One of the most common questions our personal injury lawyers receive from accident victims following a car accident is “Can I receive compensation for an auto accident that was my fault?” This is a great questions, because it’s very important to know how you’re going to pay for all the medical bills and related costs, repairs to your vehicle, and if you can receive compensation for all the pain and suffering that you have endured.
Under Michigan law, there are two different types of claims that individuals can file after being involved in car accidents. A first party claim for monetary damages, also referred to as a no-fault claim is the first. The second type of claim is called a third party lawsuit for non-economic damages.
In general, you will be able to collect first party benefits if you are at fault for the accident, but you will not be able to collect third party tort benefits.
Will My Insurance Company Pay For No-Fault Benefits?
Michigan is still considered a no-fault state. Essentially, this means that you have auto insurance and are involved in a car accident, your own auto insurance provider is responsible for paying for you personal injury protection benefits.
This includes all medical expenses related to the accident, replacement services, attendant care, lost wages, and medical mileage.
There was a major change to this law in 2019 which can possibly limit the amount of PIP benefits that your insurance company is responsible for. Previous to these changes in 2019, there was no cap or limit to the amount in regards to your PIP benefits.
You can still recover no-fault benefits including lost wages and medical expenses, but if you didn’t purchase a larger policy, there is a possibility this money will run out and you will be left to pay for these things out of your own pocket.
What Insurance Policy Did You Purchase?
Now, the main factor is which version of no-fault insurance you purchased. Now it’s possible to opt of out PIP benefits, or purchase a policy with much lower limits (not unlimited)
It may have seemed like a good idea to purchase cheaper auto insurance, but most people don’t realize how good they had it and find themselves in a bad situation after purchasing lesser insurance if they sustain car accident injuries.
Liability Claims Against The At-Driver
The second type car accident claim is called a third party lawsuit or a tort lawsuit. This type of claim can only be brought against the driver at fault for the accident. This means that if you are at fault or negligent for causing the accident, you will not be able to recover compensation for your non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
In order to recover damages in a third party lawsuit, you must be less than 50% at fault for the the accident.
What is considered negligence when determining how much fault is in car accidents?
Usually anything that would qualify for a ticket or falls under a violation of the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code or something a reasonably careful person wouldn’t do while driving. Some examples would include
- Not stopping at a stop sign
- Running a red light
- Failure to yield
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Texting while driving
- Improperly switching lanes
- Turning right on a green light where no allowed
Comparative Negligence in a Tort Lawsuit
So what happens if you are only partially at fault for the accident? If this is the case, comparative negligence now comes into play. If you are less than 50% at fault, you can recover compensation for the tort lawsuit but your recovery will be reduced according.
For example, lets say that you are 25% at the percentage of fault for the accident. This means the amount of your recovery will be reduced by 25%.
You Cannot Receive Compensation If You Are More Than 50% At Fault
While you can still receive compensation that was your fault through your no-fault benefits, you cannot receive compensation if you are more than 50% negligent causing the vehicle accident even if you sustained severe injuries.
If you were the at fault driver, you might also be facing a liability insurance claim from the other individuals or parties. This is why it’s important to know what your insurance policy consists of and to have more than adequate liability insurance coverage.
You never know when you might be involved in an auto accident and it’s best to be prepared if the situation arises.
Police Reports Are Crucial When Determining Fault
Police reports are a very important piece of evidence for determining who as at fault for the accident because it is the officer’s official account of what happened. This report offers a summary of his/her observations and will make a record of many things that can include when accidents occur
- The date, time, and place of where the auto accident occured
- A description of the road conditions at the accident scene
- Lighting during the time of the accident
- Weather conditions
- Description of the vehicles
- What damage occurred
- If there was speeding, alcohol, or drugs present
- A diagram of the accident
- Names and all injured parties
- Property damage
- Physical and mental injuries
- The name, department, and badge number of the responding officers
While a police report is a strong piece of evidence, they are human and make mistakes. Not every police report is the final verdict of who is at fault for a particular accident. They are not always accurate, and you can challenge their validity.
Good Personal Injury Lawyers Are Your Best Weapon in Proving Fault
Proving who was at fault for an accident is one of the most important things that will dictate how much your lawsuit(s) will be worth. Of course, the extent of your injury is the main determining factor along with the amount of insurance, but you will not be able to recover any third party tort damages if you are more than 50% at fault.
Having an attorney fight for you in personal injury cases is the biggest advantage you can get. They can help prove fault and physical injuries. Insurance companies are a business just like any other and their main objective is to make as much money as possible.
They certainly don’t accomplish this by paying out large settlements without a fight. They will claim that you are at fault for the accident and that you are over-exaggerating your injuries or that injuries aren’t even related to the accident.
Car accident victims and your attorney must build a strong case to maximize the value of your settlement and get the compensation that you truthfully deserve. You may need to depose witnesses, hire accident reconstruction experts, and challenge the finding of doctors.
Without an attorney you will be fighting an uphill battle against a company with unlimited resources. You will simply not be taken seriously.
What About Damages To Your Own Vehicle After a Car Accident?
The damage to other cars and your own vehicle will typically be paid by your own car insurance company through collision coverage.
The definition of collision coverage provided by progessive.com is “Collision insurance is a type of coverage that can pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s involved in an accident with either a stationary object or another vehicle.
Collision coverage isn’t legally required in any state, but your lender may require it if you’re leasing or financing your vehicle. Collision insurance coverage is available for most types of vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, boats, and RVs.”
If you have collision coverage, you will be paying the deductible that your policy states. This will vary based on your insurance provider, the amount you pay for your policy, and your driving history.
The Michigan Mini-Tort Exception
Michigan also has a mini-tort law exception. This means that you can get reimbursed for up to $3000 if you are not at fault for the accident. This obviously won’t pay for anything other than minor damages. It can also be used to pay your deductible if you were forced to pay for your vehicle repairs and weren’t at fault.
Will My Car Insurance Rates Increase?
If you are not at fault for the accident or if you have accident forgiveness, your rates typically won’t go up. Not every auto insurance company handles this situation the same, so it’s best to ask this question before you decide to purchase a policy with your company.
If you are at fault for the accident, your insurance company will usually increase your premiums or car insurance rates. According to Forbes, that national average increase is 45% after an accident with property damage and 47% for an accident that results in injuries.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer At The Clark Law Office Today
Determining who is at fault for a vehicle accident can be a complicated question. There are many factors at play and all parties will usually be fighting each other. The other driver involved and the insurance company will most likely try to make it seem like its your fault simply because it saves them money.
If you were involved in a car accident that you believe wasn’t your fault and sustained serious injuries, we suggest that you call one of our dedicated and experienced car accident attorneys to evaluate your case.
We will give you an honest opinion during a free consultation about whether you have a car accident case and charge no fees unless you receive financial compensation.