Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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.   

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.

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.  

Some car accident victims suffer from evident pain immediately after a car accident, such as a broken bone or back injury. Others, however, may not experience the pain right away. Some people may think that their pain is not severe and will go away on its own.

There is no question that it would be in your best interest to see a doctor after a motor vehicle accident. You may not immediately experience pain, but that does not mean that you have not suffered an injury, or that you will face one down the road. Clients have frequently stated that immediately after an accident they were not in pain and that the pain came days, or even weeks, later.

Being a victim of a car accident can be a very scary and confusing time. Many people are unsure of the steps they need to take to ensure they receive benefits they are entitled to. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a car accident, call SMDA Law today to schedule your free consultation. It is important to know and understand your rights.

Texting while driving continues to increase and is a very dangerous distraction. Texting while driving causes you to take your eyes off the road, your hands off of the wheel, and your mind off of driving. These three forms of distractions, whether individually or combined, can lead to a fatal accident. When texting or using your cell phone and driving combines all three distractions at one time, which makes it especially dangerous.

Michigan law prohibits texting while driving. Texting and driving, or any cell phone use, has become a very dangerous epidemic that causes accidents that result in serious or life-threatening injuries. These accidents occur every day.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident caused by a driver who was texting and driving, call SMDA Law today to learn your rights and let us give you the help you need.

Ok, It was bound to happen.
You have been in a car accident.
You felt OK right after the crash, but the next day your back and neck are really sore.
What to do??

Well, first and foremost go see your family doctor and follow their advice.

Whether you caused the accident or not, you are entitled to certain benefits from the insurance company. You need to contact the insurance company and complete a simple form called an application for no-fault benefits. These benefits are called 1st party or PIP (Personal Injury Protection) benefits. If you suffer an injury in a car accident you are eligible for these benefits no matter how the accident happened.

So, what are PIP or first party benefits?
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In Michigan, if you are involved in a car accident that was caused by another driver, you are entitled to recover up to $1000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You must contact the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident and ask for the mini tort coverage. You should include photos of your vehicle, estimate of repairs, the police report, and a declaration sheet from your own automobile insurance company.

When you are involved in an accident that was caused by someone else, the at fault driver should your deductible and then your auto insurance will cover the remainder of the damages.

If you have been involved in a car accident, call SMDA law today and we can help you recover the money you are entitled to.

Michigan’s No-Fault Law entitles car accident victims to certain benefits. Among these benefits are “Replacement Services”. These are services that the injured person was able to perform for him/herself prior to the car accident. They typically involve household chores such as cooking, cleaning, taking out the garbage, mowing the law, etc.

If the injured person requires help with these services, the person who is helping is entitled to receive compensation for the services they provide on behalf of the injured victim. Anyone can provide these services, including family members or friends.

The service provider can receive up to $20 per day for three years from the accident date. Typically, the insurance companies require that the service provider document the tasks and chores that are performed. This can be done on monthly calendars that will be provided.

Bicyclist in Michigan are considered vehicles that have the same responsibilities and rights as other motorized vehicles on the road.

If you are a victim of a bicycle accident and were injured as a result of an accident with a car or motor vehicle such as a motorcycle, truck or bus, then you are entitled to certain rights. You are entitled to no-fault benefits such as reimbursement for medical bills, medical mileage, lost wages and for help with household chores. These benefits are paid by your auto insurance company. However, if you do not have auto insurance then you can file with the insurance company of a relative that resides with you or you can collect benefits from Michigan’s Assigned Claims Facility.

You may also file a lawsuit for the pain and suffering you suffered. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will compensate you for the injuries you suffered.

Aggressive litigation in no-fault cases is extremely critical to good resolution of claims. How do you find the right firm to take your no-fault case? It is important to find an attorney who not only understands the law but who will take the time to carefully understand your case and aggressively litigate it. Your personal protection benefits are a critical part of your claim. It is a very intricate part of the law. It is important that the firm you hire to protect you, knows how to get the most benefits available to you. Our firm specializes in the payment of no-fault benefits and protecting our clients rights. Our attorneys have decades of experience in helping injured persons obtain their no-fault benefits. We are not like the high volume personal injury firms that you may see on TV. We understand that victims of car accidents can be very vulnerable and most are unsure of their rights. For that reason, we do not treat our clients like just a case number. We spend time and thoroughly prepare for each case to ensure the best results for our clients.

If you are the victim of a car accident, call SMDA law firm in Sterling Heights to see how we can help you.