What to Do if You are Critically Injured in a Car Accident? Can you Sue in Michigan?

Can you sue in Michigan for an auto accident even though its “No-Fault”?  The short answer is yes, if your injuries are serious enough.

In my previous two blog posts, I explained what to do if you are in an auto accident and how the Michigan auto no-fault system works.  Today, I’m going to explain when you can bring a lawsuit against the other driver in an accident.

As I explained last week, if you are injured in an auto accident your own insurance pays for your medical bills and some other benefits.  But what about everything else?  What about pain and suffering?  What if you can’t work for the rest of your life? That’s when you have to file a lawsuit against the other driver.

To file a lawsuit in an auto accident in Michigan, you have to be seriously injured.  So that fender bender where you have a sprained ankle usually doesn’t count.  You have to have a “serious impairment”.  The injury has to affect your ability to lead your normal life.  While there is no exhaustive list, things that can make a serious impairment could be:

  • Can’t return to work for some time;
  • Can’t do hobbies or recreational activities for some time;
  • Have serious unresolved medical issues;
  • Surgery or scarring;
  • Long lasting medical treatment.

There are many different factors to consider so you should see a lawyer to evaluate your claim.

Who’s Responsible?

To sue another driver, they have to be responsible (at least in part) for the accident.  Sometimes this is easy, such as where the other driver was drunk or ran a red light.  Other times, its trickier.  Don’t always rely on what the police officer who comes to the scene determines.  They weren’t there for the accident and are trying to reconstruct what happened based on witness statements.  I have had cases where the police came and one of the drivers was already in an ambulance so the officer could only speak with one driver to determine what happened.   A lawyer will help you determine if you have a good case and whether other parties are responsible.

Sometimes there is more than one responsible party.  I just had a case where my client was T-boned at an intersection and his seatbelt snapped right out of the doorframe, causing his head to go into the windshield.   He now has permanent brain damage. In that case, we brought a lawsuit against both the car manufacturer and the driver who T-boned my client. Be sure to save pictures, receipts, your car, and anything else to help prove your case.

What Damages Are You Entitled to Be Compensated For?

If you are seriously injured and have to sue another driver, you are entitled to most things that your own insurance did not cover.  This can include:

  • Money for Pain and Suffering, humiliation, mortification;
  • Money for lost wages due to being unable to work;
  • Loss of your relationships with your loved ones, including wife.

Some people think its unfair that we award people money for pain and suffering.  But in our system that is that only way to compensate someone who has been seriously injured.  These damages can be quite severe.  Imagine the man I described above whose head went into the windshield and he now can’t work or care for his family.  His relationships with his children are ruined and they will never have the father they once had because a company wanted to save 2 cents on a bolt and installed a defective seatbelt.

Lawsuits aren’t easy.  Contrary to popular believe, it’s not a lottery ticket.  It can take between 1 – 2 years for your lawsuit to run its course.  You have to prove your case and “frivolous” cases are thrown out by judges before they even get to trial.  If you or someone you know is injured, its important you get the help you need right away.  Don’t wait.  Call a trusted attorney.

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