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Why 2009 May Bring Hope for Car Accident Victims

January 1, 2009 by Steven M. Gursten

The accident lawyers of Michigan Auto Law would like to wish our readers a very Happy New Year. And what is a new year without hope for the future? For thousands of Michigan residents who have been seriously injured in automobile accidents, 2009 may bring much needed hope.

Michigan’s current auto accident law, as interpreted by Kreiner v. Fischer, unfairly discriminates against different groups of people — even when they sustain essentially identical injuries from a car accident.

The good news is, come 2009, Kreiner will likely be revisited and hopefully reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court, now that Judge Diane Hathaway has replaced Chief Judge Cliff Taylor. If that happens, thousands of people who were seriously injured in auto accidents throughout Michigan, and subsequently told they have no cases by Michigan lawyers, would have a second chance.

The following are real life examples of how people hurt in automobile accidents have been horribly affected by Michigan’s current car accident threshold law. These are examples I have used in teaching the serious impairment no-fault insurance class at Cooley Law School, and they’re based upon actual Michigan auto cases.

Working in Pain After My Auto Accident

I am in pain everyday from my car accident that occurred in Sterling Heights, Michigan. But I take a lot of pain medication and I can still work. I can also do basically everything I did before my car accident, but just for not as long. The pain medication helps me to function, even though I’m exhausted when I get home. My lawyer says I won’t have a car accident case under Michigan law unless I can demonstrate that my injury amounts to a “serious impairment of body function.”

That seems ridiculous. Why am I penalized for trying to work in pain? It doesn’t seem fair that I would get money if I just gave up and didn’t do anything after my car accident, but I get nothing for all of my pain and suffering if I keep trying to gut it out and work.

Serious Accident – No Change in Course or Trajectory of Life

My lawyer said that the Michigan Supreme Court specifically wrote in Kreiner that an injury does not need to be permanent in order to be serious under Michigan’s auto accident threshold law. But then the Court wrote that an injury from a car accident must change the course or trajectory of my normal life in order to constitute a serious impairment under Michigan law. Isn’t that a contradiction?

Well, the trial court didn’t think so. The judge said that my fractured leg wouldn’t change the course or trajectory of my life, even though I missed almost six months from work. I got nothing for my pain and injuries.

No Physician – Imposed Restrictions

My doctor said he doesn’t want to get involved in litigation, that he won’t write any reports and doesn’t want to testify. He says he doesn’t like taking patients who have been hurt in car accidents because it’s too much paperwork and aggravation. My doctor keeps telling me I have a serious injury, but he has never specifically written me any restrictions.

The defense lawyer filed a motion saying everything that I say I can’t do is a “self-imposed” restriction and not a physician-imposed restriction, as required by Kreiner. I got nothing for my car accident.

Serious Personal Injuries – Lost Job

I have a good lawyer who kept saying I have a strong auto case. I was hit by a drunk driver who crossed the centerline. I had major knee reconstruction surgery using cadaver bone, and lots of screws were drilled into my leg. I had more than seven months of physical therapy and rehabilitation. I also suffered a head injury and lost consciousness. In the first few weeks after my accident I could barely move — even with crutches. I needed help just getting to a bathroom and the bathtub. Needless to say, I lost my job.

But the Michigan Court of Appeals, in a case called Gagne v. Schulte, ruled against me. The Court said that because I was able to go back to work, and could walk again one year after the car crash, that my accident case didn’t affect my overall life as a matter of law. I got nothing for all the pain and hardship I went through from my auto accident.

Michigan Current Car Accident Law Discriminates

The four individuals I discussed above are prime examples of the countless people who have been seriously injured and had their lives devastated by auto accidents in Michigan. Aside from discriminating against the disabled, those who work at home, the elderly and children; our auto accident law punishes those who try going back to work even with severe pain, and those with hesitant doctors and lackadaisical lawyers. All of these people have a far more difficult time under Michigan’s current accident threshold law.

But if the new Michigan Supreme Court reverses Kreiner, there will be hope for deserving people like those I discussed above. They may have an easier time obtaining pain and suffering compensation under a more fair law.

Related information:

Why Winning Auto Injury Cases Has Become So Challenging

Michigan Personal Injury Lawyers

Michigan No-Fault Insurance Law

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights.

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