No-Fault Explained: Discovery

Once a plaintiff starts a no-fault lawsuit, there is a period of time when both sides can investigate their claims and defenses, called discovery. While all the normal court rules for discovery apply to first party actions, the Michigan No-Fault Act has two sections that specifically apply to auto insurance companies’ discovery.

MCL 500.3158 gives the auto insurance defense attorneys two tools to discover the value of your case.

(1) Statement of Earnings from Employers

An auto insurance company is allowed to request a sworn statement of earnings from the injured motorist’s employer. This will cover any earnings since the accident and for a reasonable period of time before you were injured. If you are employed at the time of your accident, your boss can expect to get a letter from the insurance company, and should be prepared to provide the required statement of earnings.

But just because your employer’s HR department fails to do what the court rule requires doesn’t mean you will be completely out of luck. A Michigan court of appeals case says that a plaintiff does not automatically lose his or her right to work loss benefits if the employer doesn’t comply with the statute. There are other ways to prove lost wages to a judge or jury.

(2) Medical Treatment Records

The insurance companies are also entitled to an injured motorist’s medical records. The defense attorneys can send a request to a person’s physician, hospital, clinic, or other medical institution, whether that treatment happened before or after the car crash. In most other cases, your medical records are private. But because your no-fault claim is centered on a bodily injury, your medical records are open for inspection.

MCL 500.3159 Limits on Discovery

If there are things in your medical history you would rather not share with your auto insurance company, the Michigan No-Fault Act has that covered too. MCL 500.3159 allows courts to enter discovery orders regarding medical records. It works both ways. If your medical provider refuses to provide records, the auto insurance company can file a motion and the court can order the production those records.

If you file a motion to restrict discovery, the court may also cut off an insurance company’s access to your medical records or limit it. To do this, you and your auto accident attorneys will need to show that there is good cause for the restrictions, which must be designed to protect you against annoyance, embarrassment, or oppression. The attorneys at Christensen Law know how to use these motions to protect your privacy. If the insurance company is digging into your medical history, your attorneys will help you identify that good cause and ask the court to enter an order limiting what they can get a hold of.