Proving Pain and Suffering in Michigan Car Accident Cases

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How Do You Prove Pain and Suffering in Michigan Car Accident Cases?

My last blog discussed what it takes to receive pain and suffering compensation for a Michigan car accident.  This blog digs a little deeper into how to prove a threshold injury.

Remember, to get pain and suffering compensation for a Michigan car wreck, you have to sustain what’s know as a “threshold injury.”  It takes more than just proving the other guy was at-fault for causing the accident.  For most car accident victims, this means demonstrating they have sustained a “serious impairment of body function” due to the car accident.

How do you prove you have sustained a serious impairment of body function?  The best way is to start with the Michigan no-fault law.  The law actually defines a serious impairment of body function as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead a normal life.”

But what does this mean?  Well, the reality is there is no clear answer.  Lawyers, judges and even the Michigan Supreme Court has debated the meaning of this definition for the better part of 30 years.  But there are important factors that judges and insurance companies look at when deciding if a car accident victim has a serious impairment of body function.  The best way is to break down the definition.

First, you have to see if there an objective finding from a diagnostic test.  Remember, the definition says “objectively manifested impairment” so you have to show an objective finding.  Examples include a disc herniation confirmed by MRI, broken bones confirmed by x-ray and muscle spasms confirmed by a doctor.  It is not enough to just complaint about pain.  The pain must actually present itself in some way, whether through a doctor’s observation, MRI tests, EMG tests or other tests.

Second, you have to look at the impairments.  The statute does not require actual injury.  Instead, the car accident victim must show he or she has impairments or restrictions.  These include lifting restrictions, physical restrictions and restrictions at work.  It is best if these restrictions are physician imposed – meaning a doctor actually gives these restrictions to the car accident victim.

Then you have to investigate the body part(s) affected by the car accident.  The statute says “an important body function” must be affected.  This includes neck, beck, shoulders and other types of body parts.  However, if you injure your pinky finger, this may not be considered important unless injuring your pinky finger affects your ability to do things in a meaningful way.

Next you have to investigate how the car accident has affected the person’s “general ability to lead a normal life.”  Much ink has been spilled by this phrase in various Michigan courts for years.  There is no hard and fast rule on proving how a car accident affects a person’s normal life.

What is known though is that the car accident has to be more than just a small disturbance or annoyance.  Showing the car accident has affected a person’s general ability to lead a normal life can be done in various ways.  These factors include:

– The amount of work loss

– The restrictions the treating physician places on the injured person

– Difficulty in completed basic household chores

– Difficulty in completing activities of daily living

– Hobbies and recreational activities the injured person is limited from doing

– Permanent limitations or restrictions the injured person will have into the future

To prove a threshold injury, Michigan law does not require a certain amount of disability time.  For example, the law does not say if you missed 3 months of work you are automatically entitled to money.  However, the judges, juries and insurance companies do take into consideration work loss and other factors when deciding if a threshold injury occurred.

Call us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) with any pain and suffering questions.  Our team of Michigan car accident lawyers can walk you through the process and will fight for you every step of the way.