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Michigan Attorneys: Don’t Wait Too Long to Refer Car Accident Cases

February 17, 2009 by Steven M. Gursten

Top Mistakes in Auto Accident Cases: No. 4

This is the fourth blog post in a series on avoiding mistakes in a Michigan auto accident lawsuit, to protect clients from insurance company defense lawyers aiming to destroy legitimate cases. But aside from advising car accident victims to take the proper steps during litigation, referring attorneys must also take caution with first-party and third-party cases alike. Understandably, many personal injury attorneys would rather settle cases themselves. But even with the best of intentions, they often wait too long to refer them. This creates several reoccurring problems can be detrimental to a car accident case:

1. Critical documents to prove liability in Michigan truck accident cases can be destroyed within months.
A trucking company is only required to keep the bulk of their records concerning a truck accident — no matter how serious the injuries or even if someone was killed — for a very short period of time. It cannot be emphasized enough to lawyers unfamiliar with truck accident law that there’s only a limited window to retain log books. The destruction of these and other incredibly important pieces of evidence in serious truck accident cases is not only legal, but commonplace, and it’s to be expected. As chairman of the Interstate Truck Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice, I have seen far too many examples of inexperienced lawyers failing to secure critical documents, in turn costing their clients millions of dollars.

2. Lawyers often miss the one year statute of limitations for Michigan no-fault and first-party cases, believing they have the full three years normally allowed for third-party cases.
Attorneys who handle auto accident cases part-time or practice out of state often fail to recognize that there is a one-year time limit to apply for benefits in Michigan. Michigan no-fault law (also called a first-party or personal injury protection (PIP) case) covers important benefits such as wage loss, medical bills, replacement services, mileage and attendant care based upon the severity of the injuries. But if an unknowing attorney — who is not familiar with the most recent laws, or assumes Michigan law is similar to a non no-fault state where medical expenses can be added to a tort lawsuit — refers a case after the statue has expired, none of these vital benefits will be available to the client. In turn, the client will be forced to pay for them out of pocket. So please remember that in Michigan, medical bills are generally not part of the requested relief in tort cases. They are paid by the car accident victim’s insurance carrier. And if an attorney misses the one-year statue of limitations, it could be a malpractice issue.

3. When auto accident cases are referred too late, critical and completely debilitating injuries are frequently missed, and documentation of injuries is disregarded.
Sometimes car accident victims don’t understand how serious their injuries are, and therefore, do not seek appropriate treatment. Treatment for personal injuries from auto accidents is not only necessary for proper recovery, but creates a record of the injuries, which is necessary to meet Michigan’s high injury threshold law for recovering damages in an auto accident case. Additionally, all car accident injuries (even minor ones) must be documented on the Michigan no- fault application for benefits. According to Ross v. Allstate, a person who suffers injuries in an automobile accident but who fails to give specific notice of each of those injuries to his no-fault insurance company within one year, can later be barred from having the insurer pay medical bills.

4. Attorneys who do not handle car accident cases don’t understand what documentation needs to be submitted to the insurance carrier to ensure the injured person is obtaining all benefits available under the Michigan No-Fault Act.
For example, when a client has a surgery and an attorney fails to tell the client that Michigan attendant care benefits might be available, and what information needs to be obtained from their treating physicians and sent to their insurance company to ensure the client receives those benefits, it could be an issue of malpractice. Keep in mind that it’s a lawyer’s duty to advise clients of all no-fault benefits that are available as well as how to properly submit reasonable proof to their insurance companies.

5. Attorneys that don’t refer cases regularly don’t understand the complicated interplay between the Michigan No-Fault Act, ERISA, worker’s compensation and Medicaid.
This lack of understanding could result in the wrong insurer paying for medical benefits, which could mean the injured person must repay the cost of his or her medical benefits out of pocket. In some situations, the auto accident attorney can be required to pay . A lien taken by any of the above carriers could affect a first- or third-party case.

Michigan Auto Law is Michigan’s largest law firm practicing exclusively in car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases. We have helped injury victims throughout Michigan for more than 50 years and three generations. Our law firm has achieved more million dollar verdicts and settlements for automobile accident injury and death cases than any other law firm in Michigan, including the largest reported 2008 settlement and auto negligence jury verdict. Year after year, our law firm has unmatched success helping people.

If you are an attorney and would like to refer a Michigan auto accident case, please contact Michigan Auto Law at (800) 777-0028. In the meantime, our law firm is happy to be a trusted resource on auto accident cases. We have offices in Farmington Hill, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights.

Related information:

Finding the Best Attorney After an Auto Accident

Lawsuit Mistake No. 1: Michigan Personal Injury Lawyers and Accident Victims Use Caution with Social Networking Web Sites

Lawsuit Mistake No. 2: Michigan Car Accident Lawyers Recommend Documenting Injuries Before It’s Too Late

Lawsuit Mistake No. 3: Auto Accident Victims Must Always Consider First Impressions


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