Understanding the Injury Threshold Rule in Michigan For Pain and Suffering Claims
In 2017, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety reported 314,921 motor vehicle traffic crashes in Michigan. From these accidents, there were 78,392 people injured, and 1,028 people killed. Indeed, car accidents are common and may prove fatal. This is why it’s important to know your rights and how to protect them in the unfortunate event of a car accident. What if you were involved in a car crash and injured? The No-Fault Act of Michigan allows you to recover from the driver at-fault. You can file two kinds of claims: a first party claim and a third-party claim.
A first party claim is based on contract, and under this, you can recover for medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement services. In contrast, a third-party claim is based on tort law and covers damages for pain, suffering, and other non-economic losses. However, before your third-party claim can prosper, you have to prove two things: that the other driver was at least 50% at fault and that you meet the threshold requirement for personal injuries.
What Is Considered A Threshold Injury?
The success of your lawsuit in a Michigan car accident case depends on whether or not you have a threshold injury, a unique concept in Michigan car accident claims. A threshold injury is defined as one that causes serious impairment of a bodily function or serious and permanent disfigurement. Section 500.3135 of the No-Fault Act defines a serious impairment of a body function as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”
Under the old interpretation of the Michigan Supreme Court, the claimant had to prove that the injury affected his or her general ability to “conduct the course or trajectory of his or her entire normal life.” Fortunately, in the 2010 case of McCormick v. Carrier, the Michigan Supreme Court lowered the threshold of what is considered as serious impairment of body function. Now, whether an injured person has been kept from some, not necessarily all, normal activity for any period, not necessarily a lifetime, may be a basis for a third-party claim.
Even if the Michigan Supreme Court made it easier for car accident victims to sue for pain and suffering, the threshold requirement still causes lengthy litigation in most cases. If the victim was killed, permanently disabled, or severely disfigured, then it is clear that the threshold was met. However, for lesser injuries, the fact of impairment can be disputed.
Factors In Determining A Threshold Injury
How can you then tell if you have a threshold injury? There are no specific guidelines, only that the injury must be of such severity that it impacts your ability to resume your normal life. Examples of these injuries include traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or amputation. To establish the severity of your injuries, it is necessary that you obtain a diagnostic from a doctor. It is only through medical tests and reports that you will be able to prove in court that you have a threshold injury. The court will also consider several factors, including: