How Does No-Fault Law Apply to my Case?
In Michigan, we have what is called the No-Fault Law. This means that you have three potential types of cases, depending on the types of injuries and damages that you suffered from your automobile accident. Many times people will have more than one type of claim depending on the actions of your insurance company, along with the nature of the injuries caused by the accident. It can be difficult to know how No-Fault law affects your case without first understanding the basics of the law.
First Party Case – (Claim for benefits from your own insurance company)
Because Michigan is a no-fault state, the first type of benefit is one that is paid by your own insurance company. These benefits, called personal protection benefits, consist of medical treatment, lost wages for the first three years, replacement services, and attendant care.
With a first party case you are not suing the driver who was at fault for the collision. In fact it doesn’t matter if you caused the accident or not. You should receive personal protection benefits from having been in an automobile accident as long as you purchased automobile insurance, or if you fall into one of the exceptions for not purchasing automobile insurance, (usually not owning a vehicle).
However, just because the insurance company is obligated to pay for your no-fault benefit does not mean that they always do. It is very common for insurance companies to deny benefits to injured people. The insurance company will attempt to say that your injuries do not stem from the automobile accident, but are actually from some preexisting condition. Additionally, they will often send you to a doctor that they pay called and Independent Medical Examiner (“IME”). The IME often states in their report to the insurance company that you are not actually injured, or that the injuries that you do have were not caused by the accident. The insurance company will use this report as justification to terminate all or part of your personal protection benefits.
When the insurance company either denies to pay you your no-fault benefits, or if they terminate your benefits while you still require medical treatment, lost wages, replacement services, or attendant care, it is important to contact a lawyer to help protect your rights. An experienced auto accident attorney The Clark Law Office can work on your behalf to make sure that the insurance company does not wrongfully deny you the medical care and other personal protection benefits that you deserve under Michigan Law.
Third Party Case – (Claim for damages against driver who injured you)
As you probably noticed, personal protection benefits do not include what is commonly referred to as pain and suffering. Obviously, there is some pain and suffering in almost every case where injuries arise from a car accident. However, because of the no-fault law, drivers give up the right to pain and suffering in certain cases for the tradeoff of the personal protection benefits that one’s own insurance company is obligated to pay, regardless of fault.
Notwithstanding this tradeoff, Michigan law does allow motorists to sue the at fault driver for pain and suffering, along with wage loss that occurs beyond three years after the accident. In order to sue for these damages, the victim must show that the other vehicle was at fault, and that they suffered a serious impairment of a body function, permanent disfigurement, or death. What constitutes a serious impairment of a body function is a complex question, which often requires a detailed legal and factual analysis. Michigan courts have construed the serious impairment of a body function threshold to make it difficult for this standard to be met. In most every case, this is a highly contested issue and, thus it requires the help of an experience attorney to help you prove.
Michigan does not require its motorists to purchase collision coverage on vehicles. This means when you are in an accident and damage occurs to your vehicle, you are entitled to recover up to a $1,000.00 from the insurance company of the vehicle that struck you. However, in addition to demonstrating to the striking vehicle’s insurance company that the accident happened and that the damage to your vehicle occurred, you must also show that you were not more than 50 percent at fault.
By sending the necessary proof of damage, police reports, and photos of your vehicles damage to the at fault driver’s insurance company, you should be able to be compensated for your collision damage up to $1,000.00. If there is no insurance company for the striking vehicle or there is a failure to pay, one can sue the at fault driver in small claims courts.
Can I have a First and Third Party Case?
You can absolutely have a first and third party case as a result of a car crash. If the first party insurance carrier refuses to pay for your personal protection benefits such as lost wages and medical bills it is necessary to force them to pay for these benefits through filling a lawsuit. Additionally, if another vehicle negligently caused the accident and you suffered a serious impairment of a body function, a third party law suit can be filled against the at fault driver for pain and suffering. This is a very common scenario and would mean that you would have both a first party and third party claim.
Contact The Clark Law Office for a Free Consultation
The Michigan no-fault laws can be confusing and complex. No-fault is much different than a tort system. Large Insurance companies are likely to be working against you, making it difficult for you to get the compensation and benefits that you deserve. It’s important to make sure that you know what your rights are and to have the counsel of dedicated and knowledgeably advocates who can make sure that you recover everything you are entitled to. Call us today for a free legal consultation.