Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about personal injury:
1) Do my injuries meet the threshold-of-injury level necessary for suing the at-fault driver?
The no-fault law defines serious impairment as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important bodily function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.” Michigan Compiled Laws 500.3135(7). The question of whether your injury reaches this level will be decided by a judge. You should consult an attorney for his or her opinion regarding whether your injury will meet the required threshold of severity.
2) What is the time limit for filing a lawsuit against an at-fault driver?
An auto accident victim has three years from the time of the accident to file a claim against the at-fault driver.
3) When should I contact my own insurance company?
You should contact your insurance company immediately after an auto accident. Make sure to fill out a written claim with your insurance company and make a copy of the claim form for your records. Never wait more than a year from the time of the accident to make claims for medical costs, property damages, wage losses and other damages. Michigan law allows insurance companies to limit or deny benefit payments if certain claims were not originally made or if the claims are more than a year old.
4) What should I do immediately after an accident?
- Always see a doctor after a serious accident. Do not delay or refuse treatment.
- Do not claim responsibility if you are not certain what exactly happened.
- Call the police to have an accident report generated.
- Notify your insurance company and sign a claim form (keep a copy for your records).
- Take photographs of your damaged car and bodily injuries sustained.
- Contact an attorney.
5) What can I do If my own insurance company denies my claims of damage?
If your own insurance company unjustifiably refuses to pay all the damages you have claimed, then Michigan law allows you to sue your own insurance company for breach of contract. If the court determines that nonpayment or delay in payment by the insurance company was wrongful, then Michigan law allows the court to order the insurance company to pay all your attorney fees and expenses incurred in bringing the suit.
6) What if I do not have collision insurance on my damaged car or I have a high deductible?
Michigan law allows drivers without collision insurance or drivers with a deductible to sue the at-fault driver for up to $500 to recover these costs. This suit is brought in small claims court and is called a mini-tort action. You can file this kind of suit by yourself without an attorney. Forms are available on the Washtenaw County website.
7) What if my accident involves a motorcycle or snowmobile?
If a motorcycle or snowmobile is the only vehicle involved in the accident, then the No-Fault Insurance Act does not apply because motorcycles and snowmobiles are not defined as “motor vehicles” by the act. However, if a motorcycle or a snowmobile strikes a car, truck or trailer, then the No-Fault Insurance Act does apply and benefits can be recovered under the act from the insurance company. If the driver of the motorcycle was the at-fault-driver, then the automobile driver may be able to bring a lawsuit against the motorcycle driver for additional property damages, and for pain and suffering damages without having to meet the threshold-level injury.
8) What if I have been involved in an accident with a truck or trailer?
Michigan law defines a truck and a trailer as a “motor vehicle;” therefore, an automobile involved in an accident with a truck is treated the same as an accident with another automobile.
9) What if I was a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle?
A pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle must first look to their own auto insurance carrier for recovery of their personal protection insurance benefits (medical costs, wage loss, property damages and other damages). If the pedestrian does not have auto insurance, then the insurance company of the pedestrian’s spouse or any relative with whom the pedestrian is living is liable for paying the personal protection insurance benefits for the pedestrian. MCLA 500.3114(1). The insurance company of the automobile’s driver is responsible for paying personal protection insurance benefits only if neither the pedestrian, nor the pedestrian’s spouse, nor any relative with whom the pedestrian lives has automobile insurance.
An injured pedestrian may only sue the at-fault-driver of the automobile for noncompensated property damage and pain and suffering damages if the pedestrian’s injuries meet the threshold-of-injury level or death.
10) What if I was involved in a one-car accident caused by a defective highway or road?
A recent Michigan Supreme Court decision has made it more difficult to sue governmental units responsible for road design and maintenance defects that contribute to injuries. Nawrocki vs. Macomb County Road Commission, 463 Mich 143 (2000). Governmental units have immunity from lawsuits unless the accident meets certain exceptions and circumstances. It is best to consult an attorney to get an opinion as to whether your case will overcome a defense of governmental immunity.