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What evidence do you need to win an auto accident case?

September 11, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Court rules pain and suffering lawsuit properly dismissed because auto accident victims presented ‘no evidence’ to support their injury claims 

What’s the one most important piece of evidence that any injured person needs in order to win an auto accident case? Actually, it’s several things. This is a piece I wrote for personal injury attorneys when I spoke and moderated at the Advanced Motor Vehicle Accident seminars in Las Vegas and Chicago last year.

But according to the Court of Appeals, there’s one more indispensable thing any auto accident victim and his or her attorney must present to have for a successful case outcome. I know what I am about to write sounds crazy, but you’d be surprised at how many auto accident victims – and their attorneys (who should definitely know better) – go charging to the courthouse without this and fail to present this at all.


This isn’t just a matter of laziness. Or bad luck. Or, as attorneys like to say, the deck being stacked against the auto accident victim by a “bad judge.”

It results from a lack of planning and preparation by the auto accident victim’s attorney of what evidence will be critical to support the claim – and to survive defense motions for summary disposition for lack thereof.

For me, I always tackle the “evidence” issue head-on by using some of the many “checklists for proving serious impairment of body function” that I have developed as an auto accident lawyer. To review my “checklists” and learn more, please check out my “Tips for Michigan Attorneys Handling Car Accident Lawsuits” page on the Michigan Auto Law website.

Additionally, there’s no substitute for thorough, well-researched deposition preparation when it comes to finding and gathering the evidence that’s necessary to support an auto accident victim’s case for pain and suffering compensation.

‘No evidence’ = no case, rules the Court

I speak at legal seminars across the nation, teaching attorneys how to litigate motor vehicle accident cases. And although there are many cases out there that illustrate the dangerous and reckless phenomenon of lawyers allowing their auto accident victim-clients to proceed with cases that are wholly – or at least inadequately – supported by evidence, one particular Michigan Court of Appeals case stands out in my mind.

In Trimble, et al., v. Shepardson, et al., the Court of Appeals ruled the trial court properly dismissed two Michigan auto accident victims’ claims for pain and suffering compensation, i.e., “noneconomic loss” damages, because there was “no evidence” to support either victim’s claim.

Under Michigan’s No Fault insurance law, an auto accident victim can sue for pain and suffering compensation only if she can show she’s suffered a “serious impairment of body function,” which involves proving that an accident-related impairment has “affect[ed] the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.” (MCL 500.3135(1) and (5))

It was on that issue that the court in Trimble concluded the victims’ had presented “no evidence”:

  • “[N]either plaintiff substantiated with evidence that their injuries affected their general abilities to lead their normal lives.”
  • “In response to defendants’ summary disposition motion, [one of the auto accident victims] offered no evidence that the accident-related injuries or treatments produced a change in his daily activities.”
  • “[The other auto accident victim] presented no testimony that the pain caused by this action influenced her ability to lead her normal life. In response to defendants’ motion for summary disposition, [she] similarly neglected to proffer any evidence of disability related to the accident.”
  • “Because no evidence suggests that either plaintiff’s injuries precipitated any change in plaintiffs’ capacities to live in their normal, pre-accident manners, we conclude that defendants were entitled to summary disposition.”

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