Injured In A Car Accident In Michigan: 9 Things To Know
Victims who have been injured in a car accident in Michigan can take these precautions and actions that will ensure a successful lawsuit
If you have been injured in a car accident in Michigan caused by the negligence of another driver you need to file a personal injury claim in order to receive No-Fault benefits for your injuries. Injury claims can include: wage loss, medical expenses, attendant care, mileage and household replacement services.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Michigan please consider the following information prepared by our attorneys to ensure a successful lawsuit. You’re welcome to call Michigan Auto Law at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation about your injury.
- Victims must show impairment — not pain.
- Victims only have ONE YEAR to apply for No-Fault benefits.
- Victims have only three years to file a pain and suffering lawsuit — but you may have much less!
- Victims should document all personal injuries (even minor ones) on your application for No-Fault benefits.
- Prompt medical attention for ALL injuries is essential.
- Don’t hide information and always tell the truth.
- Expect surveillance.
- If you misrepresent, you lose your “right to sue.”
- A “right to use” an uninsured vehicle may cost your “right to sue.”
If you have been injured in a car accident in Michigan, Michigan law requires that you must show a “serious impairment of body function.” This means you can be in pain everyday but if you can’t show how your life is different after the injury, it’s unlikely that you will have a successful personal injury lawsuit.
MCL 500.3135 defines “serious impairment of body function” as satisfying all of the following requirements:
(a) It is objectively manifested, meaning it is observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions by someone other than the damaged person.
(b) It is an impairment of an important body function, which is a body function of great value, significance, or consequence to the injured person.
(c) It affects the injured person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life, meaning it has had an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living. Although temporal considerations may be relevant, there is no temporal requirement for how long an impairment must last. This examination is inherently fact and circumstance specific to each injured person, must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, and requires comparison of the injured person’s life before and after the incident.
How do lawyers and crash victims who have been injured in a car accident demonstrate “impairment?” Demonstrating impairment, or “lifestyle impact” is the most important way to have a successful case. The more ways you can show changes in your normal daily life, the easier it is to show how the crash has affected your life. If you are hurt and filing a lawsuit courts will look at factors such as amount of time off of work, type and length of medical treatment, and what effect the crash had on the ability to perform hobbies, recreational activities and interests.
Michigan No-Fault insurance covers victims who have been injured in a car accident with important benefits (also called personal injury protection (PIP) benefits) such as:
- Wage loss
- Medical expenses
- Household replacement services (chores, help with yard work)
- Medical mileage
- Attendant care (nursing services).
This is referred to as a first-party case. To obtain these No-Fault benefits, victims of a crash must file an application for benefits with your auto insurance company. All Michigan victims have only one year from the date of the crash to file an application for benefits, regardless of age or competency.
All incurred No-Fault benefits must be paid within one year of the date the service is incurred. If an incurred expense remains unpaid by your auto company after one year, and an application for No-Fault benefits has not been filed on your behalf, then the amount owing is time-barred – no exceptions. This means if you have been injured in a car accident, that it’s too late to ever file a lawsuit to recover those benefits.
Victims who have been injured in a car accident in Michigan have three years to file a pain and suffering lawsuit for injuries sustained from the crasb. But in reality, victims may have much less time than that. Here’s the reason: Many victims who have been hurt have two additional types of auto insurance coverage called Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM). These options may have notice provisions that are far less than the one-year statute of limitations in first-party No-Fault cases, or the three-year statute of limitations in filing a pain and suffering lawsuit against a negligent driver.
If you have been injured in a car accident please be sure to check your auto insurance policy immediately, so you can provide timely notice to your insurance company. If you have any questions regarding the contractual provisions in your insurance policy regarding filing requirements or notice periods, consult with an attorney immediately. You can call Michigan Auto Law at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation.
Victims of a crash should document all personal injuries (even minor ones) on your application for No-Fault benefits.
