Articles Posted in Michigan No-Fault Law

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.   

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.  

Not many people know about uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist coverage covers you when you are injured as a result of a driver who did not have insurance, a hit and run driver, or a driver of a stolen car. Uninsured motorist coverage is provided by your own insurance company. The cost of this coverage is usually nominal and should be considered when purchasing auto insurance.

Underinsured motorist coverage allows you to recover from your own insurance company, money to pay for damages incurred from an at-fault driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages. Not enough people elect to have this type of coverage, but it is important to consider because these situations are far too common.

Below is an entry from State Representative Howrylak’s newsletter from March 2014 regarding bill HB 4612.

Automobile No-Fault Insurance

I have previously written about proposed changes to Michigan’s automobile no-fault insurance system. The prior version of the bill (HB 4612) did not have support in the House. A new substitute bill has recently been floated. In this newsletter, I will explain some of the similarities and differences between the two proposals. Additionally, I want to express my concerns that these proposals will effectively decimate Michigan’s auto no-fault law and put residents, consumers and motorists at risk.

Last week the Senate rushed SB 248 and 249 through the insurance committee. The bills were voted out of committee and passed by the Senate. These bills significantly affect our current automobile no-fault insurance system, including, most significantly, the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (CAT Fund). The bills have been sent to the House Insurance Committee. Obviously the plan is for these bills to be presented to the House of Representatives for their vote. WE urge you to contact your representative and tell them to VOTE NO on these bills.

Lets start by asking why are any changes needed to the CAT Fund based on the following FACTS:

Although the CAT fund system was devised by the insurance industry, make no mistake – it is the insured drivers in Michigan who always have and continue to fund that system – not the insurance industry. In other words, WE funded the catastrophic claims fund – not the insurance companies.

We previously discussed the dangers of distracted driving. Recently, AAA released another study that suggests that falling asleep while at the wheel is also a more common danger than you might think.

In the study AAA found that 2 out of 5 drivers admitted to having fallen asleep or nodded off while driving. A staggering 26.6% of those questioned in the survey admitted to having been “so sleepy that they had a hard time keeping their eyes open” within the last 30 days. Even scarier, 41% explained that they had “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point.

The study also looked at accidents that occurred as a result of drowsiness or sleeping. It was estimated that 16.5% of fatal crashes involved a driver that was driving while drowsy. This study suggested a higher percentage than studies done before and suggests to me that this is something where more research is necessary.

As the law stands right now 90% of all slip and falls on another person’s property, commercial, private or otherwise, are not compensable. There is simply no liability. The growing concept known as open and obvious, expands to every hazardous condition that can be seen upon causal inspection, including the presence of ice and snow.

If you slip and fall on ice and snow, regardless of the condition or your injury you will likely have no cause of action. There is no duty by the premises owner to clean up the ice and snow in order to make it safe for public travel. However, there can be some exceptions to this law.
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If you were hit by an underinsured motorist, please note that you are not out of luck!
The plaintiff is allowed to recover from his or her own auto insurance carrier for the damages sustained in an auto accident with an underinsured driver. You will know when the at-fault driver is underinsured when your third party tort damages exceed the at-fault’s insurance policy limits.

A claimant entitled to underinsured motorist coverage insures himself or herself against at-fault drivers who carry only minimal third-party tort insurance coverage which is the statutory minimum $20,000 for one person/ $40,000 for more than one person when causing serious injury or death.

If this is the scenario, you are entitled to claim underinsured motorist coverage with your own auto insurance carrier! Your insurance carrier will then cover the difference between what is recovered from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance carrier and the policy limits of the underinsured motorist coverage of which you purchased with your policy.
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