Frustrated Former Employees Ask: Where’s My Money?

Nobody likes talking about that horrible job that they could no longer handle or maybe they were even fired. You know that one job that made you go down memory lane to see which wrong decision led you to that point? The one you showed up for one morning and before the clock rang noon, you rushed out the door and never came back. Yeah, that job. Been there.

But did you ever receive that final paycheck? No? That is why today we will be discussing a state law that governs Michigan employers, the Wage & Fringe Benefits Act, and what you can do if that ever happens to you.

 

Are you entitled to your final paycheck?

Under Michigan’s Wage & Fringe Benefits Act, you are still entitled to your back wages and earned commissions when you leave an employer. Whether you were fired or quit–it doesn’t matter. Employers are required to pay you. That is one of the primary purposes of the Act. Seems rather straightforward right? You work. They pay.

As a general rule, an employer must pay you for all of your hard work “as soon as that amount can be reasonably determined.” This often means that you should receive your final paycheck by your next regularly scheduled pay period.

 

Do you get your Commissions? When?

But what if you’re in sales? Well, Michigan has a separate law known as the Sales Representative Commission Act that provides for when commissions are due.

All of your sale commissions are due within 45 days after you left your job. If you are entitled to commissions after you are gone, then the employer has 45 days after the commissions were due.

 

What if you’re a hand harvester or work under a contract?

Hand harvester: Similarly, you should receive your final paycheck as soon as the amount can be reasonably determined. However, there may be difference in the time you receive your final paycheck, depending on whether you quit or were terminated. In most cases,

  • Quit: No later than 3 days after you quit your job
  • Termination: Within one working day from the date of your termination

 

Under contract: If you were terminated or quit your job while still under a contract, you may be entitled to an estimated paycheck for final wages from your former employer. But if the amount of wages cannot be estimated, you should still receive a final paycheck once the contract has ended.

 

How do you get your money back?

When an employer intentionally fails to pay you, things can get pretty ugly. If you were never paid from that last boss of yours, you may be entitled to more than just your back wages. You can file a free complaint with the Wage & Hour Program of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

 

Here’s the website: http://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-11407_32352-39617–,00.html

 

Employment law can be very complicated. If you have a back wage issue, an attorney can help you file a complaint for your money as soon as possible. The attorneys at Ernst & Marko Law have helped many former employees get their money back that has been long overdue.  Often times, attorneys can get you additional compensation, such as attorney fees, penalties, and costs.

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Working More than 40 Hours A Week? You May Be Entitled to Overtime

You may have heard in the news recently that The Labor Department just announced that it completed one of the most ambitious economic reforms of the Obama era, finalizing a new rule that will extend overtime protections to millions of additional workers.  President Obama just announced big changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act that will increase the number of eligible overtime workers by more than 4 millions.  Overtime rules are changing and millions of Americans will begin qualifying for overtime.

So here’s the skinny:  Currently, if you make less than $23,600 per year then you must receive overtime for every hour you work over 40 hours. When the law changes on December 1st, all employees that make less than $47,476 per year will be entitled to overtime pay as well. This means that no matter what job you have, if you make less than $47,476 per year, the law requires your employer to pay you at least 1.5 times your current pay for every hour in a week over 40 that you work.

Be vigilant of your pay starting December 1st, 2016, because your employer will either need to raise your salary to at least $47,476 or he will need to start paying overtime. If you are reading this and already make less than $23,600 per year but are not receiving time and a half for your overtime hours then you might be entitled to unearned wages. If you are concerned about how the changes to the law might apply to you or whether your employer is going to follow the changes to the law then you need to speak with a professional in the area of employment law.

Check out Obama’s information on this topic here:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/05/17/email-president-obama-ive-got-news-you-overtime

If you feel that your employer is violating the law and your rights then you need to contact Ernst & Marko Law at (313) 965 – 5555.  http://www.ernstmarkolaw.com The attorneys at Ernst & Marko Law have helped employees from various industries to earn the money they’re owed and will work for you to make sure you get every penny you deserve.

WHAT TO DO WHEN FIDO IS A BAD DOG

dog-bite

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone out there. I sincerely hope that you and yours had a good 2014 and that 2015 will be even better. With many of us home for the holidays, there is a lot of parties, guests over, and people we haven’t seen in a long time around. For those of us with animals in the house, these events can lead to unexpected incidents. Today we will be discussing what happens if you are bitten by a dog, or if you have a dog and it bites someone else.