In 2004, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in Ross v. Allstate that a person who was injured in a car accident but who FAILED TO GIVE SPECIFIC NOTICE OF EACH OF THOSE INJURIES to his No-Fault insurance company within one year, was later barred from having his No-Fault insurer pay medical bills for those injuries. Ross v. Allstate is an important example of how dangerous it can be for people who are hurt in motor vehicle crashes and fail to report all of their injuries to their insurance company.
Then, in an unanimous, three-page order in Dillon v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company in 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court added the following clarifications concerning the level of injury detail required in an application for No-Fault benefits:
- A victim injured in a car accident in Michigan 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 injured in a car accident must “indicate in ordinary language the … nature of the 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 injured in a car accident “to provide a precise medical diagnosis, as this would not constitute ‘ordinary language.’”
Victims who have been injured in a car accident and suffered closed-head injuries or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), a more common problem is that important symptoms are often not documented early in medical records or reported to doctors, so payment for medical services can be later denied or refused.
For instance, if a victim who was injured in a car accident and has symptoms like headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blurred vision, short-term memory loss, jarred concentration or emotional changes; these symptoms might not be reported to doctors, because the victim dismisses them as minor concerns. But when these TBI symptoms become far more evident, such as when the masking effects of pain medications for accompanying physical injuries later stops, or when someone tries to return to a job that highlights underlying problems with short-term memory or concentration that were not as evident when the injured person was still off of work, it can be too late to get the medical treatment paid by the insurance company.
Michigan lawyers who understand the complexities of closed-head injury cases cannot stress this point enough to victims and their families: Do not try to determine on your own that your injury or injuries are too minor to report. If something hurts, tell your doctors, and tell them as soon as possible. Again, report all of your injuries to your insurance company on your application for benefits immediately.
What seems like minor or insignificant pain from crash can sometimes have devastating or fatal consequences. Victims should seek medical attention immediately if they have been struck the head or lost consciousness. They should seek diagnostic testing for the brain to rule out bleeding as soon as possible. Back and neck pain, and other areas where victims are experiencing pain from an injury must be documented as soon as possible, as well. A “minor” backache may be a ruptured spinal disk and extruded disk material that can cause paralysis.
Your health and well-being are too important. Please, if you or a loved has been injured in a car accident, be sure to seek medical care and treatment as soon as possible.
Also, victims should never miss appointments. There is almost never a good reason to miss a doctor appointment. Not going to appointments or physical therapy can often be interpreted by a doctor (or a jury) that you don’t really care or aren’t really hurt.
If you are injured in a car accident in Michigan remember to not hide any information and always tell the truth. These two simple rules can prevent victims from harming the value of their personal injury cases.
Violate them and you arm defense lawyers with a valuable weapon to attack your case and undermine the true value of your injuries.
Seems like common sense. So why do attorneys consider these to be the two biggest mistakes made by victims of a crash? Trial advocacy essentially boils down to a pair of simple issues: Being credible and being likable. Because jurors want to do the right thing, they need to believe something is true if they are going to be motivated to help. In turn, jurors tend to give more money to people that they like and believe to be credible.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the crash victim’s entire medical history can be discovered. So a proper history must be provided immediately to doctors, and it must be as accurate as possible. Remember that we live in an age of computers, private investigators and Social Security numbers. If an injury ever appeared in your medical or work records, it will be found. An old or minor injury that occurred years ago to the same area by a new car or truck crash must be disclosed, so doctors can properly differentiate between old and current automobile crash-related injuries.
Victims of a crash should always admit what they can remember, as it prevents defense lawyers from later claiming that they tried to “hide” information or were exaggerating injuries. We have repeatedly seen that clearly inadmissible information, such as an old criminal record, can become admissible evidence because the damaged party did not disclose the information when asked by doctors in depositions or lawsuit interrogatories. Remember, if you have hired a Michigan lawyer, he or she is on your side, but your attorney has to know about your history to help you.
