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Since being enacted by the public in 2008, medical marijuana has permeated almost all aspects of the Michigan justice system. It seems like every couple of months a new ruling is issued by the Court of Appeals or the Michigan Supreme Court regarding the permitted uses of medical marijuana in this state. However, despite the growing and voluminous case law developing in this area, the courts cannot keep pace with the medical marijuana issues that continue to emerge.
One of these issues is involves the rights of victims who are injured in an automobile accident where medical marijuana was being used by the driver of the at fault vehicle. Another issue which has been subject to intense litigation is the criminal rights of a medical marijuana patient who has been in an automobile accident after having legally used medical marijuana.
A few weeks back, Steven M. Gursten of Michigan Auto Law contacted us about teaming up and writing a series of Questions and Answers about Medical Marijuana and Driving in the State of Michigan. We saw this as a good opportunity to inform Michigan drivers of their rights and explain the laws in further detail. This is our follow-up to the blog post written by Steve Gursten, lead attorney from Michigan Auto Law.
To start, the medical marijuana act (MMA) affords qualifying and registered patients certain rights with regards to using medical marijuana. Internal possession of marijuana is protected by the MMA. Consequently, a patient cannot be prosecuted for having medical marijuana in their system as long as they are not violating the MMA in other ways. However, the MMA does not allow a person to operate a vehicle “under the influence” of marijuana. What does “under the influence” mean? Recently, the Michigan Supreme Court stated in overruling the Michigan Court of Appeals that “under the influence” does not mean that a patient simply had any amount of THC in their system. THC is measured by in the body by parts per billion or nanograms.
It remains illegal for a person who is not a medical marijuana patient to have “any amount” of marijuana in their system when they are driving, even if it is only 1 nanogram. On the other hand, a medical marijuana patient must actually be proven to be impaired from their use of marijuana, apart from how many nanograms are in their system. This means that a MMA cardholder will have rights similar to drunk drivers before the per se alcohol threshold of .08 BAC was adopted by the legislature. The mere presence of THC in the system of a card holder will not alone show that that person was violating the law, but rather a confluence of additional factors like the persons driving, speech, coordination, and or performance on field sobriety tests will hold more weight in determining whether they were driving “under the influence.” This decision by the Supreme Court of Michigan was a step forward for cardholders as THC can stay in ones system for a long period of time. Now, instead of fearing getting behind the wheel even after the effects of the THC have worn off many hours or days ago, a medical marijuana patient can drive a vehicle without worrying that residual THC in his or her system will subject him or her to criminal prosecution under the motor vehicle code.
On the other hand, this does not give medical marijuana patients a free pass. Criminal and civil liability for driving under the influence of marijuana remains a serious and growing problem. Many people are injured as a result of marijuana related driving. Notwithstanding criminal penalties that one can face for causing an accident “under the influence” of marijuana, civil liability in third party lawsuits for negligence remains a real problem.
While the amount nanograms in one’s blood alone does not definitively establish whether a person is driving a vehicle “under the influence” there have been studies which demonstrate that higher levels of THC correlate with an elevated level of intoxication. Simply having a medical marijuana card does not mean that if you get sued for causing injuries in an automobile accident, that all of sudden the amount of THC in blood is irrelevant. In a personal injury lawsuit or even a criminal case, the amount of THC in the blood of the driver is likely to be a highly relevant factor in considering whether one was under the influence or negligent. Moreover, negligence is the standard in a personal injury lawsuit, so demonstrating some level of impairment will be highly probative even if it does not meet the motor vehicles code’s definition of “driving under the influence.”
Of course MMA patients have some level of protection and some explanations for THC being present in their blood. There is likely to be explanations available such as the recurrent use of marijuana leaving residual amounts of THC in the system. Additionally, whenever intoxication is at issue a particular person’s tolerance will also be a large factor in determining whether a driver was negligent or driving under the influence. However, the amount of THC in a driver’s system will undoubtedly be a variable that courts and juries will look at in determining a medical marijuana patient’s level of intoxication when driving.
Simply because the MMA gives medical marijuana patients some lea way in avoiding the strict per se rules that make driving with any amount of marijuana in one’s system illegal under the motor vehicle code, does not remove the hazards that smoking and driving causes. Many more cases will be decided by Michigan’s higher courts giving us more directions and guidance in this area of law, but certainly caution must be taken by all motorists on the road due to the recent developments introduced by the MMA.
