Michigan Third-Party Claim for Car Accidents

If you were involved in a car accident in Michigan, you could file two kinds of automobile accident claims: a first party claim and a third-party claim.  A first-party claim covers payment for medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement services. A third-party claim, on the other hand, covers pain and suffering, as well as other non-economic benefits. These two claims are separate and distinct from each other. The No-Fault Act of Michigan on which this is based may seem confusing, so here is a brief guide on third-party claims.

What is a Third-Party Claim?

A person who was injured in a car accident may file a third-party claim against the driver at fault. Under this claim, you may seek compensation for pain, suffering, and other non-economic losses. In contrast to a first party claim, which is based on contract, a third-party claim is based on tort law. Thus, it is considered a personal injury negligence case. In these cases, the at-fault driver is usually represented by his insurance company.  In particular, a third-party claim allows you to collect damages for:

  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Permanent scarring
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss and enjoyment of life

In case of death in a car accident, a family member may file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver.

What Do I Have to Prove To Be Eligible For 3rd Party Benefits?

For a better chance at winning the case, you must prove the following:

The other driver was at fault

First of all, you may file a third-party claim only if the other driver was at least 50% at fault in causing the accident. If you were determined to be more than 50% at fault, or if you failed to purchase no-fault insurance at the time of the crash, you are barred from recovery.

The damages you may recover are based on comparative fault. Thus, the court may find that the other driver was at fault for the accident, but at the same time, also find you partially at fault. In this case, the amount of money you can recover will be reduced in proportion to the degree to which your own negligence contributed to your injury.

Meeting the “threshold requirement” for personal injuries

Aside from proving that the other driver was at fault, you must also meet the “threshold requirement” for personal injuries. Simply put, a threshold injury is a serious impairment of a bodily function or severe and permanent disfigurement. Michigan law defines a serious impairment of 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.”  Michigan courts used to require the claimant to prove that the injury affected the person’s 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, a victim is not required to show that the injury altered the “course or trajectory” of his or her life.

Regardless of this development, 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.  When determining if the threshold requirement for injuries is met, Michigan courts look at several factors, including:

  • Whether a vital body part to your job or livelihood was injured
  • Whether you had to miss a significant amount of time in work
  • Whether the injury affected your ability to lead a normal life
  • Whether you are now under any kind of restriction, or whether you will face any restrictions in the future
  • Whether the injury is apparent or can be perceived from actual symptoms or conditions
  • Whether the injury satisfies other parameters deemed necessary by the court

Do You Need Help in Filing a Third-Party Claim?

Many third-party claims are filed in court every year, but only a small percentage of them succeed. Unless you are working with an experienced Michigan car accident lawyer, the fault of the other driver and threshold injuries are not easy to prove.  At The Clark Law Office, we have a professional and dedicated team of lawyers who can help you get the best results for your case. Our years of experience have honed our astute trial capabilities and given us comprehensive knowledge of Michigan’s injury and negligence laws. For a consultation, contact +1 (517) 347-6900 or send us a message today.