Hawamda v. Kineish – Michigan Court of Appeals Rules Car Accident Victims Can Pursue Pain and Suffering Claim
Recently, I wrote about a recent Michigan Court of Appeals case that held a plaintiff presented enough evidence to allow her to go forward with her pain and suffering Michigan car accident case.
A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals released another decision that addressed this same topic, Hawamda v. Kineish, (unpublished, docket no. 330374, 4/25/2017). In Hawamda, two plaintiffs sued another driver for causing a car crash in Oakland County. The plaintiffs sued for pain and suffering compensation. Liability was not at issue. The defendant admitted he caused the accident.
But the defendant argued the plaintiffs were not injured enough and could not demonstrate they had a so-called “threshold” injury, and as a result, were not eligible for pain and suffering compensation under Michigan car accident law.
Under the Michigan no-fault law, specifically MCL 500.3135, a person is entitled to pain and suffering compensation if they show they suffered “a serious impairment of body function.” Serious impairment of body function is defined to mean “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.” MCL 500.3135(5). The defendant argued both plaintiffs did not demonstrate enough evidence to show they met this definition. The trial court agreed, and dismissed their case.
However, the Court of Appeals reversed, thus allowing the plaintiffs to present their case for pain and suffering to a jury. In holding this way, the Court of Appeals held that the trial judge erred when it decided as a matter of law that no factual dispute existed as to the nature and extent of Hawamda’s injuries.
According to the court, Hawamda’s MRIs of the neck and back confirmed an objective manifested injury. Disc bulges at L3-4 and L4-5 that impinged on the spinal cord area were found, as was a disc herniation in the cervical neck area. Defendant’s argued that these findings were not caused by the car accident, but the court reasoned that causation is an issue for the jury, not the trial judge, to decide.
Then the court held the plaintiff presented enough evidence to demonstrate his general ability to lead a normal life had been affected by the car accident. Hawamda testified that before the accident he played basketball and soccer twice a week and took part in other activities. This stopped following the accident. In addition, he required help with housework tasks, lifting items and driving. Given this evidence, it supported his claim that the car accident affected “his general ability to lead his or her normal life.” As a result, the plaintiff is able to go forward with a claim for pain and suffering compensation.
This case is a very good example of the difficulty in achieving compensation for Michigan car accident injuries. Here’s a case where the defendant admits liability, the plaintiff submits to years of medical treatment, but the still had to go all the way to the Michigan Court of Appeals to just get a chance to go forward with his lawsuit.
And prior to the 2010 Michigan Supreme Court McCormick v. Carrier decision, the plaintiff in this case probably would have lost. Prior to McCormick, proving a threshold injury was very difficult and many very hurt and very deserving people were unable to obtain even basic compensation for their injuries due to the negligence of another person.
The various insurance carriers in the state would love nothing more than to go back to the law before the McCormick case. The attorneys of the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. will watch this case closely to see if the Michigan Supreme Court again reviews the serious impairment threshold issue.