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Third Party Rights



Kreiner Decision Tortures Michigan No-Fault Law

Here we go again. Our Michigan Supreme Court, recently referred to as on of the most activist court in the union, recently issued an opinion which may dramatically affect Michigan no-fault law. Kreiner disregarded the Michigan legislature's plain language under the no-fault language and added yet new hurdles to receiving benefits under our no fault statute. While bills have been introduced to the Michigan Legislature in order to restore Michigan’s no-fault law to allows claims of permanent disability, it is clear that the damage done by the Engler dominated Supreme Court of Michigan will be felt by Michigan citizens for many years into the future ….


Third-Party Rights

THIRD PARTY CLAIMS: The third-party claim compensates a person injured in an auto accident for damages, such as his or her past, present, and future non-economic losses and any excess economic losses if applicable. A third-party plaintiff is not entitled to sue the negligent driver for compensation for any economic damages which have already been paid or are owed by the plaintiff's own first-party insurance company. Michigan auto accident third-party claims involve automobile negligence claims. In a third-party claim, a plaintiff sues the driver or owner of a vehicle, alleging negligence causing an auto accident injury. If the driver or owner of the vehicle has no-fault insurance, the person injured in the auto accident may sue him or her for certain damages such as pain and suffering, as long as the claimant's injuries meet the threshold requirement of death, permanent serious disfigurement, or serious impairment of body function. The plaintiff may also sue for any economic losses resulting from the auto accident that exceed the statutory no-fault maximum amount. Claims cannot be made for loss of earning capacity. The Statute of Limitations or time a person has to file a Third Party lawsuit is 3 years. Minors are allowed until one year past their 18th birthday and there are certain other exceptions for military personnel and those judged mentally incompetent. If a person sustains bodily injury in a motor vehicle accident caused by the fault (i.e., negligence) of another driver, the Michigan No-Fault Act permits the victim to pursue a liability claim. This liability claim (also called the tort claim or the negligence claim) permits the victim to recover compensation for two types of damages: excess economic loss and non-economic loss. Damages for "excess economic loss" consist of those out of pocket losses that are not compensable by no-fault benefits, i.e., wage loss in excess of the monthly maximum or lasting beyond the three year wage loss benefit period and replacement service expenses in excess of $20 per day or lasting beyond the three year benefit period. Damages for "non-economic loss" consist of those losses that affect a person’s quality of life, such as pain and suffering; incapacity, disability and loss of function; diminished social pleasure and enjoyment; mental anguish and emotional distress, etc. However, under the Michigan no-fault law, an accident victim is only entitled to recover damages for non-economic loss if the victim sustained a "threshold injury." Under the statute, a threshold injury is any one of three things: (1) serious impairment of body function; (2) permanent serious disfigurement; or (3) death. The threshold element of "serious impairment of body function" was recently defined by a statutory amendment to require "an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the injured person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life." The threshold element of "permanent serious disfigurement" is not defined in the statute. Whether an injury rises to the level of "serious impairment of body function" or "permanent serious disfigurement" is a matter that depends upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case. Obviously, the more serious the injury, the more likely that the injury "crosses the threshold." The best way to determine whether a particular injury satisfies the threshold requirements of the Michigan act is to consult attorneys who specialize in auto no-fault cases. The Michigan statute further provides that non-economic damages are not recoverable if the victim is more than 50% at fault, or if the victim was driving an uninsured vehicle at the time of the accident which was owned by the victim. Even though a threshold injury is required in order to recover non-economic damages under the Michigan No-Fault Act, a threshold injury is not required in order to recover damages for excess economic loss. Therefore, if a person sustains work loss in excess of the monthly no-fault work loss benefits or sustains a loss of income beyond the three year no-fault work loss benefit period, a liability claim can be pursued regardless of whether the injury constitutes a threshold injury. Since no-fault PIP benefits often do not fully compensate auto accident victims for all of the economic damages they sustain, the liability claim is oftentimes the only way a victim can recieve all of the economic damages they have suffered. If a person sustains a serious injury in a motor vehicle accident caused by the fault of another driver, the injured person should contact an attorney about pursuing a lawsuit for excess economic loss and non-economic losses and damages.

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