If you are the victim of a car accident, you may have questions about what happens next. Many people who are involved in a car accident are not familiar with the legal process and do not know the first step to take. The attorneys at SMDA are here to help you with each step of the process and answer any questions you may have. We understand that being injured unexpectedly can be overwhelming, which is why our skilled attorneys strive to help you handle the legal aspect of your case.

While no two cases are exactly alike, the following is a general breakdown of the personal injury case process so you can know what to expect:

  • Meeting with an attorney. A personal injury claim begins with consulting an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases. Goodman Acker P.C. has decades of experience with all types of personal injury claims, including auto accident claims, slip and fall claims, wrongful death claims, and much more. Our attorneys offer free initial consultations, during which we review the facts and evidence of your case and make a determination about whether you stand a good chance of recovering compensation.

Everyone loves saving money, but it could cost you if your current means of doing so include not listing all drivers of your vehicle on your insurance policy. SMDA recently worked a case where the insurance company claimed they were entitled to deny no-fault insurance benefits to our client because he allegedly was not listed as a named insured on his commercial vehicle automobile insurance policy. The company attempted to apply the holding from the Court of Appeals in Barnes v Farmers, 308 Mich App 1 (2014), to this case involving a commercial policy to ask the Court to rule that our client was not entitled to receive No-Fault insurance benefits following a collision. However, the Court determined that the Barnes case only pertained to personal automobile insurance policies and not commercial policies. Since the SMDA client was operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the accident, the holding from Barnes was inapplicable to our client. However, our case should act as a good reminder for anyone, especially families, with a personal No-Fault automobile insurance policy to list all drivers of the car on the policy, no matter how little time they spend in it and here’s why:

Background

The Barnes case resulted from a car accident involving the owner and driver of a vehicle who applied for No-Fault benefits from the company that issued the insurance policy on her vehicle. The Plaintiff and her mother were the sole owners of the vehicle. However, the No-Fault insurance policy covering their vehicle was purchased by the mother’s friend, as he was also using the car in order to assist the mother who was disabled. That person was the only named insured driver on the policy. After the daughter was injured in a collision, the insurance company denied the claim stating that she was an owner of the vehicle and she had failed to to maintain insurance on her car which is a requirement to obtain no-fault automobile insurance benefits following a collision. The car she was operating was insured under the friend’s name. However, she was the owner and operator of the car but she was was not listed on the personal no-fault insurance policy and thus not entitled to any benefits. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case and the Court of Appeals upheld this ruling meaning that whatever the injured driver/owner of the car saved by not being listed on the policy, she lost far more in No-Fault benefits following this collision.   

Accidents can lead to potential injuries. Every accident is different and the severity of the injuries depend on the facts of the case. If an individual is injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, he or she has the right to recover damages.

When the accident causes serious injuries, victims often do not hesitate to seek recovery of all potential damages resulting from the accident. However, accident victims who believe they have suffered only “minor” injuries may choose to forego any legal process to recover damages. It is important that individuals understand that the severity of their injuries should not keep them from recovering the damages they may lawfully recover.

Not all accidents are the same. Some accidents are simply just accidents. Others, however, are accidents that may have been easily prevented and were instead caused by an individual who was negligent and breached his or her duty of care to another person. An individual who has been injured as a result of another’s negligence is entitled to recover damages.

New Year, New Dangers

From crowded student parking lots to the renovations some schools seem to perpetually undergo, to the constant threat of bullying, there are many things to be cautious of as a parent or a student heading into a new school year. As a fellow parent, the last thing we want is for our kids to get hurt.  However, there is always the possibility of a fight with a fellow peer, a classroom injury, or your child being found in possession of illicit substances. You will want to be preemptively informed on how to respond so you can protect your child.

When Your Student Is Injured

A notice to students heading to the University of Michigan this fall – don’t bring your firearm with you. In June, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that students, staff, and the general public are still banned from possessing firearms on the U of M campus.

In a 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the school’s 2001 ban on firearms does not violate the constitution in a case involving an Ann Arbor resident who argued that the ban did not comply with the Second Amendment. The University successfully argued that, since their campus isn’t covered by a state law saying that local governments cannot enact their own gun control regulations, the campus is not violating the Second Amendment by making their own decision on gun regulation.

The campus continues to be gun free this year for all students, staff, and other personnel- save for appointed military officials such as campus security and those who obtain a waiver for “extraordinary circumstances”.

The Supreme Court has overturned the Court of Appeals decision preventing a 13 year old member of a high school cross country team from suing the coach in addition to the driver that hit him as he was on a training run with the team.   The team was on a pre-dawn training run when they came to a traffic light.  The team initially stopped at the light, but continued to cross the street, against traffic laws, on their coach’s instruction. The plaintiff was one of two members of the team who were injured by a vehicle which hit them while crossing the street. In addition to the driver, the family sued the coach alleging that he was partially responsible for their son’s injuries when he ordered the team to cross the street.

