Michigan’s system of no-fault car insurance was designed so that when people are in an accident the damage to their vehicle and their medical expenses will be covered (with limitations, based on the value of the policy).
This system also allows victims to sue for non-economic damages, what most people might have heard called “pain and suffering.” Not every accident victim will have a case for a pain and suffering claim, however.
State law prevents abuse of this option by making sure that anyone seeking compensation for pain and suffering first prove several things. Even when these hurdles have been passed, there is still no guarantee that a pain and suffering claim will succeed. But without meeting these minimums, a non-economic damage claim is probably not worth pursuing.
Criteria for Pain and Suffering
To press a claim for pain and suffering, a victim must be able to prove the following:
- The Victim Has Suffered Harm That Qualifies As A “Threshold Injury.” That Means Serious Physical Impairment, A Disfiguring Injury, Or Death. (When An Injury Has Caused A Victim’s Death, His Or Her Heirs Can File The Claim.)
- The Injury Is Shown To Be Real And Caused By The Crash. Both Points Are Frequently Disputed In Motor Vehicle Injury Cases.
- The Other Party Is At Least 50 Percent At Fault. Pain And Suffering Is Explicitly Blocked If A Jury Determines That The Victim Had More Than Half The Responsibility For An Injury.
In addition, it might seem obvious, but a victim must have valid car insurance. All drivers should be aware that not carrying insurance reduces the chance that they’ll win any claim and could block some claims completely.
Changed and Changed Again: the Current Legal Standard
In 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court made it somewhat easier for pain and suffering claims to succeed by removing a condition imposed by another court ruling in 2004. The earlier decision set the meaning of lifetime impairment based on whether an injury affected a victim’s ability to “conduct the course or trajectory of his or her entire normal life.”
This meant that even if an injury left someone with a lifetime condition, such as pain or reduced function, if that injury healed and the victim was able to return to a normal life, then damages for pain and suffering were not justified. This was true even when an injury caused someone to lose his or her job, as long as the individual was able to find employment with a similar salary.
In the 2010 case, the court reversed itself, saying that its earlier decision overstepped by adding language not in the actual law. There was no requirement that a person’s “entire normal life” be affected for pain and suffering damages to apply: If an accident caused serious impairment that affected a victim’s ability to live a normal life—even temporarily—a claim is allowed.
Detroit Car Accident Lawyer
Every accident has different effects. Almost no case is as simple as it appears, and no claim for non-economic damages (pain and suffering) can be resolved just by knowing about one state court decision.
That’s why when you’ve been in a motor vehicle crash of any kind, it’s important to work with a firm that knows all the ins and outs of car accident claims. The team at Christensen Law has helped hundreds of clients recover the compensation they need to put their families’ lives back on track. We also offer a free consultation to every new client, so give us a call today at 248-213-4900 or contact us online to discuss what we can do for you.