Michigan is a no-fault state which requires all drivers to purchase no-fault auto insurance which includes lifetime benefits for serious auto injuries. It is currently the only state in the U.S to have these unlimited benefits. Republican Jeff Farrington (Utica) introduced HB 4959 in early September and he is attempting to exclude senior citizens from receiving no fault medical benefits for life. Currently, Michigan drivers that are senior citizens use personal injury protection coverage just like any and all other drivers in the State. This bill aims to lift the PIP requirement for only the senior drivers which are 65 years of age or older.
Don’t be fooled, this is definitely not helping anybody except for the large insurance companies. Senator Rick Jones (Grand Ledge) said this bill is needed to help an issue that is “extremely unfair to seniors on a fixed income.” This may sound like he’s trying to help senior citizens, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. These legislators view senior citizens as high risk and blame large inflated auto premiums on the elderly instead of on a broken system.
This is an obvious move to decrease the costs of providing medical benefits to those seriously injured in an auto accident, but it does so at the expense of senior citizens who have been paying auto premiums longer than anyone! This is simply another attempt to disguise the fact that insurance companies want to charge high premiums for no fault auto insurance while at the same time not paying out the medical benefits that their “customers” deserve and expect. This bill will put senior drivers at a major disadvantage if they ever encounter serious injuries resulting from an accident.
If this bill were to pass, the drivers who no longer can receive no fault medical expenses will be forced to turn to the only current alternative….MediCare. While MediCare will pay some of the expenses, they will not cover all the expenses like no fault benefits do. There will be a major gap between what MediCare pays and the actual medical expenses. So who is going to pay this difference or gap? It’s you the Michigan Taxpayer. The insurance company is shifting the burden of these expenses from themselves to Michigan taxpayers, sounds like a great deal right? It certainly is for the numerous auto insurance companies who will directly profit from this bill.
The most frightening part of this bill is that it promotes senior drivers to trade away their rights to collect third party benefits. This bill will give Medicare full subrogations rights of any recovery the senior driver may receive. If this bill is passed, senior drivers will no longer have the constitutional right to sue a negligent driver which caused the auto accident.
I’ve seen and read a few articles from several news outlets that Michigan is proposing to increase driving speeds on interstate highways. It turns out that Senator Jones is already putting a proposal together to do just that. Based on the comments on message boards, it easy to tell this is going to be a highly contested and debated topic. If you have done alot of driving on Michigan highways, you already know that you can be doing 80 miles per hour and still get blown by a majority of other cars on the road. While this is certainly worse in some areas than others, I feel that Michigan traffic speeds are already much higher than most other states in the country. What effect a change like this will have it yet to be seen.
The proposed legislation also calls for “speed tests” on the major highways as a requirement and will also offer these tests to any community who is looking to find the safest driving speed for their area. I couldn’t find out any information about how they conduct these tests, but I assume it can’t be too complex if they are willing to conduct them for free. Rick Jones has this to say about these tests….”This is the best way to post speed and it’s the safest. Some cities post speed limits artificially low. For example, streets that should be 35 or 40 mph are posted at 25 and then they order the officers to write tickets to raise revenue, it’s time that this abuse of citizens is stopped.”
While I certainly agree that some cities post absurdly low speed limits to increase revenue, I don’t see what that has to do with raising the speed limits on interstate highways. The real question here is how will drivers react to an increased highway speed. Will they continue to drive whatever speed is comfortable? Will they simply drive 10 miles per faster than before making it around 90 miles per hour? Can Michigan roads hold up the increased stress? Will this change actually improve traffic congestion? Will it cause more auto accidents?
I think another major issue that hasn’t really been discussed is the trucking speed limit. Having a large difference in speeds between cars and trucks is just asking for trouble in my opinion. Its already bad enough on highways like I-94, I can imagine some dangerous scenarios with the large gap in speed limits. There are many questions to be answered and regardless of the final decision made, I hope we make an informed decision that will benefit the actual residents of Michigan.