The family initially lost the case regarding the claim against the coach when the Court of Appeals ruled that the coach was protected by governmental immunity.  The Michigan Supreme Court subsequently held that the Court of Appeals had failed to properly analyze the cause of the child’s injuries and when the case was reconsidered, they found that the coach was not necessarily protected by governmental immunity and he could  be sued for the runner’s injuries.

The Covenant Medical Center Inc Vs State Farm Case and How It Could Affect Your No Fault Claim

The Supreme Court has made a major change concerning the rights of medical practitioners in no fault cases. Previous to this decision, medical practitioners could sue insurance companies independent from their patients, which, while beneficial to the medical practices themselves, this could potentially impair the injury victim’s claims. Medical practitioners would choose to try their own cases to win remuneration for medical costs of the patient without waiting for that patient to win their own case and compensate doctors on their own. They saw this as a form of protection for their bills, as, in some cases, when their patient won their case, they felt as if their medical bills were compromised. This new decision could affect their right to collect their bills separately, which could both potentially benefit and harm the patients.              


How Could This Benefit Patients?

SMDA is pleased to update the status of the victory in the trial win against the auto insurer of a grieving family of their minor daughter who was seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision.  SMDA tried this case to verdict and successfully defended the case in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.  The case was tried over three days in August of 2015.  SMDA, with the assistance of counsel for Mary Free Bed Hospital and Covenant Health Care, won a verdict of over one million dollars following a hard fought trial. Plaintiff’s daughter, who passed away in a house fire before trial, was 15 years old at the time of the crash.  She sustained serious injuries as a result of a single car accident while she was on her way to school.  Her right to receive automobile no-fault insurance benefits rested on whether or not the she had permission to drive the car.  Since the insurance company alleged that she did not have permission and thus was not entitled to receive any benefits from her mother’s automobile insurance policy, it was their burden to explicitly prove she took the car without her parents’ permission. Although her mother initially stated that her daughter had taken the car without permission, under testimony both parents and the minor plaintiff unequivocally testified that she had permission to take the family car.  The insurance company also argued that permission could not be legally granted because the minor only had a permit and she could not legally operate the vehicle without a licensed adult in the car.  

 

At trial, her mother, who is a rehabilitation nurse, admitted that she initially told the Defendant Insurance Company adjustor that her daughter didn’t have permission to take the car.  However, she indicated that she was afraid that if she admitted that she allowed her daughter to take the car, she would be criminally prosecuted and she would be unable to take care of her daughter. Her father also testified that his daughter had permission to take the car on that day and that she had been given permission to take the car a number of times previously.  With the testimony of both of the client’s parents, and the client’s own testimony presented through testimony provided before she passed away from an unrelated house fire, and the testimony of a half dozen eyewitness that she had driven the car alone without supervision before the accident, and some who were present when her parents gave her permission to do so, the lawyers from SMDA were able to win the case in favor of the teen. After a three day trial, the jury awarded the estate of the injury victim $246,897.00 in overdue benefits and another $1,018,467.00 to Covenant Medical Center Inc. and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for a total verdict of $1,265,364.00.  

 

After the trial, the defendant filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals alleging that the teen had illegally taken the car, consequently nullifying her ability to make a claim.  However, the Court of Appeals held that the specific wording of the statute which, when analyzed, requires that whoever operates the vehicle only need to acquire it by legal means regardless of whether or not they operate it legally in order to qualify for no-fault insurance benefits. Since SMDA proved that the minor driver had received permission to “take” the car, regardless of the fact that she only had a permit, the appeal was denied.  Now that the Supreme Court refused defendant’s request to hear the case, this matter has finally been resolved once and for all allowing the family the closure they deserve.  

Partner, Patrick Derkacz, recently settled an auto injury claim for $1,195,000.00 for a husband and wife who were the victims of a violent car accident.

The couple was traveling to see their granddaughter’s new apartment on a Sunday morning before their lives were changed forever. They were violently rear-ended by a vehicle driving 70 mph. As a direct result of the accident, both the husband and wife sustained serious and life changing injuries.

Mr. Derkacz was able to prove that the driver of the accident was negligent and that, due to their injuries, the quality of the couple’s lives had been significantly diminished.

The Jenna Kast Believe in Miracles Foundation is an all volunteer, grass roots organization whose goal is to bring a smile to the face of a child that is suffering. The mission of The Jenna Kast Believe in Miracles Foundation is to enrich the lives of Michigan children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions by buying gifts and bringing joy and hope to their lives. Along with their gift, each child receives a personalized trophy to acknowledge their courageous fight.

This is a wonderful organization and our firm is proud and privileged to be a sponsor and a part of helping achieve its mission.

SMDA

 

Learn more about this great organization by visiting their website at www.believeinmiracles.org