At The Clark Law Office, we don’t treat our clients like a number like many of the “TV Firms.” We offer every client personalized service where they can talk to their personal injury attorney whenever they need to. We know that when our injured clients come to our firm, they only have one case and they will only go through the legal process once and the case will end with just one settlement or one trial. Making sure our clients obtain success with a lawyer that understands their problems and is there to inform them and answer their questions is paramount to us.
- When should I hire an attorney for a car accident?
- How will an attorney actually help me after an accident?
- How much is my car accident settlement worth?
- Do I need to file a police report?
- Should I talk to the insurance adjuster?
- Can an injured passenger file a lawsuit?
- How long will it take for me to get paid after an accident?
Local Attorney Winning Car Accident Cases for Over 30 Years
Finding the right Lansing car accident lawyer can be hard. Many individuals have never hired a lawyer before and do not know where to start. To make matters worse, car accident victims will often receive visits in the hospital, brochures in the mail, or “recommendations” from doctors that they only ever met once. Injury victims need to be weary of these solicitations. These underhanded tactics in obtaining clients is a good preview of how these other Michigan car accident lawyers will treat their clients and their client’s cases.
When Should I Hire an Attorney for a Car Accident?
The simple answer to this question is the sooner the better for many reasons. The time immediately following an accident is crucial as far as gathering information and a lawyer will help facilitate this process including a thorough investigation. This will allow you to find and interview potential witnesses, asses the vehicle for the cause for how it was caused and take valuable photographs, as well as taking pictures of the entire accident scene which will be very important later down the road. The longer you wait the harder it will be to locate witnesses and obtain surveillance video from nearby cameras as these can be deleted easily.
It is also highly likely that your own insurance company is underpaying your no-fault benefits without your knowledge. There are extremely strict deadlines and statute of limitations for filing insurance and car accident lawsuits. If you make a simple mistake, it can destroy your case forever and you will not be entitled to any form of compensation.
If you are unsure you need to hire an attorney or are uneasy doing so, just call us to learn more about your rights. Our attorneys will speak to you for free and give you an honest evaluation of your case’s potential and what to do next. If you decide to hire us, we will immediately begin working on your case!
A Checklist for What to Do After a Vehicle Accident
Car crashes are frightening and violent. They happen in an instant and leave you no or little time to process the accident leaving many people in a state of shock. You may not immediately realize the extent of your injuries and usually are not in a good state of mind to make important decisions and judgements. This checklist included what actions you or a loved one should take in the moments following a crash.
- Stay at the accident scene even if you think it is only minor
- Call 911 for assistance
- Call the police if there is any property or vehicle damage
- Collect information for all the other parties involved
- Get names and contact information from any witnesses. This might be your only chance to do so.
- Take as many pictures and videos as possible. It is better to have to many as opposed to not enough
- Do not discuss fault or responsibility for the accident. There is a time and place for this and it is not now.
- Speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as you are able.
What Type of Automobile Crashes Are the Most Common?
Car crashes happen in many different types of ways, but some causes are much more common than others in Michigan. Some of the most common types include:
How Will an Attorney Actually Help Me After an Accident?
There are many ways that an attorney will help you after a Michigan car accident. Michigan no-fault laws are confusing, and you need to know what rights you are entitled to. Our attorneys will help figure out what happened and why the accident took place. We can call witnesses, look at the police reports, and gather information form the police using FOIA requests. If you leave this up to the insurance companies, you could very easily be blamed for causing the accident when the exact opposite is true.
Another important thing a lawyer will do is to make sure that you receive the proper treatment and that your injuries are documented. We can suggest and recommend that you see a specialist, your primary care physician, a chiropractor, or other forms of treatment which will give you the best chance at a full recovery. Many people fail to see their doctor out of fear of monetary expenses or do not realize the full extent of your injuries. It is crucial to document all these injuries and medical visits as it will strengthen the foundation of your claim.
Maybe the most important thing a lawyer will help you with is dealing with the insurance companies. These companies know when you have not hired a lawyer and believe it or not are looking to take advantage of you. You may believe they have your best interests at heart, but like any other business there are in existence to turn a profit. Hiring a lawyer makes them take your case seriously and eliminate the possibility of an unfair settlement. They know there are ramifications when you hire an attorney.
What Are the Most Common Injuries Resulting from a Car Crash?
Due to the violent nature of car accidents, they often result in permanent and debilitating injuries. These injuries do not always manifest immediately, and it may take days, weeks, months, or even longer after the crash for them to appear. Some of the most common injuries resulting from an accident include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Neck injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Joint Injuries including knees, hips, shoulders, etc.
