Court Restores Rights For Auto Accident Injuries

The case involved a GM employee who worked as a truck loader. The plaintiff suffered an injury when a truck hit him fracturing his left ankle. Because of the injury he had problems walking and crouching and his work ability was greatly diminished. He was not able to return to work at a normal capacity until 19 months later. Even then he needed to be assigned to a different job. He sought damages for the injury.

The old standard created by the court was established in Kreiner v Fisher and stated that, “Although some aspects of a plaintiff’s entire normal life may be interrupted by the impairment, if, despite those impingements, the course or trajectory of the plaintiff’s normal life has not been affected, then the plaintiff’s ‘general ability’ to lead his normal life has not been affected and he does not meet the ‘serious impairment of body function’ threshold.” Therefore, the injury must affect the trajectory of the person’s life as a whole and is a tough standard to meet.

The new standard set up by the court requires that a person’s ability to lead their life must only be affected and not necessarily destroyed. Further, the court specifically explained that the injury need not be permanent. Thus, the recently enacted standard given by the court gives much more protection to those injured in a car accident. The injury no longer has to affect the entire trajectory of a person’s life. In the McCormick case specifically, because the injury diminished some of the plaintiff’s capacity to live in his pre-incident state, he was found to have a “serious impairment of body function.”

The dissent argued in a very lengthy discussion that the court should adhere to stare decisis and follow the decision in Kreiner. The dissent also argued that temporal considerations were thrown out the window by this decision. The majority argued that the Kreiner decision needed to be overruled in order to uphold the legislature’s original intent of Michigan no-fault law.

This opinion is a real victory for the insured over insurance companies. If an injury or death occurs from a car accident, insurance companies are now much more likely to be required to compensate the insured individual. As could be expected, the insurance companies have reacted to this decision by predicting an increase in lawsuits which would translate to higher insurance rates. Giving consumers the protection they deserve is something the insurance companies would prefer not to deal with.