Is it Possible to Sue the Negligent Driver for Pain and Suffering in Michigan?

If you live in Michigan, you probably know the premise behind no-fault auto insurance law, but you may not know that your ability to bring a third party lawsuit against the negligent driver is severely limited. In return for the limited ability to bring a third party suit, it should be easier to collect expenses such as medical bills, but the Michigan auto insurers are now trying to deny drivers even these benefits if they are at fault even though Michigan has a no fault system in place!

Third party claims are for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering. In order to be eligible for a third party claim, you must show that you meet one of three types of threshold injuries. These threshold injuries include death, serious impairment of a body function, or permanent serious disfigurement. Since death and permanent disfigurement are relatively straightforward, the real debate is the definition of a serious impairment of body function. This definition determines the level of injury which is needed to be able to sue the negligent driver and therefore vital when determining if your injury meets this “threshold”. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to prove these conditions even if you have debilitating injuries. The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision on the case Kreiner V. Fishcher denies many legitimate claims that should have the ability to sue the negligent driver. You can thank your elected judges for this decision.

The definition of a serious impairment of a body function is stated in section 3135(7) and reads as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.” Confused yet? What this really means is that you must prove three separate requirements if you would like to file a 3rd party claim. These requirements include objective manifestation, body function, and lifestyle impact. Objective manifestation essentially means that you must have incurred an injury that can be identified medically and that the condition is physical in nature. The definition uses the term important body function. A bodily function seems important to me, but the law takes this a step further. An important body function varies depending on the person, but for the most part it includes the ability to walk, ability to use your hands, ability to use your neck and back, and the ability to breathe. In addition to proving both objective manifestation and body function, you must also meet the lifestyle impact threshold; proving just 2 out of 3 of these thresholds is simply not enough in the eyes of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, lifestyle impact is usually high contested since it is the vaguest threshold. Basically, you need to show that the injury has affected your general ability to lead a normal life.

As you can tell, proving a serious impairment of body function can be extremely complex, and you should hire an attorney well versed in both no-fault law and personal injury law in Michigan. The supreme court took 64 pages to determine if a driver has the right to third benefits which shows just how complicated these types of cases can be. Make sure your rights are protected and find an attorney that can help prove you have indeed suffered a serious impairment of body function.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Clark Law Office
David M. Clark is a leading auto accident attorney practicing in Lansing, Michigan. He has been helping injured clients for 30 years and getting them the financial compensation that they deserve.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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