- Whiplash harming muscles, nerves, and ligaments
- Nerve damage
- Amputation of limbs
- Burn injuries of various degrees
- Psychological and emotional scarring
- Fatality or wrongful death
What is a Typical Car Accident Settlement in Michigan?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to determine the value of your case or a settlement which is like your case. Every case is different! While some attorneys and websites will put a “settlement calculator”, these are not accurate and only serve to give you unrealistic expectations. They simply do not work.
The main factor in determining the value of your case the extent and seriousness of the injuries and how these injuries affect your way of life and for how long. If your injuries are minor, typically your case will be worth less. If your injuries are more severe and permanent in nature, you case will typically be worth more.
The other major factor which determines the value of your case is the amount of available insurance. Most people overlook this aspect and are surprised when the amount of their case is limited by this. This will be even more important considering the changes that will be taking to No-Fault Insurance on July 1st, 2020. Many drivers will choose to purchase smaller amounts of coverage simply because it will be the cheaper monthly option. Therefore, it is so important to pick the right plan for the future of your health and the well-being of your family. Another factor is the location of the accident. For example, settlements will be different if the accident happened in Eaton Rapids or Metro Detroit simply based off population.
Do I Need to File a Police Report?
Yes, you should always file a police report for a car accident. It is one of the most important things you can do following a crash. According to Michigan law, you need to file a report if there is a crash that results in death, injury, or property damage of $1,000+ (MCL 257.622). The statue says that you must “immediately” report the crash “at the nearest or most convenient police station, or to the nearest or most convenient police officer. Besides just satisfying the law there several reasons why you should file a report which include
Without a report, you jeopardize the ability to bring a mini-tort claim which will help pay for vehicle damage up to $3000 if the other driver was at fault.
If you wish to file either a first party or third-party claim, the lack of a report allows the other driver to claim they were not at fault or that the accident never occurred. These are both critical aspects that you will need to prove in court and the police report is an extraordinarily strong piece of evidence.
Your under-insured or uninsured motorist benefits can be denied by your insurance company making the amount of collectable damages much smaller if the other driver has an inadequate policy.
How Do I Get A Copy of My Police Report?
You can obtain the police report also called a traffic crash report (Ud-10) from the police department which investigated your crash. You can also order the report through The Michigan State Police “Traffic Crash Purchasing System.”
When Exactly Should I Contact My Insurance Company?
You should contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. We always advise people to contact an attorney beforehand, but regardless you should contact them within 24 hours. You will need to report any vehicle or property damage and have an adjuster assess the damage and facilitate repairs.
If you were injured, you will be required to fill out an application for no-fault insurance benefits. If you fail to do this quickly, it is possible they can deny your claim by stating it was not done in a timely matter. Our attorneys will gladly help assist you in contacting your insurance company, working with the adjuster, and making sure all your bills get paid.
Should I Talk to The Insurance Adjuster?
This is where you need to be careful. Insurance adjusters are well versed in interrogation and could find information that will destroy your claim. Oftentimes they will record phone calls and conversation without your knowledge and use it against you.
You will need to talk to the insurance adjuster for your vehicle repairs and the adjuster helping you collect first party benefits such as medical bills and lost wages. Just be incredibly careful with your words and do not talk about liability for the accident.
The adjuster you SHOULD NOT TALK TO is the adjuster for the driver who caused the accident. They are simply looking for ways to avoid paying you and you have no obligation to speak to them. You will most likely say something they can use to deny your claim and will go no useful knowledge.
It is always a good idea to contact your attorney and have them present when speaking to any adjuster and you should NEVER sign any documents without a lawyer reviewing them first. Once you sign away your rights you will never get them back.
Who Pays for All The Property Damage?
The State of Michigan utilizes the mini-tort law to determine who pays for vehicle damage. The type of collision coverage that you purchase through your insurance company and who was at fault for the accident are the 2 factors that will decide who pays and how much.
The at-fault driver is typically responsible for paying up to $3,000 in a property damage claim unless your vehicle was parked and unoccupied. In that case, the $3,000 maximum limit does not apply, and you can receive more compensation.
Can I Sue for Pain and Suffering? Who Do I Sue?
Yes, you can sue for the pain and suffering that you have endured but you must meet certain criteria to do so. This type of lawsuit is separate from what is called a first party claim or no-fault claim with pays for your medical bills and other related expenses. A 3rd party lawsuit only applies to your actual pain and suffering outside of medical expenses and your wage loss beyond the first 3 years.
