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Michigan No Fault Insurance and Issues to help maximize your money recovery after a Serious Injury Accident

Gerald R. Stahl, Car and Semi truck Accident Lawyer, Holland Michigan. June 26, 2024

I have represented victims of auto and semi-truck accidents in Western Michigan for over thirty-five years. The consequences of these accidents are devastating to the victims and their families. The Michigan No Fault Law requires your insurance company to make payment for such things as medical bills, attendant care, and lost wages regardless of fault. However, the extent of your coverage will be limited by the terms of your policy. 

Additionally, under the Michigan No Fault Act, a person can sue or make a claim against the at fault drivers insurance company for pain and suffering if they are seriously injured in the crash. Thus, it is important to protect and preserve your rights before and after an accident. You protect your rights before the accident by ensuring you have adequate No Fault Insurance coverage.

To recover pain and suffering for bodily injuries sustained in an auto or semi-truck accident you must establish the liability of the at fault driver.

The driver that caused the accident must be at least 50% responsible to trigger liability for the claim. Negligence or recklessness must be established by the facts of the accident. Generally, this requires statements from witnesses, review of the accident scene, and the police report. In many cases liability is obvious to the licensed driver and an insurance adjuster.  In other words, your vehicle was the subject of some other driver’s violation of the rules of the road. For instance, the other driver fails to stop within an assured clear distance and rear ends your vehicle. Other examples include failure to yield to oncoming traffic, crossing the centerline, driving intoxicated, or being hit by a distracted driver.

Michigan No Fault Insurance policies

Know your policy coverage and review it every year.

Your No-Fault policy can be key to your complete recovery under the Michigan No Fault. For Instance, in my experience it is better to have unlimited medical coverage simply because there is no way to know how injured you would be if an accident occurred. In other words, insurance coverage is piece of mind. 

You hope you never get in any accident whether minor or otherwise. However, accidents are normally caused by one or more drivers operating negligently. For instance, if a distracted driver runs a red light and hits your vehicle at a high rate of speed. The injuries you sustain in the accident could be severe. In the case of a serious injury accident, you may be off work for years, or worse yet, permanently disabled. It is for this reason you need the best coverage possible.

Auto Insurance Policy limits in Michigan

When I am seriously injured by a negligent driver, how do I ensure I will be compensated for my pain and suffering?

Now comes perhaps the most challenging part of the process, negotiating with the insurance company. The insurance company starts on the premise that they want to pay as little as possible. And they will use every trick in their bag to pay as little as possible.

The first major obstacle is how much bodily injury coverage the at-fault driver possesses on their policy of insurance. For instance, if the at-fault driver only had $100, 000/

$300,000 of bodily injury coverage that means that his insurance company will not pay you more than $100,000 per injured victim no matter how serious the injury is or how it affects your life. The $300,000 amount is the total they would pay if the accident exceeded three victims regardless of the severity of the injuries to the victims. In other words, if a negligent driver hit a car with 4 passengers and they all die, then the insurance carrier for that driver would only pay a total of $300,00 for all victims. That would be a completely inadequate insurance policy on the part of the negligent driver. The only alternative would be to try and get a judgment personally against the negligent driver. That driver would have to be collectable with a high net worth. If that was the case, they probably would have had a better policy in the first place. The bottom line is that the insurance company will only pay the amount up to the policy limits of their contract.

Michigan No Fault: Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims

The Importance of your own policy of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage in Michigan after a serious injury auto accident.

If the policy limits of the negligent driver are low, the importance of your own insurance policy coverage is key. The injured victim may be able to use his own policy to recover additional money under their uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This is critical coverage to consider when purchasing your own policy. In my experience, a victim is often hit by a driver with low or average insurance coverage. A driver seeking the best protection should have high policy limits for uninsured and underinsured motorists.

How does uninsured/underinsured coverage work under Michigan No Fault?