Dog bite cases are some of the easiest cases for a lawyer to try. Why? Because under the law you don’t have to prove that anybody did anything wrong. In almost every other type of case that lawyers handle you have to prove that someone did something wrong. Not in a dog bite case. Michigan has what lawyers call “strict liability”. Strict liability means that under almost any circumstances, if your dog bites someone you are responsible for the injuries, regardless of who is at fault.

It didn’t use to be this way. Back in the day, to win in a dog bite case (or other animal case) you had to show that the dog owner did something wrong. Normally, this meant that you had to show that the dog owner knew that his or her dog had vicious tendencies, or was likely to attack, and owner didn’t stop it. This was a pretty hard standard to prove. You usually had to show that the dog had been vicious in the past or that it had bitten someone else.

This changed when the Michigan legislature passed a law that specifically governs dog bite cases. Under the law, an owner is always responsible for the damage that a dog does except in two main circumstances. The first exception is if the dog was provoked. This would mean that someone was taunting the dog, poking it with a stick, or something like that. The second exception is that the dog bit someone who was trespassing. An examples is if a person jumped over your fence to grab a ball that had fallen on your side of the fence and the dog bit them.  In such a situation, the dog owner is generally not responsible.

We’ve seen several pretty horrible dog bite cases over the years. For example in one case, a young girl was mauled in the face by her grandmother’s dog which literally tore the braces out of her mouth and left her permanent scarred and disfigured. I litigated that case on the girl’s behalf and obtained a substantial recovery.

 

GET INSURANCE!

In my experience, homeowners’ insurance always covers dog bite cases. If you own a home and have an animal and don’t have insurance, it could be a serious problem if the animal bites someone. A good friend of mine consulted with me on a case where his parents ran a hotel up north. His parents had a dog who was getting older and had been getting a little more testy. One day, the dog bit a guest and my friend’s parents were sued. His parents didn’t have any insurance so they ended up having to pay $75,000.00 out‑of-pocket to settle the case. You definitely don’t want this to happen to you.

Even if you don’t own a home, and you have a pet, you should carry some kind of renters’ insurance that will cover you in case something happens. Most of us would say “hey, not my dog, it would never bite somebody”. But animals can act unpredictably. I have another good friend who had a wonderful and very gentle dog. I knew this dog my whole life and it had never hurt a soul. The dog developed a brain tumor, which unbeknownst to its owners, grew in the dog’s brain. The brain tumor caused the dog to lash out one day and maul someone.

 

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE BIT BY AN ANIMAL?

If you’re bitten by an animal the first thing is to get medical attention and make sure that you are safe. The second thing to do is contact a lawyer. In most circumstances, you are entitled under the law automatically to certain benefits.  The medical bills, loss of work, and other damages can add up.

My own brother was mauled by a dog when we were younger and had a large portion of his nose bitten off.  It required operations and a large amount of medical bills. The dog was owned by a family friend, so my brother never did anything about it. I didn’t know anything about dog bites back then. Had that happened today, I would tell him the first thing he needs to do is contact an attorney, because his friend’s homeowners’ insurance would have covered all of his medical bills and other issues. His friend’s family probably wouldn’t have had to pay a penny. That’s what they have insurance for, to cover these unforeseen and unfortunate occurrences.

Be sure to take pictures of the injury and keep all documentation. You may need this later. Also, don’t make any statements to the insurance company before talking to your lawyer.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOUR DOG ATTACKS SOMEONE ELSE?

If you’re in the unfortunate situation where your dog or animal attacks someone else, make sure that they get medical attention immediately and are in a safe environment away from the animal. After that person is safe you should immediately contact your insurance company and file a report letting them know what happened and the circumstances surrounding it. Your own insurance company will take over from there and handle the claim on your behalf. If a lawsuit is filed against you, your insurance company will give you an attorney and will work to resolve the claim on your behalf.

Dog bite cases are pretty routine and they happen more than one might think. If you or someone that you know has been injured by a dog or other animal, feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

“SUNLIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT”- WHY CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUITS ARE GOOD FOR AMERICA

Ferguson…. Garner… What the heck is going on in America?  Police violence has been plastered all over our televisions lately in a way we haven’t seen since Rodney King.  This week’s blog post is about police brutality and what you need to know.  Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” a well-known quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, refers to the benefits of openness and transparency and the quote is as relevant today as it was when Brandeis said it in 1913.