To sue for pain and suffering, the other driver must be proven to be at fault for the accident. Therefore, having an accurate police report is so crucial. Most times the police officer does not witness the accident and they will even issue a ticket to the wrong driver. We can help by conducting a thorough investigation, hiring an expert re-constructionist, assessing the damages to all vehicles, and painting a clear picture of how the other driver was at fault.
The other main factor is deciding whether you have a viable third-party case is the severity of injuries. Essentially, you must be able to prove that the injury is sufficiently bad. What does this mean? It means your injury must meet a threshold defined as a serious impairment of a body function, permanent disfigurement, or death. The last two qualifications are easy to understand but a serious impairment of body function is vague and a little ambiguous. The courts have defined to this mean an injury that can be objectively identified by your doctor and has lasting effects that prevent you from living your normal everyday life for a significant period. A broken bone, a torn ligament, a herniated disk, injured organs, or a brain injury all would be examples of injuries that typically meet this threshold. This is because those injuries tend to take a long time to heal and usually prevent people from engaging in activities that they use to perform. Of course, there are many other types of injuries that meet this threshold, but they must be proven to be a serious impairment of a body function.
Can an Injured Passenger File a Lawsuit?
Yes, if you are injured in a vehicle accident as a passenger you can sue the negligent driver(s). A negligent driver can be the driver of another vehicle involved in the crash or even the driver of the vehicle that you were a passenger in. This can even include drivers of Uber/Ridesharing services or a taxi.
In many passenger cases, the injured passenger is a family member, friend, or co-worker of the negligent driver. Just because you might be suing somebody with close ties to you, you should not be afraid or guilty about filing a claim. You are not actually suing the person, but you are suing their insurance company. There will be no negative effect against your friend, spouse, parent, or any at-fault driver. Passenger injury claims usually result in significant monetary compensation and they should always be pursued.
Can You Sue For a Road Rage Crash?
This simple answer is yes. You can sue for a road rage crash if you have sustained injuries in a vehicle accident that was caused by a driver’s rage or aggressive driving. You can file a lawsuit and collect for injuries, damages, and losses. If it is found that the driving behavior was intentional, you can also sue for what is called gross negligence.
If there is gross negligence, you can sue to cover all your medical bills. wages that you have lost, compensation for your pain/suffering, psychological injuries, and future economic damages. It is also possible that the driver is charged criminally. If that occurs, you might be entitled to additional financial compensation through the criminal case.
Because of Michigan’s current no-fault law, the victim can still collect No-Fault or 1st party benefits through their own insurance policy if the behavior was unintentional. Let us say the at fault driver was acting recklessly, but the crash was unintentional. Then you can sue the driver for pain and suffering, additional medical expenses, wage loss past the first 3 years, and other forms of compensation.
Factors That Determine Car Accident Settlement and Case Value
There are many different factors that go into determining the amount your case or settlement could be worth. Like previously mentioned, every case if different and there is no magic formula or calculator that can accurately estimate the value of your case. Here is a list of factors that will have a great influence of the amount of compensation you will receive.
- The insurance policy limit of the at fault driver that caused the accident
- The insurance policy limit of the owner of the vehicle which was being driving by the at fault driver
- Your own insurance policy and how much coverage you have for uninsured and under-insured motorists
- The amount of damage to your vehicle
- The severity of your injury and if you require minor treatment or major medical treatment
- If the injury was severe, do you still have pain and require additional treatment
- The type of injury sustained. For example, whiplash, neck, spinal cord, or minor injury will be different that if you have multiple injuries requiring surgery or a traumatic brain injury where treatment will be needed for many years.
- Did the injury stop you from working? How long? The longer you are unable to work, the more you can usually recover. How much did you earn before the accident? If you were the family breadwinner typically you can recover more.
- Was the other vehicle a car owned by an individual? Were you hit by a commercial truck or bus? Commercial vehicles are required to carry larger insurance policies, and this could mean a larger value for your case.
How Much Can I Get for Pain and Suffering Damages?
Once it has been determined that the other driver is at least 50% at fault for the accident and your injuries are considered a serious impairment of body function, you can sue the at fault driver for your pain and suffering.
Calculating this value is exceedingly difficult to do considering that every case is different, and the factors are never the same. The 6 main conditions that are considered pain and suffering in Michigan include:
- The actual pain and suffering you endured
- The mental anguish you experienced
- Fright and Shock
- The denial of your social pleasure and the inability of joy
- The embarrassment, humiliation, or mortification that you must go through
- Mental anxiety, overall shame, and mental pain
How Long Will It Take for Me to Get Paid After an Accident?
