Court Rules That "Notice of Injury" Doesn't Mean Every Injury

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Michigan No-Fault Law – Court Rules That “Notice of Injury” Doesn’t Mean Every Injury

Michigan No-Fault Lawyers

Last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals made an importing ruling on the “notice of injury” requirement for Michigan no-fault cases. Under the law, an individual involved in a Michigan car accident must notify the car insurance company responsible for payment no-fault benefits of injury in writing within 1 year of the accident.

The Court of Appeals held that the notice must not identify all specific injuries for which the injured person later seeks coverage. This ruling is important because State Farm Insurance and other auto carriers have been successful over the past few years in getting entire cases dismissed simply because the claimant failed to include one specific injury – say low back pain – when providing notice.

In Dillon v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., (docket no. 324902, published 5/3/2016), the plaintiff was injured in a August 2008 car accident. She originally reported of injury to her low back, left shoulder and various abrasions. She did not mention an injury to her left hip.

A few years later, the plaintiff began treating for left hip pain. She eventually had an arthroscopic surgery performed on her left hip, and turned to State Farm Insurance for payment, claiming the left hip injury originally stemmed from the August 2008 accident.

State Farm denied payment of the plaintiff’s left hip injuries, arguing it had not received notice of the hip injury within one year of the accident. The trial court denied State Farm’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim and a jury found for the plaintiff.

State Farm appealed, claiming that under MCL 500.3145(1), a plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident must provide notice of the exact injury for which the plaintiff seeks payment for within one year of the accident. If the plaintiff fails to do so, the auto insurer is not responsible for payment.

In a published opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed, upholding the plaintiff’s jury verdict. In reviewing MCL 500.3145(1), the Court held that a plaintiff need only make a “notice of injury” because that’s all the statute requires. The statute does not require a plaintiff to identify every specific injury, the plaintiff only needs to state in writing that he or she suffered physical injuries in a motor vehicle accident. That is enough to provide sufficient notice to the auto insurer. Writing down every single injury the injured person may have sustained in the car accident is not required.

This ruling is a victory for Michigan car accident victims throughout the state. Car insurance carriers, in particular State Farm Insurance, have been very aggressive in denying claims against their own policyholders by arguing claimants must include every single injury when providing written notice. They have even been able to convince various trial judges throughout Michigan to dismiss entire claims based on this argument.

The Dillon holding by the Michigan Court of Appeals ends this charade. Although it is a good practice to include all of your injuries when providing written notice to the car insurance carrier, no longer will good claims gets denied or dismissed based on the failure to include a specific injury at the beginning of a claim.