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Michigan Court of Appeals Renders Split Decisions

The Michigan Court of Appeals came down with two differing rulings on similar cases last week. The cases involve a plaintiff’s ability to obtain pain and suffering compensation in a Michigan car accident case.

Under Michigan law, a plaintiff must have sustained a “serious impairment of bodily function” to be eligble for pain and suffering compensation. Under the law, a serious impairment of bodily function is defined as “objectively manifested impairment of an important bodily function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.” MCL 500.3135(7).

This means that in addition to proving the other driver was at-fault for causing the car or truck accident, as well as showing the injuries are related to the car accident, a plaintiff must also meet this threshold.

The controlling case on this is McCormick v. Carrier, 487 Mich 180 (2010). Under McCormick, which overruled the insurance industry favored decision Kreiner v. Fischer, an impairment affects a person’s general ability to lead his or normal life if it has “an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living.” McCormick, 487 Mich at 202.

Importantly, an injury need not destroy a person’s capacity to live his or her normal life, and “there is no quantitative minimum as to the percentage of a person’s normal manner of living that must be affected.” Id. at 202-203.

In Nbunh v. Pitkin, unpublished docket no. 320426 (May 21, 2015), the Court of Appeals found the plaintiff did not meet the McCormick standard. Following the car accident, the plaintiff only missed three days of work and was able to complete his degree on time. The medical treatment he had was minimal and involved mostly massage therapy.

Although the plaintiff testified the car accident prevented him from gardening, working out and playing soccer with this son, the Court found there was no evidence as to what portion of the plaintiff’s life was devoted to these activities and how long these limitations lasted. As such, he did not establish that his injury affected his general ability to lead his daily life.

However in Eccleston v. Prisk, unpublished, docket no. 320173 (May 21, 2015), the Court of Appeals reached the opposite conclusion and found the plaintiff did provide sufficient evidence to show he sustained a serious impairment of bodily function. Therefore he was entitled to receive pain and suffering compensation.

In Eccleston, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with ruptured and herniated discs following the car accident. He had limited range of motion in his neck and trigger point injections and chiropractic treatments were not successful in returning the plaintiff to pre-accident levels of functioning. Further, his doctor said it was expected his pain was expected to continue into the foreseeable future.

In addition, the car accident made it difficult for the plaintiff to complete his job as a residential contractor, he golfed less and attended the gym less.

This Court acknowledged there was evidence the Plaintiff still maintained a similar lifestyle, but there was also evidence his general ability to lead his normal life had been significantly altered.

These two decisions highlight the importance of demonstrating during discovery how the car accident affected a person’s life. Just saying I was injured is not enough. The injured person, through his attorneys, must highlight the difficulties and changes in his or her life because of the accident. Obtaining medical documentation and affidavits from treating physicians is essential. Painting a full picture of how the injured person’s life changed because of the car accident is vital.

The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. represents Michigan car accident cases throughout the state of Michigan. Our team of Michigan car accident lawyers is ready to fight to ensure you and your family receives fair compensation and justice.

Please contact us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) for a free phone consultation. There is no fee unless we win your case.