I wish I could say that that cop-on-civilian violence is a relatively new phenomenon.  It’s not.  It’s been going on ever since we have had government.  It just used to be different.  We never saw it on the news, on facebook, on social media, blasting from every twitter and facebook like we do now.  The reasons behind this could be the subject of a 700 page doctorate psychology paper, but the main reason we are hearing about it so much lately is the prevalence of video technology everywhere.  Virtually everyone has a video camera in their pocket at all times in the form of a cell phone.  Cops are now required to have cameras in their cars turned on.  Jail cells now have video.  There are security cameras in most of our major cities at intersections.  Even the party store on the corner of your street probably has a surveillance system.

Hundreds of years ago when the nightwatch of the King’s castle beat some poor peasant in a dark alley, there was no one to tell-the-tale.  No video.  No instant upload to facebook.  No twitter feed.  No pictures.  This dynamic has remained relatively true until very recently.

This Would Never Happen In America

Before I spent the majority of my waking hour representing people who have been in horrible life-changing incidents, I echoed this sentiment.  My very first case involved an African-American man named DaJuan living in one of the very worst neighborhoods in Detroit. He called our office claiming he was savagely beaten with batons by no less than four Detroit Police officers for no real reason at the MGM casino in Detroit. DaJuan didn’t have a car or the money to get to our law office, so I had to drive down into the worst part of Detroit to see him at his house.

As I sat on his couch in a bombed out neighborhood on Detroit’s westside, DaJuan told me an incredible story.  His Uncle had just died an early and violent death.  After the service, some close family went to the MGM Grand casino, where they had rented a room for the night.  DaJuan claimed that as he wait in the lobby of the casino, he was approached by four fully armed Detroit police officers who began to interrogate him.  DaJuan, just having lost his uncle, mouthed off a little, told them to leave him alone, and then turned his back and began to slowly walk away.  DaJuan claims at that point an officer jumped on his back and put him in a choke hold and three other officers began to savagely beat him with billy clubs as he lay on the ground, breaking several ribs and giving him permanent neck and lung problems.

I didn’t believe him.  Why would the police do that?  I was sure that either (1) he was lying all together; or (2) he did something to precipitate the encounter and was resisting a legitimate arrest.  Police don’t just beat people.  I told DaJuan i would look into it, but if he was lying to me I wasn’t going to help him.

The next day i contacted the MGM Grand and eventually convinced them to let me see the video.  I went downtown and sat with MGM’s attorney as they showed me the video.  I could not believe my eyes.  Everything DaJuan said was true.  It literally made me sick.

It’s scary to think that this kind of thing can go on in America.  And to make matters worse, no one believed DaJuan.  He had been telling people his stories for months and no one would listen.  He sat in jail for days.  He suffered broken bones.  He has life long injures.  And even his own attorney didn’t believe what he had to say.  If there had not been a video no one would have taken his case.  DaJuan changed my life and set me on the path to being a civil rights lawyer.

DaJuan would have no voice without a lawsuit.  He would have no justice.  And we would not know the truth.

WHAT TYPE OF RIGHTS ARE PROTECTED?

Under federal law, every American can bring a lawsuit against the police or any governmental actor who violates his or her constitutional rights.  So what are protected rights?

  • Excessive Force Or Assaults

You have a right to be free from excessive force or bodily harm from the government.  Even prisoners in a jail have a right to be free from assaults by guards.  Sometime this is easy and you “know it when you see it”: brutal beatings; shooting an unarmed man who posed no threat; smashing someone’s head into the ground.  Other times this is a closer call such as tazing someone or using pepper spray, or even tightening someone’s cuffs to the point of nerve damage.

  • Unlawful Seizure 

You have a right to be free from unlawful seizure.  You are “seized” when you no longer have the right to leave.  You do not have to be put under arrest to be seized.  In the case of DaJuan, he was seized when the officers did not allow him to walk away.  Unlawful seizure also can include being falsely arrested and/or kept in jail for a period of time.

  • Illegal Search

You have a right not to have your body, your house, your car, etc., searched and rummaged through for no valid reason.  This right is often implicated in the context of illegal police entry in homes or business, but can also be of other private property.

