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Michigan Is a No-Fault State… But What Happens if You’re Found At-Fault for an Accident?

Michigan Is a No-Fault State… But What Happens if You’re Found At-Fault for an Accident?

When it became law in 1973, it was hoped that Michigan’s No-Fault insurance coverage requirement would help prevent lawsuits following car accidents in Michigan. With No-Fault coverage, the general rule is that after an accident – regardless of who’s to blame for the crash – each driver’s own insurance policy covers their individual economic damages (i.e. medical bills, attendant care, medical transportation costs, household services, work loss, etc.). The intention of lawmakers was that by requiring drivers to buy No-Fault policies they would simplify life by eliminating the car accident “blame game” while simultaneously freeing up the state’s court system for more important work. But it hasn’t always worked out that way. And that’s actually a very good thing. Here’s why:

If you’ve been seriously injured due to someone else’s bad drivingdrunk drivingtexting while driving, poor judgment, or simple negligence behind the wheel, we firmly believe that you ought to have the right to sue them for the financial harm they’ve caused– not to mention the pain and suffering you’ve experienced. Fortunately, because of the way our state’s No-Fault legislation was written, you can. And we can help you with that.  Keep reading to learn how.

Here’s How You Can File Suit – Even Though Michigan is a “No-Fault” Insurance State

Thanks to one crucial line in the state’s No-Fault insurance law, if you’ve experienced “serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement” resulting from an accident where you were less than 50 percent at fault, you are legally permitted to sue the person, company or organization responsible for your injuries. There are two billion good reasons for you to do exactly that.

Why two billion? Because that’s about how much money we’ve won for our deserving clients over the years – nearly $2 billion in settlements that have helped injured Michiganders pay for doctor and specialist bills, hospital charges, rehabilitation fees and long-term nursing care, among other medical costs. And, of course, receiving that kind of money can go a long way toward helping accident victims cope with the long-term pain and suffering they’ve had to endure – something on which it’s impossible to put a price tag.

What Does “Serious Impairment of Body Function or Permanent, Serious Disfigurement” Mean?

Luckily Michigan law is pretty clear on the subject. For an injury or injuries to reach the level of a “serious impairment of body function,” you must prove that:

 (a) It is objectively manifested, meaning it is observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions by someone other than the injured person.

(b) It is an impairment of an important body function, which is a body function of great value, significance, or consequence to the injured person.

(c) It affects the injured person’s general ability to lead their normal life, meaning it has had an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live in their normal manner of living.

The law goes on to state that an impairment doesn’t have to be permanent to qualify for damages. Specifically, the law says each person’s injuries should be examined on a case-by-case basis, and the seriousness of the injury should be gauged by comparing the “injured person’s life before and after the incident.”

Generally, the serious impairment threshold is used to enable a bodily injury lawsuit for a driver and/or owner’s negligence. However, remember that a permanent and serious disfigurement is a separate avenue that can be used to meet this threshold. Usually, if someone suffers a permanent and serious disfigurement, they also suffered a serious impairment of body function. Consequently, the serious impairment threshold is often more heavily litigated.

Are There Any Exceptions That You Should Know About?

Yes, there’s one very important exception. If the court determines that you were 50 percent or more responsible for the accident in which you were injured, you won’t be eligible to collect damages at all. In other words, if you were found to be “at fault” and bear the majority of blame for the incident, the law makes you ineligible to file suit.

But perhaps you were only partially to blame. For example, if you were slightly exceeding the speed limit when the accident occurred, it’s likely you bear some (but not more than half) of the responsibility for your injuries. The court will determine exactly how much responsibility was yours when it examines your case. What’s more, if you are shown to be liable for any percentage of the cause of the accident up to that 50 percent threshold, any economic damages you win will be reduced by that amount. That part of the law is called “comparative fault,” and here’s how it works.

Let’s say you’re awarded $1 million in damages for your injuries, but the jury finds that you were responsible for 10 percent of the blame for the accident in which they occurred. In that case, your settlement would be reduced to $900,000 (or 90 percent of the total award). Had you been entirely blameless, you’d have received the full $1 million, but because it was found that you contributed to the cause of the accident, your compensation will drop accordingly.

What About Car Insurance – Doesn’t It Already Protect Me?

It might. A key thing to know is that after any accident where you’ve been hurt, your own No-Fault plan’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage will come into play. As explained by the helpful folks at the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, “If you are injured in an auto accident, PIP will pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses for your lifetime up to the maximum coverage amount selected in the affected policy. PIP will pay wage loss and replacement services for up to three years after the date of the accident.”

This is critically important. You have the responsibility of choosing the level of PIP coverage included in your policy. You can even opt to have no PIP coverage at all, but only if “you have coverage under both Medicare Parts A and B, and any spouse and all resident relatives have qualified health coverage or are covered under another auto policy with PIP medical coverage.” Otherwise, there are currently several options permitting you to choose PIP coverage limits as low as $50,000. But with costs for a disabling car accident averaging over $100,000 per person, you’ll be leaving yourself and your family open to financial calamity if you choose such a low coverage limit. Or consider this worst-case scenario which happened to an accident victim who’d opted for a seemingly strong $250,000 PIP limit but was ultimately left holding the bag for $89,000 in excess medical bills! A far better option – and one we always recommend to our clients – is to choose unlimited PIP coverage. Yes, it will cost you a little more for your car insurance, but you’ll be protecting yourself and your loved ones from potential bankruptcy while ensuring that you’ll be able to receive all the extensive – and likely expensive – health care treatments you might need to recover from a serious car accident.

Additionally, you have the option of purchasing uninsured/underinsured coverage in case the negligent driver that hit you failed to purchase (or did not get a high enough limit) the necessary bodily injury liability coverage. Uninsured/underinsured coverage would act as bodily injury liability coverage for you in the event of such an accident. You can recover non-economic (pain and suffering) and excess economic benefits from uninsured/underinsured coverage just like you would recover those benefits against a negligent driver’s insurance policy. However, most of the uninsured/underinsured policies issued in Michigan will have the serious impairment of body function/permanent serious disfigurement requirement discussed above. This coverage simply stands in the place of the negligent driver’s insurer if the negligent driver did not buy insurance, did not buy enough insurance, or committed a hit-and-run and were unable to be identified.

What’s the Most Effective Way to Put the No-Fault Lawsuit “Loophole” to Work?

As we’ve stated, if you’ve experienced debilitating injuries caused by someone else, Michigan law guarantees you the right to sue for damages. But navigating the legal system all by yourself can be a daunting task, which is why tens of thousands of Michiganders have learned to depend upon Mike Morse Law Firm to represent their interests in court. If you don’t believe us, check out our client ratings or look us up on Google to see what folks have to say about our compassionate, professional, dependable, and intelligent attorneys. Then don’t hesitate to join them by calling us at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or contacting us here. From the moment you get in touch with us, we’ll be right there by your side – and on your side.

Michigan Is a No-Fault State… But What Happens if You’re Found At-Fault for an Accident?

Content checked by Mike Morse, personal injury attorney with Mike Morse Injury Law Firm. Mike Morse is the founder of Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan. Since being founded in 1995, Mike Morse Law Firm has grown to 150 employees, served 25,000 clients, and collected more than $1 billion for victims of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. The main office is in Southfield, MI but you can also find us in Detroit, Sterling Heights and many other locations.