There is no doubt that injuries received from an auto accident tend to be severe and the likelihood of a brain injury increases substantially when compared to other accidents or other common causes of injuries. Believe it or not, there are millions of brain injures every single year throughout the United States. Most Americans cringe every time they need to go the doctor because of the high medical costs, just imagine how expensive diagnosing and treating a serious brain injury is. As you probably already know, Michigan utilizes a no-fault system. Unfortunately, by agreeing and adopting to this type of car insurance, drivers are severely limited in their ability to bring a 3rd party lawsuit against the driver who is actually responsible. Most people don’t realize this fact, but it’s certainly true. While nobody that has sustained a brain injury is fortunate, Michigan does have an exception for this law by using what is called a traumatic brain injury exception. Under normal circumstances, an injured victim must prove that that the injury passes a certain “threshold”. If the victim has a brain injury, then this threshold no longer applies to the injury.
The official term for this waived exception is the closed-head injury exception. I can’t get into the entire injury threshold which Michigan has, but all you need to know is that with a brain injury you no longer have to show that the injury was objectively manifested. Sounds simple right? Lawmakers and insurance companies have purposely made it extremely difficult to bring a 3rd party lawsuit even if your injury substantially alters your life. Anyways, objectively manifested means that under usual circumstances (no brain injury) that your injuries can be viewed or seen by others around you or your close friends/family. In other words it needs to be evident to others that you have a serious injury. Fortunately, Michigan lawmakers came to their senses and realized that some brain injuries are near impossible to detect by others. For this very reason, if you have suffered a brain injury from an auto accident you no longer have to prove the injury was “objectively manifested”.
This exception is many times the difference between the ability to bring a 3rd party lawsuit and receiving a fair financial compensation or not being to able bring the lawsuit at all. It’s important to keep as many records following the accident and that you visit a doctor that specializes in head trauma. The more detailed and organized your records, the easier it is to show that you have indeed suffered a brain injury. For more information about brain injuries and the closed-head exception in Michigan, please call us today at (517) 347-6900 for a free consultation.
Michigan No-Fault Law has recently come under heavy scrutiny by republican lawmakers claiming that reform is required to stave off insolvency to the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association Fund. As a reminder, the MCCA fund is created through residents taxes and is responsible for paying injured car accident victims’ medical expenses once the medical costs rise over $500,000. Your own insurance currently covers the cost of medical expenses up to this $500,000 amount.
Just today, the MCCA announced a rate increase of 6%. Last year they increased rates by $30/per insured vehicle and this 6% increase equals roughly another $11/per insured vehicle. The MCCA claims that this increase is meant to fight the rising costs of Michigan’s unlimited lifetime medical expenses, but there is not one shred of proof showing these increases are necessary or how they are even calculated. Is it just a coincidence that the MCCA decided to increase rates during talks of no-fault reform??? Think again……
This is clearly a scare tactic used to create fear that Michigan residents will pay EVEN more if we don’t do something drastic. If this insolvency or shortage of fund was real they would be more than happy to share that information. The very fact that they are unwilling to disclose any financial information should be telling by itself! The fact of the matter is that they are raising rates just to scare residents and we have absolutely no way of finding the REAL TRUTH. This “major situation” could easily be fixed if we would just have the facts, but instead they are appealing the decision that they have to comply with the freedom of information act. Is this something that a normal company/person would do when facing bankruptcy??? Major corporations are required to publicly disclose balance sheets, income statements, statements of cash flows, and more. Do Insurance companies have this sort of oversight? The short answer is no even though these insurance companies are banking billions of dollars. The only way to have a positive informative discussion on the current status of no-fault and the MCCA is for them to disclose rate calculations and how much is left is the fund. That would just make too much sense, why would we actually want to fix the underlying problems.
A new bill was just introduced that is attempting to cap medical expenses at $50,000. We would go from unlimited lifetime medical benefits to $50,000. If you or someone you know has had surgery or been in an auto accident you know just how quickly this will be exhausted. What is someone to do when your medical expenses go past this amount? Well they don’t want to talk about that. In most states you’d be able to sue the other driver responsible, but in Michigan your ability to sue the other driver is extremely difficult and even harder too prove in a court of law.
If lawmakers really want to cap medical benefits at $50,000, they are severely limiting your ability to get medical expenses paid and there is no talk of changing the injury threshold for making a 3rd party lawsuit. Currently, you must prove that your injury is a serious impairment of a bodily function in order to sue the negligent driver instead of your own insurance company. In states without no-fault there is no such restriction. If Michigan is going to cap first party benefits (medical expenses) and not change or increase your ability to sue the driver at fault, then there is no point to keeping no-fault. We would be much better off with an at-fault system, which is unfortunate, but it is the harsh reality.
