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What to Do After a Car Accident Caused by a Relative or Friend

What to Do After a Car Accident Caused by a Relative or Friend

Let’s start this article by posing a troubling question with a fairly obvious answer: Would your beloved grandmother want you to go bankrupt paying medical bills due to an accident she caused? The answer: Of course not. In fact, because she’s your grandma, she’d probably offer to dip into her precious retirement savings to help cover your expenses — but she shouldn’t! Now imagine you happen to be hurt by a loving family member… who doesn’t happen to have deep pockets or a retirement account. There’s no way this person could possibly help you pay your medical expenses, let alone cover the cost of your lunch in the hospital cafeteria. What should you do then?The simple and responsible answer in almost all these cases is to file a lawsuit. Not vindictively. Not to cause financial harm to your loving family members. But instead to protect yourself from medical bills and other expenses while helping your relatives feel free from guilt or undue worry regarding your situation. Don’t be too concerned about doing this; they’ll be okay. The necessity of a lawsuit has more to do with insurance coverage rules and the ways Michigan’s no-fault laws can come into play after a car accident. You’re not really suing your relative – you’re suing their insurance provider. Let us explain in further detail.

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Family Member Can Make Sense, Even if It Doesn’t Feel Like It

We’ve all heard it said that blood is thicker than water. And it is indeed true that family should always come first. But when a relative has caused you or someone else to be seriously injured in a car accident, you shouldn’t hesitate to consider pursuing legal compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, rehabilitation expenditures, and other costs that may crop up. It might seem counterintuitive, even absurd, but when you really think about it, your family member would want you to sue!Here’s why: Since 1973, Michigan law has required all drivers to carry no-fault car insurance. So, if the accident in which you’re injured is your family member’s fault, a personal injury lawsuit can force their policy’s coverage to come into play when your insurance protection doesn’t. That can happen, for example, when your medical costs and other expenses from the accident exceed your own insurance policy’s limitations. And, regardless of the state’s no-fault rules, your right to sue is guaranteed by state law if you’ve suffered “serious impairment of body function” and/or disfigurement (as defined by Michigan legislation).According to this law, a “serious impairment” does not have to be permanent. But it does have to manifest in symptoms observable to other people that are of “great significance to the injured person,” and affect your ability to resume normal, pre-injury life. We can help you prove all these things in court by bringing in expert witnesses, supplying medical records, and presenting other evidence to support your case against the family member’s insurance company.Beyond all that, there are also some important “what-ifs” to keep in mind when you’re considering filing a lawsuit against a relative. We’ll discuss how filing suit can help relieve your family members from the guilt they probably feel for causing you pain and financial distress.

What if I’m a Passenger Injured in a Relative’s Car?

That’s probably the most obvious question we need to address here. First, you should know Michigan law requires your no-fault insurance policy to cover you and any relatives living in your house, up to the limits you decided on when you selected your coverage. This means the level of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) you chose (which can range from unlimited coverage to as little as $50,000) protects your immediate family members whether they’re riding in your car… in your relative’s pickup truck… on a friend’s motorcycle…or even if they’re hit by an errant motor vehicle while they’re out taking a walk.So, this means your household’s accident-related medical expenses are always covered by your own no-fault insurance, right? Well, not exactly…That’s because medical costs following an accident (not even considering potential rehabilitation and physical therapy charges) can easily exceed seemingly high PIP benefits. In another recent article, we pointed out how one accident victim’s $250,000 PIP limit was woefully inadequate, and left him responsible for medical bills far surpassing that amount. That could easily happen to you, too. Which is why we always recommend choosing unlimited PIP coverage to protect your family from financial catastrophe that can result from enormous medical bills following an accident.But if, like many folks these days, you’re trying to save money on insurance premiums by choosing something less than unlimited PIP benefits, there could very well be times when your coverage is inadequate… and you could face costs that could cause you to lose everything. Indeed, unpaid medical bills remain one of America’s leading causes of personal bankruptcy.So, what’s a better alternative than filing for bankruptcy? Filing a lawsuit. Remember – in these challenging circumstances, suing your relative really means suing your relative’s insurance company. Think about it. Their car insurance premiums will most likely automatically increase following an accident, so bringing a lawsuit probably won’t change things for them much anyway. And knowing that your medical bills are being covered by their insurance company will most likely reduce your relative’s guilty feelings from having hurt you physically and financially. (By the way, in case you’re wondering about how much car insurance premiums rise after a collision claim, ValuePenguin reports that Michigan rates more than double on average following an accident.)

What if the Accident Was a While Ago?

If you’ve been injured by a family member, you might not feel comfortable doing anything about it right away. You may even be in denial that you were hurt and attempt to live with the pain you’re experiencing. It’s entirely understandable; we know it can feel wrong to file a suit involving someone you’ve known and loved forever. But please, don’t wait too long to act. If you ultimately find you can’t deal with the pain or financial losses caused by the accident, you’ll need to beat the statute of limitations, a legally defined period of time after which you won’t be permitted to file a lawsuit. According to Michigan law, your right to sue generally ends three years after an accident. However, there are some exceptions to this rule depending on the type of accident and the parties involved in the case. Essentially, in any situation where you or someone you love has been hurt in a car accident, you’ll want to act quickly. Waiting too long to file suit can result in a loss of evidence, the disappearance of witnesses, or even (sadly) the death of the person you need to sue.

What if a Family Member Died in the Accident?

That would, of course, be doubly tragic, especially in the case of a parent whose life insurance isn’t adequate to care for the spouse and children left behind. To help families recover from this type of tragedy, the state permits filing a wrongful death lawsuit. This can be crucial because, in an incident like this, the survivors might be left with medical bills, not to mention facing a future without the wages that the late parent would have earned throughout their lifetime. The three-year statute of limitations for this type of lawsuit is generally the same as we’ve described above, but check with our wrongful death legal experts to be certain of exactly how it could apply in your case.

Let us help you keep family legal matters friendly.

To conclude this post, we sincerely hope you never experience a car accident caused by someone you know, let alone someone from your very own family. But it can and does happen. If you ever need advice on how to handle this sensitive situation, we’re well versed on how to delicately deal with filing lawsuits when relatives are named as defendants. We’ll help you carefully walk the family tightrope, while working to get you the compensation you need and deserve. Give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946), or visit us here. We’ll treat you and your family just like our own.