Under Michigan law, a third-party claim is the typical negligence claim in which an accident victim seeks money damages because of the negligence, or fault, of another vehicle operator or owner. Although auto accidents happen for any number of reasons, typically they involve a driver who was not paying proper attention or was not using due care in operating the vehicle.
In a third-party negligence claim, the plaintiff may sue for pain and suffering damages as long as he or she meets the statutory threshold of death, permanent serious disfigurement, or serious impairment of body function.
The most common and litigated threshold requirement is the serious impairment of body function. This term has undergone numerous legal changes over the years, but essentially the phrase means that a plaintiff must show an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the plaintiff’s ability to lead his or her normal life. An objective manifested impairment requires the plaintiff to show medical proof there is a physical basis for subjective complaints of pain and suffering. As a result, it is difficult to obtain pain and suffering damages for soft tissue injuries.
If a plaintiff can show an objective manifested impairment, he or she must also demonstrate that the impairment has affected their ability to lead a normal life. Courts look to the nature and extent of the injury, the type and length of the treatment needed by the plaintiff, the duration of the injury as well as the prognosis for eventual recovery by the plaintiff.
Discovering if your injury, or the injury of a friend or loved one, meets the threshold of serious impairment of body function requires the experience and expertise of a seasoned attorney.
In addition to pain and suffering, negligent defendants are responsible to accident victims for excess economic loss, regardless of whether or not the accident victim meets the statutory threshold. Thus, even if a plaintiff does not have a serious impairment of a body function, he or she can still recover lost wages and replacement service expenses that exceed the statutory maximum amount available in a first-party no fault claim, or lost wages and replacement services that last beyond the 3 years paid by the PIP no-fault insurance company.
Often, negligent drivers will not have adequate insurance to cover the damages they cause or, regrettably, will lack any insurance at all. Thus, all drivers should purchase and carry both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Although they are not required by the state of Michigan, every driver should have these two basic coverages.
Both coverages are relatively inexpensive and are extremely important. At the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C., we suggest you contact your insurance agent or insurance company and purchase the highest amount of both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage possible. These coverages are relatively inexpensive.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, it is vitally important you collect and retain as much information about the accident as possible. Make sure a police report detailing the events of the accident is completed. Get the names, addresses or phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident if possible. Most importantly, if you are hurt, seek medical attention immediately.
The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. has represented countless car accident victims, helping them obtain the compensation they deserve under the law. Please contact our office directly at 1.800.LEE.FREE (533-3733) to find out your rights and how we can begin fighting for you.