Here is how uninsured/underinsured coverage works in Michigan after an auto accident. For instance, if you have one extremely seriously injured victim, and the at-fault drivers company offers the policy limits to the victim of $100, 000/$300,000. That means they are offering all they are required to pay $100,000. In that case, you agree to accept the $100,000 limit. This is the policy limit of the negligent driver.

Now the question is does my own policy have underinsured motorists’ coverage that is greater than the negligent driver’s policy limits of $100,000. Furthermore, the negligent driver must pay the entire policy limit before your uninsured/underinsured insurance policy is available. 

Let’s say you have uninsured/underinsured limits on your policy of $250,000/$500,000.  This means you could possibly get another $150,000 from your own policy for a total of $250.000. Your total settlement cannot exceed your own policy limits. Thus, you could argue your injuries merit the additional $150,000 from your own policy. At this point your attorney can negotiate any amount as a settlement with your company up to the $150,000 limit.

Your insurance company can make the same defenses and arguments available under Michigan No Fault Bodily injury threshold requirements in considering your uninsured motorist claim.

The Michigan law requires that to recover damages the claimant must establish that they sustain a serious impairment of an important body function. A serious impairment of an important bodily function is defined as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important bodily function that affects the claimant’s general ability to live his or her normal life.” It is common practice for insurance companies and their lawyers to argue that the injured party’s general ability to lead their normal life has not been affected.

Threshold Injuries

Threshold Injuries must be established to recover pain and suffering damages under The Michigan No Fault Act.

Your attorney will spend hours reviewing medical records and preparing briefs to argue that the client’s injury meets the Michigan NoFault Threshold for recovery of pain and suffering. The injured victim establishes their injuries with emergency records, surgery reports and his treating doctor’s office notes. The treating doctor in most cases will write the claimant’s attorney a report outlining his current diagnosis and prognosis for recovery. This is referred to as a narrative doctor’s report. A good narrative report from a treating doctor is an excellent piece of evidence to present to an insurance adjuster. These negotiations are extremely complex, and you should always have an attorney when negotiating with an insurance company.

I have represented several victims of accidents in Ottawa County, Kent County, and surrounding Western Michigan Counties over the last 35 years. The insurance company will initially review the medical records and make obvious arguments about the severity of the injuries and the effect of the injuries on the victim’s general ability to lead their normal life. These arguments are often countered with reality. For instance, to affect a person’s general ability to live his or her normal lives, you only must have an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living. Thus, you must look at the activities and lifestyle of the injured victim before and after the accident. There can be several factors that are unique to everyone’s lifestyle. For instance, an older person may no longer be able to take walks with their dog or work in the garden. A younger person may no longer be able to engage in their favorite sport. A victim could be permanently unable to perform their duties at employment. Pain can be an impediment to enjoying the activities that a victim enjoyed before the car crash or semi-truck accident.   

No Attorney Fee Unless there is Recovery

Accident Attorney’s get paid on a contingency fee basis of 1/3 of the settlement.

The injured victim should understand that all auto accident cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis. The reason for this is simple. Most people could not afford to pay a lawyer by the hour if they had no idea how much their case is worth. Furthermore, many people are seriously injured and are financially unable to pay because of their injuries. The Michigan Supreme court rule allows attorneys to work on a 1/3 contingency fee for the above reasons. The attorney and the client form a team with the goal of full compensation for the victim.

Let an experienced auto accident lawyer handle your Michigan No Fault Bodily Injury Claim.

Auto and semi-truck accidents can result in devastating injuries. These accidents often involve various complicated issues of liability and medical damages. Attorney Gerald R. Stahl is experienced personal injury and accident attorney. He has been helping victims of trucking accidents recover money damages in West Michigan for over 35 years. If you are injured in an auto accident or semi tractor accident, you need an attorney that has investigated, settled, and tried accident cases. Gerald R Stahl will fight to achieve the best results in your case.  The client should always consider their future after suffering a serious injury that was not their fault. Gerald R. Stahl is in Holland, Michigan in the Baker Lofts office complex.

This Blog is informational and is intended to discuss general issues relating to Michigan No Fault Insurance. It is not legal advice or intended to be used as legal advice.