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Automobile cases are governed by Michigan’s no fault system which is established by statute and interpreted by the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Automobile accident cases present these issues:
A. Accident Scene. At the moment of the accident, the police report and ambulance report, if any, must be collected immediately. These documents contain crucial information regarding the circumstances of accidents as well as important insurance and medical information.
B. Records. All records generated by the accident must be collected and analyzed. These include tow truck records, emergency room records, doctor treatment records, hospital x-rays and other testing records, witness statements, photographs, and video tapes. Time is of the essence, and the law office can assist in finding information, recording important images, and preserving necessary statements
C. Insurance Documents. All documents regarding the vehicle or vehicles in the accident must be collected.
D. Claim for Insurance Benefits. An accident is always analyzed as to whether a no fault insurance claim can be presented by the client against his or her own insurance company. The claim must be studied immediately as time requirements in the statute are short, and claims can be lost if documentation of expenses is not presented to the insurance company in a timely manner. It is important to decide if the insurance has been cancelled, and the law office will decide if a cancellation was made properly. The types of benefits that can be recovered from one’s insurance company are:
- All reasonable and necessary medical and rehabilitative expenses. This includes hospitals, professional fees, nursing care, occupational and vocational rehabilitation, and modifications of a home or vehicle for a handicapped person.
- Wage loss or loss of earnings from a job. This can be collected from one’s own insurance company for up to 3 years.
- Replacement services. In Michigan, automobile insurance policies pay up to $20.00 per day, for 3 years, for expenses an injured person experiences in obtaining services in the home such as babysitting, housekeeping, transportation, and yard work.
- If the accident results in the death of the insured person, benefits can be paid under the automobile insurance policy to the surviving dependents.
- The policy often provides for collision insurance which provides for payment of the cost of repair to the vehicle. This depends on the deductible and the amount of coverage.
- Mini Tort. If the owner of the car has a deductible he or she can collect up to $500.00 from the person who caused damage to the car under the mini tort provisions.
- Property Damage. Property damaged by the vehicle in the accident or while the vehicle is parked may be covered in the policy.
E. Claim for Damages for Pain and Suffering. This is a claim/lawsuit brought against the driver of the vehicle that caused injury to the claimant/client. This can be the driver in a single car accident where the client is a passenger or the driver of another vehicle or vehicles where the client is a driver or a passenger. This is not a claim for benefits under the claimant’s policy. This is a claim for damages outside of the policy: pain, suffering, and any other non-economic loss. This type of claim is defined in the Michigan No Fault Law but is subject to strict interpretation by the Michigan Supreme Court. A claimant qualifies for this type of recovery only if he or she experiences a serious impairment of body function, or a permanent disfigurement, or death. For many years the Michigan Courts have been defining what qualifies under the standard and what does not. There are many factors to the analysis, and all questions regarding the nature and extent of injury should be presented to the attorney for an opinion as to whether a claim can be made against the wrongful driver for damages.
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