Michigan Car Accident Law - Pain and Suffering Cases

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What Is Michigan Law On Suing For Pain And Suffering For Car Accidents?

pain and suffering car accident

The law for suing for pain and suffering from a car accident is complicated. Car accidents in Michigan fall under the Michigan no-fault law. This law is actually a series of rules that explain the benefits injury victims are entitled to following a crash. It also explains which car insurance carrier is responsible for paying no-fault benefits, and how long a claimant can receive certain benefits.

However, the no-fault law also explains when a person injured in a car accident can receive pain and suffering compensation for his or her injuries. Our experienced Detroit car accident lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm can explain the law to you in plain English and how it pertains to your situation.

What is Pain and Suffering in Detroit for a Car Accident?

Michigan law does not define what pain and suffering is following an auto accident or personal injury. But pain and suffering can typically be broken up into two parts.

Physical pain and suffering. This is the actual physical pain a person feels from an injury. Our brain and nervous system sends thousands of electronic messages all over the body every second. When those messages are disturbed due to trauma – such as a car crash – that trauma results in pain. This pain can result in discomfort, soreness, throbbing, aching, or misery that results from a physical injury.

Emotional pain and suffering. Emotional distress from pain and suffering is the result of the physical pain from the injuries. It can result in mental pain, mental anguish, anger, fright and shock, denial of social pleasure and enjoyment, embarrassment, humiliation, or mortification.

What Do You Have to Prove to Get Pain and Suffering After A Detroit Car Accident?

Under the law, to receive pain and suffering compensation, the accident victim must prove four basic elements.

The Other Driver is Negligent

First, the victim has to prove another motorist was at least 50% at fault for causing the accident claim. This is called negligence. The victim can proceed with a case if the other motorist is at least 50% at-fault for causing the crash. However, an injured person cannot obtain pain and suffering if he or she is more than 50% at-fault for causing an accident. Deciding the percentage of fault for a car accident is a question of fact for a judge or jury to decide.

Second, the accident victim must demonstrate the car accident was a cause of the injuries. This is called causation. Without injuries that are clearly documented by hospitals or doctors’ notes, it is extremely difficult to prove why the victim is entitled to pain and suffering compensation under Michigan law.

The car accident victim must show the injuries sustained are from the car accident, and not something else. An aggravation or exacerbation of a pre-existing medical condition caused by the car accident counts. For example, if you already had low back pain and the low back pain is made worse by the auto accident, you can claim this as part of your pain and suffering case.

However, Michigan auto insurance companies love to try and prove that injuries do not relate to the accident. They try and argue the injuries are a pre-accident medical condition or totally unrelated. It is important your treating doctors relate the underlying injuries and your restrictions to the car accident. This needs to be clearly stated in the medical records.

The Injury Must Be a Threshold Injury

Last, under Michigan law, the accident victim must have sustained a certain type of injury to be eligible for pain and suffering compensation. MCL 500.3135(1) of the no-fault law says an injured person can only receive non-economic compensation “if the injured person has suffered death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement.” 

Death, serious impairment of body function, and permanent serious disfigurement are known as “threshold injuries” under Michigan car accident law. 

Under Michigan law, if you do not have a “threshold injury” you cannot receive pain and suffering compensation.

Serious Impairment of Body Function

The most common threshold injury is “serious impairment of body function.” More than 95% of cases involve this type of threshold injury. This type of case involves all car accidents that do not involve death or permanent serious disfigurement (loss of limbs, horrible scarring).

The definition of a “serious impairment of body function” was amended when the Michigan no-fault law changed in 2019. To prove this, an injured must show they have an objective impairment that affects a body function of “great value, significant, or consequence to the injured person.” MCL 500.3135(5)(b).

In addition, the injured person must also show the car crash affected their “general ability to lead his or her normal life, meaning it has had an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living.” MCL 500.3135(5)(c).

To show this last part, the victim does not have to show the injury required surgery. The injured person also does not have to show the injury is permanent. All a person must prove is the injuries have generally affected their ability to lead a normal life. When evaluating this, insurance companies, judges, and juries look at the following:

  • how much work loss occurred due to the car accident;
  • what recreational activities can the injured person not take part in anymore;
  • the types of restrictions the injured person is under;
  • what household chores does the injured person need help with or cannot do at all since the car accident, and
  • what permanent limitations or restrictions will the injured person have in the future.

There are no hard and fast rules on this though. That is why it is so important to contact a knowledgeable Michigan car accident law firm that has handled thousands of cases all over the state involving all types of scenarios and defendants.

How Much Time Do I have to Sue for Pain and Suffering?

Following a car accident in Detroit, most people have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in court against the proper defendants. This is called the statute of limitations. If you wait longer than 3 years, then you forever lose your right to recover pain and suffering and other damages against the defendant. 

Minors and certain individuals who are mentally incapacitated do get more time. For example, minors have until their 19th birthday to file a lawsuit in most situations.

Given the time limitations, it is important to contact a really good Detroit car accident lawyer after a car crash. Our car accident law firm can give you the right legal advice and answer any questions you or your family members have about the Detroit and Michigan car accident law.

Who Pays My Pain and Suffering After a Detroit Car Accident?

Typically, the driver of the at-fault driver is responsible for paying pain and suffering caused by the car collision. In reality, it is the insurance carrier for the driver who pays the claim. But under Michigan law, the owner of the car operated by the at-fault driver is also responsible.

Under the Owners’ Liability statute, so long as the owner of the car or truck gave permission to allow the driver to operate the vehicle, the owner is also responsible for paying pain and suffering under Michigan law. This is a strict liability statute. This means the owner is on the hook too.

If the at-fault driver or the vehicle that caused the car collision does not insurance, what happens then? In that situation, you can turn to your own auto insurance or the auto insurance for the car you occupied. This type of coverage is called uninsured motorist, or UM. Most car insurance policies have UM coverage, but it is not mandatory.

UM coverage can pay for pain and suffering if the at-fault driver does not have insurance. UM coverage can even pay for medical bills and lost wages in some situations. Again, it is important to call a Michigan pain and suffering law firm that had decades of experience and a deep understanding of the law.

How Much is My Pain and Suffering Case Worth in Michigan?

Every car or truck accident case in Detroit and Michigan is different. The value of how much compensation you can receive depends on a lot of factors. Obviously, how severe the injury is matters. The more severe and long-lasting the injury, the higher the value of the case.

The amount of treatment also counts. Typically, the longer the treatment the more compensation a person can receive for their emotional distress, anxiety, and pain and suffering.

Another factor includes the type of treatment. If a person has surgery, that typically will have more value to an insurance company and a jury than just chiropractic massage adjustments or physical therapy.

The lawyer representing you also matters. A Detroit car accident attorney who is aggressive, fights for you, and is knowledgeable will get more money for the same injury than an attorney who isn’t.

The Lee Steinberg Law Firm has been fighting for our clients for over 40 years. We have obtained hundreds of millions of dollar amounts for our clients, and we never stop until we get economic damages for our client’s pain and suffering. 

A Michigan Law Firm that Gets Results After a Car Accident

If you or a loved one has been involved in a Michigan car accident, Detroit truck accident or a Detroit motorcycle accident, it is important to call the Michigan car accident lawyers for your personal injury case at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. We handle cases all over the state. Our experienced team of Detroit car accident attorneys, Flint auto accident lawyers or Grand Rapids car accident lawyers can answer your questions and will fight for you every step of the way.

We know how to present your personal injury claim in the best light possible to ensure you receive the pain and suffering compensation you deserve. Please contact us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) today for a free consultation.