Wednesday, May 24, 2017

When No Fault Auto Insurance Is Not Enough

Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance is designed to cover your medical expenses after a car crash. But it doesn’t cover everything. Find out what you can do when no-fault auto insurance is not enough.

What No Fault Auto Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Michigan’s No Fault Act requires your auto insurance to pay for any medical costs to treat your injuries from a motor vehicle crash. But benefits for lost wages and replacement services (like child care or landscaping) end after three years. And there is no insurance coverage for “non-economic” damages like permanent disability or pain and suffering.

Third Party Negligence Lawsuits Fill the Gap

Instead, the Michigan No Fault Act (MCL 500.3135) allows some accident victims to file a “Third Party negligence lawsuit” against the at-fault driver. You must prove the other driver did something wrong that caused your injuries, but then you can recover non-economic damages. To file this type of lawsuit the auto accident must have caused:
  • Death
  • Permanent serious disfigurement, or
  • Serious impairment of body function.
The last is the most complicated to prove. A recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision offers a good example.

Serious Impairment in Hawamda v Kineish

In Hawamda v Kineish, Kineish drove his vehicle into a wrong-way turnaround and pulled in front of Hawamda’s vehicle, causing the crash. Immediately after the crash, Hawamda complained of headaches. Over time, the pain radiated into his neck and back. An MRI shortly after the accident showed nothing wrong, but a year later a follow up scan showed bulging and herniated discs in his spine. 
The Michigan Court of Appeals evaluated whether his injuries were a “serious impairment of body function” based on 3 prongs:
  1. Objectively manifested impairment
  2. of an important body function
  3. that affects the person’s ability to lead a normal life.
The court said that the MRI results provided evidence of observable symptoms to meet the first prong. It relied on prior cases that showed “the spine is an extremely important part of every person’s body” for the second prong.

To show the third prong, plaintiffs must show that the way they lead their lives is different after the accident than before. Hawamda presented deposition testimony that before the accident he had played soccer, basketball, and bowling. Afterwards, he was only able to take walks and was unable to work. The court said “this evidence is not overwhelming” but it was enough to allow Hawamda to take the case to trial.

A third party negligence lawsuit can pick up the slack when no fault auto insurance isn’t enough. But to prove your case, you will want an experienced personal injury attorney like Dani K. Liblang of The Liblang Law Firm, PC. With 30 years’ experience, she can help you get the compensation you need. Contact The Liblang Law Firm, PC, for a free consultation.

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