Kreiner to McCormick to ???

What’s next for Michigan auto accident lawyers and car accident injury victims after McCormick v. Carrier?

On July 31, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned Kreiner v. Fischer, and with it, the nation’s harshest auto accident injury threshold for accident victims.  The case that replaced Kreiner v. Fischer is McCormick v. CarrierMcCormick restores the right to sue for pain and suffering personal injuries, including broken bones and surgeries, that are very serious but that are not permanent and life-altering, as the appellate cases after Kreiner increasingly demanded.

The question now - for accident victims and personal injury lawyers - is what’s next?  With a historic Republican landslide last November, the Republicans took back the Michigan Court.  And with that change in the Court’s composition comes the increasing likelihood of another dramatic whipsaw to Michigan’s auto accident threshold law.

The Michigan Supreme Court has two new justices after the November election. Justice Mary Beth Kelly stated when running for the high court that she felt McCormick was wrongly decided.  Justice Brian Zahra, the other new member to the Michigan Court, has always taken a very tough position on injury cases. Together with Justice Markman and Justice Young, who both signed onto the majority opinion in Kreiner v. Fischer and both strongly dissented in McCormick v Carrier, one can count the votes.  Whether it happens in the Michigan Supreme Court, or in the Michigan Legislature, it seems McCormick’s days as Michigan’s new auto accident threshold law are numbered.  These four justices are expected to overturn McCormick v. Carrier. The message from this Court seems clear.

All this is part of a vicious one-two punch for car accident victims.  At the same time that the injury threshold faces a very uncertain future, there were a number of proposed bills recently introduced in March of 2011 in the Michigan House that would dismantle Michigan No-Fault insurance benefits, including PIP choice and fee schedules on attendant care.  If these bills on No-Fault insurance become law in the near future, and if Michigan’s auto accident tort law reverts back to the nation’s harshest after McCormick is overturned, Michigan’s auto accident victims will be punished severely.

Gone will be the incredibly valuable protections under the Michigan No-Fault Act, which promises very generous first- party No-Fault benefits such as unlimited medical care in exchange for requiring a minimum level of severity in pain and suffering accident claims, to keep out the “frivolous and de minimus” car accident injuries from the courts.

Now, Michigan auto accident victims will likely have neither.   Very few people will be able to sue for injuries and pain and suffering if Kreiner is reinstated - instead of a threshold written to bar frivolous auto accident cases, we will have the nation’s harshest car accident injury threshold that will effectively bar legal recovery for all but the most seriously, and permanently injured. And in exchange for all of this, we will “allow” people PIP Choice - the change to lose unlimited medical care in the event of a catastrophic traumatic brain injury and replace this coverage with a minimum level of $50,000 in medical care, a minimum that will be exceeded by an emergency room visit in any car accident or truck accident injury case. 

No one has a crystal ball and can say with certainty what is next for Michigan accident lawyers and injury victims in the future.  But that future does not look good right now.

written by Steven Gursten

Steve is an attorney in Farmington Hills, Michigan and specializes his practice on helping people injured in car accidents, truck accidents, and no fault insurance cases.


nice discussions and a good site to revisit.

Very good discussion on the implications of the political environment. I always enjoy reading your blog. As soon as the law helps the injured, it looks as though it will turn in the opposite direction.

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