Surveillance by defense is expected for serious injury cases in Michigan. We typically find that almost everyone tells the truth. The danger occurs when victims of a crash who have been injured in a car accident almost never performs a specific task, say, taking out the garbage, except for one day when there is no one around to help. So the crash victim may take out the garbage and forget about the task in a deposition. In turn, the defense lawyer can make accusations of lying or exaggerating, instead of seeing this as an honest mistake. Unfortunately, this type of mistake has the potential to destroy the case. Even if the task was truly performed just once, it could be caught on video and the jury could believe that this is something that has been done on a routine basis.
Ethical attorneys recommend that if there’s any basis of truth to the question victims of a crash are being asked, even if it was just one time, admit it. There’s no reason they cannot disclose something, and explain the circumstances behind it. Maybe it was just a good day, and they were on pain medication. Maybe it was the first time they attempted the task and just wanted to see if they could do it. Telling the full truth is always the right answer.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM and UIM) are optional types of coverage that provide many important protections. If an insured person makes a misrepresentation that is considered material, the insurer may be entitled to cancel the insurance policy.
An insurance company also has no obligation to pay benefits if an insured person has misrepresented where an automobile is principally garaged for lower rates, or if an insured person has not disclosed other drivers who are also regularly driving the vehicle.
If you are injured in a car accident and don’t tell the truth, then the consequences in Michigan can utterly destroy your chances of receiving a fair and full measure of compensation for your injuries.
In 2004, Twichel v. MIC General Insurance Corp. was issued by the Michigan Supreme Court. Overnight, thousands of completely innocent, seriously hurt Michigan residents lost their right to bring a lawsuit for their motor vehicle crash injuries.
According to the court precedent, a person does not have to actually drive an uninsured vehicle a certain number of times in order to be considered a “constructive” owner. The essential inquiry is the “right to use” that vehicle for a 30-day period. If that “right to use” exists, even if the person who was injured in a car accident has only driven the vehicle a handful of times, then that person will be found to be a constructive owner of that vehicle.
Michigan lawyers find this so important because if someone is found to be a constructive owner of a vehicle then they are also, by definition, an uninsured owner of that vehicle. And in Michigan, an uninsured owner of a car or truck not only loses the ability to receive No-Fault insurance benefits, but that person loses the ability to sue for pain and suffering against the at-fault driver.
This law is deliberately harsh and punishing. For example, even if you are paralyzed for life by a drunk driver, if you are found to have had the “right to use” an uninsured car, you cannot sue for your injuries.
If injured in a car accident communication with lawyer is vital.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Michigan then alert your attorney regarding any doctor visits or medical examinations that your insurance company is asking you to attend.
Victims of a crash should never give a statement — recorded, or otherwise — to anyone, including your own insurance company, without contacting an attorney first. Often, these examinations under oath (EUOs) are used by experienced defense lawyers to take advantage of victims and who do not have a lawyer. In this situation, questions are asked and topics explored that have no importance or relevance to the claimed areas of investigation. The only true reason for the interviews is to lessen later exposure in a lawsuit. Because EUOs are recorded and under oath, they can be used against you in your lawsuit.
Victims of a crash should tell their attorney everything that worries them. Often, many things like a past DUI, bankruptcy or an old injury can cause clients substantial worry and concern. Unfortunately, too many clients who have been injured in a car accident decide to hide this information from their lawyers and doctors. Normally, this information would be inadmissible if disclosed. But it can become admissible if a victim tries to hide the information or fails to disclose it when asked.
Remember, the experienced and ethical attorneys at Michigan Auto Law are 100 percent on your side with one common interest — to make sure you receive the most fair settlement and full benefits. But we have to know about your concerns if we are truly going to help.
Injured in a car accident in Michigan?
If you were injured in a car accident in Michigan and want to avoid dangerous pitfalls surrounding your injuries, it’s best to speak with one of our experienced attorneys. Call Michigan Auto Law at (800) 777-0028 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.