance company of ALL injuries after Michigan automobile accident
Here is the official Michigan Court of Appeals opinion in Ross v. Allstate.
IMPORTANT: The Ross 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.’”
Ross v. Allstate, No. 245165 (2004)
In 2004, the case of Ross v. Allstate was decided.
The case holds that a driver injured in a motor vehicle accident who does not give specific notice to his or her No-Fault insurance company within one year of the date of the motor vehicle accident of the specific injuries suffered in the motor vehicle accident will be barred from receiving no fault payments for those injuries. This case is an example of how devastating it can be for people to not report all of their injuries to their no fault insurance company.
Ross v. Allstate is poorly decided and extremely dangerous for Michigan drivers who are seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents. Many injuries do not get better but instead worsen over time. Nagging neck injuries or back pain that suddenly becomes more serious and requires surgery over time is commonplace and well-reflected in the scientific and medical literature. However, a nagging neck injury that is really a herniated disk that further ruptures and requires expensive surgery and lengthy disability from work just one year and one day after a motor vehicle accident in Michigan will not be covered if a claim was not made within the one year.
A more common concern is with people who suffer traumatic brain injury in a car accident. People injured in a motor vehicle accident may have very serious symptoms from a traumatic brain injury, but the symptoms can remain hidden by the effects of strong medication and months of inactivity during physical recovery.
“Masking” is a medical term used to explain how intense pain can hide or mask an injury that is less intense, such as when someone who has an aching headache will quickly forget about it when they stub their toe. Unfortunately, car accident victims with a serious brain injury may remain unaware of these traumatic brain injury symptoms while dealing with the more intense pain of broken bones or months recovering from surgery. Many accident injury victims remain unaware until they face the higher cognitive challenges of returning to the workforce. Doctors, treating physicians and injury victims can all remain unaware of the devastating effects of a brain injury that remains latent under months of pain medication and lying on a couch at home.
Ross v. Allstate can even, arguably, be used to bar No-Fault benefits for an individual injured in a car accident whose initial injury develops over time into an entirely new and more devastating injury. An ankle injured in a car accident that develops into RSD (Reflexive Sympathetic Disorder) and causes permanent disability, requiring a lifetime of serious medical treatment may be barred by the Ross v. Allstate case. Likewise, a serious brain injury that is present, but hidden, under strong pain medications and months of recovery from broken bones or surgeries will also be barred if a claim for the traumatic brain injury is not specifically made with the Michigan No-Fault insurance company responsible for payment under the Ross v. Allstate case. When dealing with traumatic brain injury, it is essential that treating doctors ask if their patients are having problems with short term memory, problems with concentration such as reading a magazine or watching television, or emotional problems. Emotional injuries can include everything from depression to crying spells to mood swings, irritability, frustration, problems with sleep and fatigue. Too often, doctors only focus on obvious physical injuries and do not ask these important follow-up questions.
The final word: Car accident victims must inform their auto insurance company as soon as possible of all motor vehicle accident personal injuries. Be as detailed as possible in describing the injuries resulting from the car accident. Unfortunately, in our world of managed care and 5 minute doctor appointments with primary doctors, it remains too easy for many serious injuries from car accidents to be missed if they are not reported within one year to the insurance company responsible for payment of No-Fault benefits.