The insurance companies don’t want to change to an at-fault insurance system because they would make LESS money. It’s much easier to cap your benefits and limit your ability to sue the negligent driver. They limit their own risk to pretty much zero while increasing profits, not exactly fair to the residents paying the highest premiums in the country. This way they don’t have to hire a lawyer to fight most of these cases and actually pay when they are required. Take some time to inform yourself about this Michigan no-fault reform, it really could change your life forever.
Even though this hasn’t been covered by many news outlets, there is a set of senate bills that hopes to increase the transparency on how exactly the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association calculates their rates. They were introduced last month without much notice from anyone. Governor Rick Snyder has openly stated that he wants to focus on No-Fault Reform, but WE want to make sure that any change would be beneficial to the residents of our state. Seems fair enough right? The only way to make informed logical decisions is to have the facts when making these decisions! Rick Snyder has been mute about this MCCA rate calculation “secrecy” issue when he should be leading the fight for more transparency. How can he possibly make this decision for Michigan residents when there is no access to the information supposedly responsible for needing reform?
If you are unfamiliar with the complexities of Michigan No-Fault Law, here is a quick overview of the MCCA. Under No-Fault Law in Michigan, your own insurance company covers your first party expenses which include medical related expenses for the life of your injuries. If an accident or injury is particularly severe, it’s possible that medical costs over the victim’s lifetime will surpass $500,000. This is where the MCCA fund starts to play a role. As I just stated, your insurance covers the 1st party benefits up to $500,00 and this MCCA fund covers medical expenses past the $500,000 to make sure the victim can live a relatively normal life without going bankrupt due to these high medical costs. Here is where the battle begins. The MCCA claims that this fund is low and these serious injuries are causing them to hurt financially thus making this unsustainable into the future. While this sounds like a valid point, it just simply isn’t true. They have no accountability and can increase rates without showing any reasoning or evidence to do so. They have refused to divulge this information multiple times over the last year…..I wonder why?
These senate bills (102 and 103) aim to hold the MCCA accountable for their rate calculations and make the public aware of the REAL financial situation of Michigan auto insurance. We as taxpayers who fund this claim deserve to know how much money is in the fund and how they are calculating our insurance rates, which are now the highest in the country by the way.
Have You Been Injured Due to Another Driver Running a Red Light or Stop Sign?
Red lights and stop lights are designed to manage traffic and keep drivers safe. Most drivers adhere to the rules of red lights and stop signs, but those who don’t can end up causing serious injuries and sometimes even fatalities. Unfortunately, many drivers disregard their own safety and the safety of others simply because they are in a hurry to get somewhere or they are distracted while driving and don’t even realize they failed to stop at an intersection. Just about everyone has run a red light or a stop sign on accident before, but some drivers that are speeding excessively or driving recklessly speed up during a yellow light and end up causing a major accident. Most accidents where a driver speeds up to avoid stopping at a red light are severe and cause serious injuries to both parties.
How Dangerous Are Car Accidents Caused By Running a Red Light or Stop Sign?
The Federal Highway Administrations claims that roughly 45% of car collisions take place at a road intersection and the cause is usually related to running a stop sign or running a stop light. This means tens of thousands of car accidents occur because a driver fails to stop at a red light or stop light and collides with another motor vehicle in the United States every year. With more and more people driving, we are dependent on red lights to keep us safe, and it only takes one mistake to cause a serious injury or fatality. Regardless of the reason for running a light, if you have been injured in a car accident due to another person’s negligence, you should talk with a Michigan auto accident attorney to make sure that justice is served and you receive the compensation that you rightfully deserve.
We Can Investigate The Accident and Preserve The Evidence
The insurance company for the negligent driver often denies any fault whatsoever, so it’s important that you contact a Michigan personal injury lawyer who routinely deals with insurance companies and will work hard to help you receive payment for your mounting bills related to the injuries you have sustained. These insurance companies have not become rich by happily writing you a check for your injuries; they fight tooth and nail to keep the money they have made, and you need an experienced attorney who knows their tricks and strategies well. The faster you retain a lawyer, the better chance we have at preserving evidence and strengthening your claim. We can hire reconstruction experts and investigators to make sure the truth is found and use this to your advantage during trial. Questioning witnesses, reconstructing the accident, and analyzing all the documents corresponding to the accident can help you get a favorable result for your case.