The amount of time it will take to get paid compensation after a car accident is different in every single case. Some cases can settle relatively quickly because the case is straightforward, and the insurance policy limits are low. In these types of situations, the adjuster will pay the entire policy right away. However, this is not typical. Most cases can take up to a year or more for you to get a check. The reasoning for this is that you are still recovering from injuries and the effect of them on your future in simply unknown.
Some attorneys will promise you a quick turnaround time and you should be wary of an attorney claiming this. They are looking to make a quick fee and you will not maximize the value of your case.
Once the settlement release agreement is signed by all parties, you will typically receive a check within 30 days. This will be sent to your attorney where it can then be dispersed to you.
If the case involves a fatality or minor children, this can extend the length of time even further since there must be a court hearing where the settlement is approved by a judge.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Claim?
The timelines are different depending on the type of claim(s) that you plan to file. These time limits are extremely strict and if you miss filing on time, you can potentially lose the entire value of your case. Therefore, it is so important to not delay and contact an attorney who will ensure all of the deadlines will be met.
A first claim for PIP benefits also referred to as a no-fault claim must be filed within 1 year of the date of the accident. This will cover medical expenses, lost wages for the first 3 years, and other no-fault benefits.
The deadline for legal action for personal injuries or your pain and suffering must be filed within 3 years of the date of the accident. This is also referred to as the statute of limitations. There are a few exceptions, but there is no reason to wait as they do not apply in most instances.
There are various other timelines such as for filing and uninsured or under-insured motorist claim. This will depend on who you have your insurance policy with, but it is best to notify your insurer immediately.
How Much Is This Going to Cost Me?
There is not cost when hiring our top-rated auto accident attorneys. We never charge any fees to begin working on your case and we only get paid when you receive your money. This is called a contingency fee agreement and is the standard practice in just about all personal cases and for every law firm.
Under this contingency fee arrangement, we pay for all the expenses related to the case including investigating, hiring expert witnesses, court costs, and more. We only get a percentage of the settlement or verdict at the conclusion of your case when your check is received. The State of Michigan has a law set in place where the maximum car accident contingency fee is 33.33% of the net payment.
Michigan Car Accident Statistics
There were 314,377 total vehicle crashes in The State of Michigan during the 2019 year. Of this total # of vehicle accidents, 258,936 resulted in property damage, 54,539 resulted in at least 1 injury, and 902 resulted in fatalities. These figures are provided by michigantrafficcrashfacts.org. According to this data, there were 7,253,407 licensed drivers, 9,085,615 vehicles registered with the state, and a population estimate of 9,986,857. This means that 1 out of every 10,139 people was killed in a vehicle crash, 1 out of every 133 people was injured in an accident, and that 1 out of every 32 people was involved in an accident.
These numbers are quite surprising given the advancements of safety technology now available in vehicles including improved seat belts, smart airbags, adaptive headlights, collision avoidance systems, automatic braking systems, lane departure warning systems, and back-up cameras.
2,403 pedestrians were involved in crashes, 1,501 bicyclists were involved in crashes, and 3,083 motorcyclists were involved in crashes. Crashes that involved alcohol total 9,787 and this resulted in 295 deaths. Crashes that involved drugs totaled 2,598 and resulted in 237 fatalities.
The statistic that stands out the most to us is the amount of fatalities where drugs and alcohol were involved. They comprised an exceedingly small percentage of the total crashes yet accounted for somewhere between 30-50% of all the deaths.
The chart below highlights the total number of crashes and injuries for the years 2010-2019. The amount of crashes and injuries are surprisingly consistent year to year.
Call Our Auto Accident Attorneys Today to Get a Free Case Evaluation
No two cases are the same. It is important to call a Michigan auto accident attorney to see what benefits you qualify for and to make sure that you get someone who knows the law and cares about your case and your injuries. We know how devastating an injury can be, we see how it impacts our clients. It will often effect you for the rest of your life and that is why it is not just important to find any attorney that advertises on the highway billboards, but any attorney who cares about you and won’t treat you like a number. We have not only collected millions for our clients in settlements but have won multi-million-dollar verdicts at trial. We have done this by paying attention and working one on one with all our clients, while having the skill, knowledge, and tenacity to get our clients what they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your injuries.
References and Resources For Accident Victims
- MSP – Michigan State Police
- MSP – Office of Highway Safety Planning
- Traffic Crash Purchasing System (Purchase A Traffic Crash Report For $10.00)
- Michigan Traffic Crash Facts
- Brief Explanation of Michigan No Fault Insurance – Official PDF
- Department of Insurance and Financial Services – Auto Insurance Reform