Over the years, our office has represented thousands of auto accident victims. Many people are surprised to find out that auto accident victims are entitled to receive substantial benefits from their own insurance company, even if the accident was totally the fault of someone else.
In Michigan, auto accident victims first look to their own auto insurer for benefits that fall under the "economic loss" category. These include such benefits (known as "Personal Injury Protection" or "PIP" benefits) as: medical expense coverage; work loss coverage; household services coverage; medical mileage reimbursement; and, in extreme cases, vocational training.
Michigan's Auto No-Fault Law dictates where an injured person must turn to get his or her PIP benefits in various situations. Suffice it to say that these benefits are generally available in all motor vehicle accidents within the State of Michigan for residents of Michigan.
Under Michigan's auto No-Fault Law, there are time limits that must be met. For instance, any claims for benefits must be submitted to the insurance company and paid within one year of the date the expense is incurred. Other time limits may also apply. If you are in an auto accident, you should report it to your insurance company right away and continue to promptly submit any claims for expenses. The original notice must be in writing and received by the proper insurer within one year of the date of the accident.
Many people are also surprised to learn that, in terms of vehicle damage, the person at fault for the accident is responsible only for the other person's collision deductible, and even then, only up to $500. This is known as "mini-tort" and comes from the insurance on the car that caused the accident.
Even though Michigan is a "No-Fault" state, the driver at fault for the accident (and, usually, the owner of that vehicle) is responsible to pay the injured person for his or her "pain and suffering" if the injury sustained is "serious impairment of body function" or a "serious permanent disfigurement". Basically, No-Fault Law is designed to disallow "pain and suffering" claims for minor injuries. In order to be a "serious impairment of body function", the impairment must be "objectively manifested" (for instance, something a doctor can "see" on a medical test, rather than just "complaints of pain"). The injury must be an "important body function" and must "affect the person's general ability to lead his or her normal life".
Many times, it is difficult to determine whether an injury meets this level. Sometimes it requires a "wait-and-see" approach because treatment is ongoing or although initially bad, the injuries sometimes resolve fairly quickly. This is also often the case with, "serious permanent disfigurements" (scars).
In any auto accident case, the issue of insurance coverage is important. For example, if a person is driving his or her own vehicle at the time of the accident, but the vehicle is not insured, he / she is not entitled to make any claim at all, not even a claim for "pain and suffering" against the driver who was at fault for the accident! Remember, this affects only the driver who must also be the "owner" of the uninsured vehicle.
If the driver at fault did not have insurance, the issue of "uninsured motorist coverage" must be investigated. With such coverage, a person injured by an uninsured vehicle may look to his own insurance coverage for "pain and suffering" damages.
There is also another type of coverage called "under-insured" motorists coverage. Call and ask us to explain that coverage. We will be happy to do so.
Obviously, many issues arise when an auto accident occurs. The information above is only meant to be a sample of some of those issues. There can be others. If you are involved in an auto accident and need a lawyer, it is important to hire lawyers who know the "ins and outs" of Michigan's No-Fault Law. Our attorneys have that knowledge. We represent auto accident victims every day, and have been successfully doing so for many years. Call us. We will be happy to take the time to discuss your situation and review with you the options that you may have. The call is free but the advice is priceless!