Get The Compensation You Rightfully Deserve
We understand that medical expenses, wage loss, and other costs related to the car accident can put you in a tough financial position and sometimes can even lead to bankruptcy if the accident was serious. You can trust us to make sure the driver does not go unpunished and that you get the compensation that you need and deserve.
States across the country have all different types of auto insurance systems, but the main 2 include what are commonly referred as the no-fault system and the tort system. I have dealt with both types of systems as my career as a personal injury lawyer since I have practiced in both Michigan (no-fault) and South Carolina (tort system). In order to give you a better idea of how the two differ, here is a made-up example to help clarify the intricacies of the laws. I feel this is the best way to express the concepts without making it too difficult to understand or becoming too confusing.
Let’s assume that there is a simple auto collision between two parties. For simplicity sakes, the two driver’s names are John and Steve. Steve is completely at fault for the accident and this is obvious to anyone at the scene including both drivers. To make this example even better, Steve’s car was not only at fault for the accident, but his car happened to damage a building/home of a third party, let’s call the owner of the building Mark. Mark was just sitting in his home when he watches Steve and his car knock through his kitchen wall. So how would no-fault law treat this incident? How would the tort-system treat this incident? First let’s establish certain losses/injuries in which you can bring a recovery and then I’ll give a short explanation of how they are treated under both types of auto insurance laws.
About the Author: David M. Clark is a practicing auto accident attorney for over 30 years. David is the lead attorney and founder of The Clark Law Office which has locations in Okemos and Lansing, Michigan.
Discovery that follows a Michigan truck accident is important to strengthen your case. Discovery is a process where lawyers obtain information from the other parties involved and can then use this information during the trial or settlement. Usually, discovery is used to collect important documents and interview key witnesses. If you have been involved in a serious truck accident, you should immediately call an experienced Michigan auto accident attorney who frequently handles cases that pertain to trucks. Truck law is much different than regular auto accident law and it is important to have an attorney who knows these differences and can handle your case uniquely.
There are many more documents that will be used during trial in a truck accident case compared to an auto accident case. Truck drivers are held to a higher standard of care compared to regular residents driving an automobile. Truck drivers are only allowed to drive so many hours during the day in order to keep fresh and make sure that their driving ability is not lowered due to lack of sleep or being tired. Many good attorneys will also try to get cell phone records for the driver in question along with all types of fuel bills, freight bills, delivery receipts, and other invoices. Many of these documents will help determine if the truck driver followed proper procedures and safety regulations. As most people know, trucks must also follow law that requires the truck to be weighed frequently. Weigh stations are located along all highways and most trucks are required to stop. A good Michigan auto accident attorney will also look into the driver history and find information that may have led to driver misconduct. Some truck companies routinely use international travel and a good defense lawyer can request access to the border crossing reports from Michigan to Canada. This can help determine the time of the accident as well as how many hours the driver has really been driving regardless of what he may say or testify to. Make sure that when you hire an attorney, he knows the intricacies of trucking accident law in addition to Michigan auto accident law.
There are many complexities dealing with a serious Michigan truck accident. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which insurance policy will actually be covering the truck driver after an accident occurs. For this reason, you should contact a Michigan truck accident attorney who routinely deals with truck accidents. It is also important to find all the corresponding insurance that will end up protecting the victim of the accident.
Truck drivers are usually contracted by multiple companies and the insurance policies for each of these companies are usually much different. Simply finding the auto insurance policy for the truck driver can be a daunting task. Looking at the background history of the trucking line can also be helpful to determine how safe their drivers really are and if they have any lawsuits against them in their previous history. You should also ask the driver if he has ever been involved in a serious truck accident before. Another good question to ask is whether the trucking company has a set of safety standards and how closely they are adhered to. A good truck accident attorney will also look into the company’s hiring policy, safety regulations, training of the driver, compensation of the driver, and how many hours he has been driving leading up to the accident. Many times, a deposition is required to gain access to the information from the trucking company.
If you would like to find some information for yourself about the particular company, you can always use the Internet to do a little investigative research. Simply visit their website or other review sites that could possibly give you insights into how they run their business. Truck accident injuries are usually severe or even result in death because of the sheer size and force of many of the trucks colliding with smaller vehicles. It is vital that you receive your proper medical expenses and any other compensation that you are deserved. Don’t let the trucking company get away with negligence; make sure that you do everything within your power to strengthen your case against the trucking company. For more information visit our page dedicated to truck accidents.