Key points from this article:
- Ohio drivers and passengers who are injured in a car crash while in Michigan and subject to Michigan car accident laws. The car accident laws for Michigan differ greatly compared to Ohio law.
- Because Michigan is a no-fault state, there are certain things a car crash victim injured in Michigan must prove to get compensation. Unlike in Ohio, in Michigan just because you are injured in a car or truck wreck due to the fault of another driver does not mean you can get compensation. This is true whether the victim is a Michigan resident or an Ohio resident.
- As a result, it is vital to contact a Michigan car crash accident injury lawyer to learn about your rights. The Michigan personal injury lawyers at the Law offices of Lee Steinberg, P.C. have represented Ohio residents injured in Michigan for decades.
The New Difference Between Michigan and Ohio Car Accident Law
First, I am going to explain the major difference between Michigan car accident law and Ohio car accident law. In Ohio, if a person is injured in a car crash that another person caused, the accident victim is entitled to compensation for their injuries. This is also true in Michigan, but in Michigan the accident victim must also prove the injuries affected the person’s general ability to lead his or her life.
This additional hurdle is important to understand. Under Michigan law, the accident victim has to demonstrate a “threshold” injury, something that is not required under Ohio law.
There are three threshold injuries under Michigan car accident law: (1) death, (2) permanent, serious disfigurement, and (3) serious impairment of body function. Almost all Michigan car wreck injury cases involve this last threshold, and this is the threshold I will explain in this article.
Under a new law that went into effect on June 11, 2019, the definition of “serious impairment of body function” changed. Under the new MCL 500.3135(5), the law now says:
(5) As used in this section, “serious impairment of body function” means an impairment that satisfies all of the following requirements:
(a) It is objectively manifested, meaning it is observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions by someone other than the injured person.
(b) It is an impairment of an important body function, which is a body function of great value, significance, or consequence to the injured person.
(c) It affects the injured person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life, meaning it has had an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living. Although temporal considerations may be relevant, there is no temporal requirement for how long an impairment must last. This examination is inherently fact and circumstance specific to each injured person, must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, and requires comparison of the injured person’s life before and after the incident.
This definition is a mouthful. But in general, it means a few things.
First, the injured person must show the impairment is objective, meaning it is observable from an imaging study or by a medical professional. The impairment cannot be something that an injured person just says is happening to them. It must be objectively found. For example, a fractured leg demonstrated by x-ray or a herniated disc in an MRI are objective findings. A muscle spasm observed by a doctor is also an objectively manifested impairment.
Second, the impairment must involve an important body function. This is an easy thing to prove. A person’s leg or back are important body functions, and when injured, they are of great consequence to an injured person.
The law element is the most controversial and is the basis for why many Michigan car accident cases involve litigation and trials. When injured in a Michigan car crash, the injured person must also show the impairment “affects the injured person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”
Now, what does that mean? Well, under the new law we are given some guidance. According to the law, it first means the impairments from the injuries had an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live or his normal manner of living. In other words, the impairments don’t have to be catastrophic or awful. But they do have to affect a person in a meaningful way that influenced or changed the person’s manner of living.
The new definition also says the impairments don’t have to be permanent and each case is different. Therefore, a judge must review the person’s life before the accident and compare it to after the accident when deciding whether a person has a serious impairment of body function.
If a person reaches this threshold, then they are able to make a claim for compensation from a jury. Again, like in Ohio, the injured person must still prove the other driver was at fault (negligence). And the injured person must still prove his injuries were caused by the car crash (causation). But in Michigan, a threshold injury must also be demonstrated.
Ohio Residents Injured in Michigan – The Michigan No-Fault Law
Because Michigan is a no-fault state, an Ohio motorist may also be entitled to Michigan no-fault benefits if they qualify. Michigan no-fault benefits can include things such as wage loss benefits, the payment of medical bills from the car accident (including hospital and therapy expenses), reimbursement for prescriptions and other out-of-pocket costs, as well as other benefits.
For over 40 years, many Ohio residents were entitled to Michigan no-fault benefits. However, a change in Michigan law that went into effect on June 11, 2019 has eliminated the eligibility of most Ohio residents to obtain Michigan no-fault benefits when injured in a Michigan crash.
Under the new Michigan law – MCL 500.3113(c) – a person is not entitled to be paid personal injury protection (PIP) benefits for injuries from a motor vehicle accident if “the person was not a resident of this state, unless the person owned a motor vehicle that was registered and insured in this state.”
This means that if an Ohio resident is injured in a car wreck in Michigan, he or she is no longer able to get Michigan no-fault PIP benefits unless that person owned a car or truck that is registered and insured in Michigan. This change in the law sadly eliminates almost all Ohio residents – after all, why would an Ohio resident have a car registered in Michigan?
Because of this law change, almost all Ohio residents injured in Michigan will never be able to obtain Michigan no-fault benefits. The recovery of outstanding medical bills, wage loss and other “economic damages” will now have to be recovered against the other driver through a standard negligence case. Except, as explained above, the Ohio resident will have to demonstrate a “threshold injury” to recover even these losses.
So in effect, the new law makes it even harder for Ohio residents, and other non-Michigan residents, to obtain compensation for their injuries than Michigan residents also injured in the state of Michigan. Under the new law, Michigan residents don’t have to prove a threshold injury to get their medical bills or wage loss paid. But Ohio residents do.
This unfairness was never explained by the legislature when the new law was passed. It is the author’s opinion that it is a complete giveaway to the insurance lobby who wrote the bill. It also treats Ohio residents who live on the Michigan border and enter the state for work unequally.
Michigan car accident law differs in many ways from Ohio car accident laws. Ohio residents who are injured while traveling in Michigan must be aware of these differences.
Michigan Personal Injury Lawyers Help Injured Ohio Residents
The Michigan car crash lawyers at the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg, P.C. have helped numerous Ohio residents injured in car wrecks in border counties such as Monroe, Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Branch, as well as in cities such as Adrian, Tecumseh, Dundee, Hillsdale or Coldwater.
Our dedicated and professional staff of Michigan car wreck injury lawyers are standing by, ready to assist you in answering your questions. Please contact us toll free at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). The call is free and there is never a fee unless we win your case.