Why Fault Matters in a No-Fault Insurance State

Most motorists know that Michigan is a "no-fault insurance" state. Michigan residents are required to maintain insurance on their vehicles and turn to that policy after an auto accident. So why do the police still determine fault at every accident scene?

No-Fault Insurance Has You Covered, for Some Things

The Michigan No-Fault Act is designed to make sure all Michigan motorists, passengers, and pedestrians are covered when an auto accident happens. The law requires every driver to maintain no-fault insurance (often called personal injury protection or PIP). That policy protects them almost any time a motor vehicle is involved in an injury.

But no-fault benefits only go so far. After a car accident, your auto insurance provider is required to pay for:

  • All reasonably necessary medical expenses related to injuries suffered from the accident
  • Up to 85% of lost wages for up to 3 years
  • Up to $20 per day in necessary replacement services for up to 3 years

Those benefits are enough to cover most accidents. Many injuries suffered from car crashes can be resolved in less than three years. But if your injuries were severe, there is a good chance those no-fault benefits are going to run out before you are ready or able to get back to work. The most serious auto accidents also bring with them damages no amount of medical treatment or insurance benefits can cure.

Why Fault Matters in Third Party Negligence Cases

In those most serious auto accident cases, Michigan law allows you to file an additional "third party" lawsuit against the person that caused your injuries. (It is called third party because that person wasn't involved in your contract for no-fault benefits.) To be eligible to file this additional lawsuit, the accident must have caused you or your loved to suffer:

  • Death
  • Permanent serious disfigurement
  • Serious impairment of body function

If one or more of those threshold injuries apply, you are allowed to file a lawsuit against the person who caused the injuries based on the legal theory of negligence.

That's where fault comes in. Negligence means that you were injured because the defendant (person you are suing):

  • Did something they should not have
  • Did not do something they should have

In other words, they were at fault for your injuries. Initially, fault is often determined by the police on the scene of the accident. If one driver failed to yield, was speeding, or was drunk, that driver is determined to be "at fault" and issued a ticket for breaking traffic laws. That ticket also gives you, the severely injured motorist, an easy way to prove negligence.

Proof of fault doesn't always come in the form of a traffic ticket, though. Sometimes you and your personal injury lawyer will have to establish that the defendant was driving distracted, or was driving erratically. Maybe the direct cause of the accident wasn't the other vehicle itself, but part of its load. In other cases, your injuries could have been caused by a combination of factors, including your own mistakes. This can further complicate your third party negligence claim. Whether you are able to use a traffic citation or not, proving fault will be part of every third party negligence lawsuit.

What Damages are Available When No-Fault Falls Short

So why go through all the trouble of a second lawsuit? If your medical expenses are covered isn't that enough? Often, the answer is no.

In serious injury accidents, the plaintiff (the person injured) can face years of rehabilitation and recuperation. Spinal injuries, brain damage, and other injuries can sometimes make it impossible for you to ever go back to work. Your no-fault insurance provider may be paying for the doctor's visits and physical therapy, but after 3 years the money for rent, housekeeping, and other daily needs will stop.

Then there are all the damages allowed in a negligence case that are never covered by no-fault benefits. If you meet the threshold, you may be able to collect damages for:

  • Wage loss beyond the 3 year limit
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of support
  • Loss of companionship
  • Mental distress
  • Certain property damages

All together, this can easily add up to thousands of dollars in some serious injury cases.

Going through a second, third party negligence lawsuit may seem inconvenient, or even burdensome. You may want to simply move on and forget about your accident. But when serious and permanent injuries keep you from getting back to work and supporting your loved ones, it is good to know the law gives you another option.

At Sachs Waldman, our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to help. After your car accident we will review all your injuries, and the circumstances of the crash, to see if you qualify for a third party negligence lawsuit. If you have been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accidentcontact our Detroit personal injury law office at 1-800-638-6722.

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