Michigan is known for its picturesque landscapes, bustling cities, and an active automotive industry. At any time, there can be thousands of vehicles on the road, which means that the risk of a collision is always present. Unfortunately, when it happens, there can be severe physical, emotional, and financial consequences, so understanding how car accident lawsuits work is important.
Michigan is relatively unique because it is both a no-fault and a tort threshold state. This means there are specific rules and an injury threshold that determine whether you can sue the at-fault driver directly after a car accident. In this blog, the Michigan car accident lawyers at Conybeare Law Office go over what’s involved in filing a lawsuit after a collision and how we can help.
How Much Can I Sue For in a Michigan Car Accident Lawsuit?
In the state of Michigan, there is no specific monetary limit on how much you can sue for in terms of pain and suffering, excess medical bills, and wage loss. However, the amount you can recover in an accident settlement may be constrained by the at-fault driver’s liability coverage, unless the driver possesses significant personal assets that can be pursued or they are in the course and scope of their employment (in which case the employer is liable as well).
An experienced Michigan personal injury attorney can evaluate the at-fault driver’s coverage, explore potential avenues for recovery, and assess the impact of insurance limits and personal assets on your compensation.
Can I Sue an At-Fault Driver for Pain and Suffering if I Was in a Work-Related Accident?
Yes, as long as that driver is not a co-worker or your employer. The exclusive remedy provision in Michigan’s Workers’ Compensation law doesn’t prevent you from suing a third party, such as the at-fault driver, for monetary compensation.
However, it’s important to note that your employer or their Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier may be entitled to seek reimbursement for the benefits they have paid depending on how much you recover and the type of damages recovered (wage loss, medical bills, pain and suffering, etc).
An experienced personal injury attorney can explain the legal process of filing a lawsuit after a work-related automobile accident and help you understand the potential impact of reimbursement liens on your compensation.
How Do I Get Compensation if the At-Fault Driver Was Uninsured?
If you are involved in a Michigan car accident and the negligent driver has no insurance, you have legal options, although the types of remedies may vary. Possible actions include:
- Suing the Driver: You can file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver who caused the accident. However, it’s important to consider whether they have personal assets or the financial means to pay for the monetary damages and losses they have caused. Even if you win the lawsuit and obtain a judgment in your favor, collecting the awarded amount may be challenging if the defendant can’t afford to pay it.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage Claim: If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance company. This motorist coverage is designed to protect you when you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
Some insurance policies may require you to file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver as part of the claim process. There are often contractual requirements that must be met to bring an uninsured motorist coverage claims. A Michigan injury lawyer can guide you through these steps and help you determine the specific requirements of your insurance policy.
No-Fault vs. Tort Threshold: What Does It Mean?
Michigan’s no-fault insurance system provides specific benefits to accident victims, regardless of who is at fault. Under this system, your own insurance company’s no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits typically cover your medical treatment, lost wages, and certain other expenses. However, there are circumstances where you can step outside the no-fault system and sue the other driver for additional compensation.
This is where the tort threshold system takes effect. It establishes a specific threshold that must be met to pursue a lawsuit for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. To meet it, you must demonstrate the severity of your injuries based on specific legal criteria.
Serious Impairment of Body Function Explained
In Michigan, if you’re injured in a car accident and want to sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering, you’ll need to show that you experienced a “serious impairment of body function.” Below are the criteria for meeting this standard:
- The impairment must be observable or perceivable through actual symptoms or the person’s condition. In other words, the impairment must be supported by objective evidence, such as diagnostic tests or imaging studies.
- The impairment must affect an important body function that holds value, significance, or consequence. Examples include walking, standing, hearing, or cognitive functions.
- The impairment must impact the injured person’s general ability to live their normal life.
So what does this look like in practice? Let’s assume another driver ran a red light in downtown Kalamazoo and hit you on the driver’s side, causing you to fracture your arm. Even after the bone healed, you couldn’t use your arm properly. This injury would meet the threshold test because:
- It’s observable through X-rays.
- The arm injury impacts your ability to do things like use a computer, carry items, or even dress yourself without pain.
- It affects your ability to live a normal life, as you can’t do certain activities you could easily carry out before the injury.
If you meet these three criteria, you will have a stronger case for pain and suffering compensation. However, it is important to note that each case is unique, and applying the threshold test requires an analysis of the facts and evidence involved, as well as many years of case law. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you understand how to apply the threshold test in your specific case.
You Can Also Sue If Your PIP Coverage is Limited
Unlike other states, Michigan does not require drivers to carry unlimited PIP coverage. However, if you have limited PIP coverage, it means that your benefits have a specific monetary limit for medical expenses and other related costs. Once that limit is exhausted, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to cover additional medical care.
You may also be able to sue for the following:
- Excess Wage Loss Benefits: If your no-fault PIP wage loss benefits don’t cover all of your lost wages, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for excess wage loss benefits.
- Vehicle Damages Up To $3,000: In Michigan, you can also pursue a mini-tort claim against the at-fault driver for property damage to your vehicle and repair costs up to a maximum of $3,000.
An experienced attorney in Michigan can help you understand your rights and legal options after a car accident.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You With Your Michigan Car Accident Lawsuit
Although you aren’t legally obligated to get legal representation for your auto accident claim, there are several advantages to doing so.
To begin with, a car accident attorney can explain the difference between the no-fault insurance system and the tort threshold in Michigan. They can help you understand the benefits your insurance company provides and evaluate whether your case meets the threshold criteria for pursuing a lawsuit for non-economic damages. If it does, they can assist you in proving a serious impairment of body function in order to meet the tort threshold.
If your PIP coverage is limited and doesn’t fully cover your medical expenses, an experienced car accident lawyer can pursue financial compensation for these excess costs. In cases where the at-fault driver is uninsured, a car accident attorney will evaluate their financial ability to pay for damages and advise you on whether to file a lawsuit. They can also help you file an injury claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage, which may require you to sue the uninsured driver first.
Overall, an auto accident attorney can provide legal expertise, protect your rights, and advocate for your best interests throughout the compensation process.
Questions About Michigan Car Accident Lawsuits?
Filing a car accident lawsuit in Michigan requires a thorough understanding of the state’s unique insurance system and tort threshold. At Conybeare Law Office, our outstanding team is well-versed in these matters and can show you how to apply the threshold test in your specific case. We can also:
- Help you file a personal injury claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage.
- Collect evidence to support your insurance claim (such as police reports, medical records, and witness statements), negotiate with the appropriate auto insurance companies, and take your case to court if necessary.
Whether it’s a work-related car accident or a collision involving an uninsured driver, Conybeare Law Office is equipped to handle the complexities of these cases. Michigan residents who find themselves dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can rely on our experienced lawyers to provide knowledgeable guidance, protect their rights, and advocate for the fair compensation they deserve.
To schedule your free initial consultation, call 269-769-BEAR or fill out this contact form. Remember: if it’s not fair, call the Bear!