  • Freedom Of Speech

You have a right to free speech and to express your ideas and viewpoints, even if other people don’t like your speech or your speech is in bad taste.  An infamous example of this is the Westboro Baptist Church protesting military funerals and delivering hate speech to homosexuals.

  • Medical Attention 

If you are in prison or jail, you have a right to have your obvious medical needs cared for.  An example of this is a person suffering from a gunshot wound who is thrown in a jail cell and dies.

  • Equal Protection

Everyone has a right to equal protection under the law.  An example of a violation of this would be a traffic checkpoint that only stopped African-Americans.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOUR RIGHTS ARE VIOLATED?

These are just a few broad examples the areas of constitutional rights I am most commonly asked about.  Civil rights law is one of the most complicated and difficult areas of the law.  Most attorneys will not practice it.  How to handle a civil rights lawsuit is not taught in law school. Civil rights cases are costly, time consuming, and very nuanced.  Even if your rights were violated, the police or government have many defenses available.  They hire the best lawyers and it is very intimidating going up against the police.  You should contact an attorney as soon as you can after a possible violation of your rights in order to evaluate your claim.

I have been very successful in helping persons whose civil rights have been violated.  Earlier this year, we represented a man who was arrested and beaten in a jail cell for refusing to answer police questions.  There was no video of the beating and the police denied liability.  Jim and I were able to secure nearly a $370,000 settlement after a several year court battle.

Last year, we represented a man who was tazed by the police while standing at the front window of his house.  The man refused to open the door for police so an officer shot him from a distance of 5 feet.  The tazer was shot as such a close range that the impact caused the homeowner to fall backwards and down a flight of stairs, dislocating his shoulder. Under controlled cross-examination, the officer nonchalantlytestified  under oath that he made our client “ride the lightning”.  After a protracted court battle, we won victory for the client.

Next year, we will be going to trial in a case where an off duty police officer, who had just been partying at a Red Wings game and local bars, pistol whipped our client with his .357 magnum in a parking lot.  The local police responded and then allowed the off-duty police officer to leave.  The officer is still patrolling the streets as we speak.  And guess what?  This officer was the very same one who tazed the homeowner in the story above.  The officer was actually promoted after that incident.  He knows us pretty well by now since we have been suing him for years.

I believe that most police officers are genuinely good people trying to keep our communities safe.  But these things DO happen. Our access to the court system for these violations is a way to keep us safe and keep the good cops out there on the streets.   Civil rights cases are absolutely necessary to expose the truth.  It’s not about the money.  It’s about taking a stand and sending a message.

If you want further information on this topic feel free to contact me.

I JUST GOT FIRED FROM MY JOB… HELP!

sexual-harassment-fb-12-15

For today’s blog post I’m switching gears from auto accidents, and addressing a topic that will effect all of us in one way or another at some point in our lives: employment.  I receive countless calls and questions from people about their jobs.  Many times these calls involve someone (1) being fired from their job; or (2) being harassed at work and having to work in a miserable environment.  Today I am going to tell you what you can do if this happens to you.

First off, Michigan is an “at will” State.  That means someone can ordinarily fire you for whatever they want.  You remind them of their ex wife?  Fire away.  They don’t like your long hair?  Fired (luckily this hasn’t happened to me).  Personality conflicts?  Too bad.   But what about this “right-to-work” law we all have heard about?  Sorry.  Right-to-work was a dressed up name for a law that was passed to bust the unions in Michigan.  It has nothing to do with you keeping your job.  You generally never have a “right to work”, unless your employer promises you that in your contract.

However, there are exceptions.  You can’t fire or harass someone if they belong to a “protected class”.  This is legal jargon.  We all belong to protected classes, no matter who we are.  But in English this means you can’t discriminate against someone as stated below:

What are the protected classes in Michigan?

In all 50 states, federal law makes it illegal to discriminate based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin (e.g., Indian, Pakistani, Israeli)
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Disability (including refusing to accommodate your disability)
  • Age
  • Citizenship status
  • Genetic information
  • Taking time off work under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

In addition, Michigan state law also prohibits discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Disability: physical or mental
  • Age
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • AIDS/HIV
  • Height or weight
  • Firing someone for refusing to break the law or do unethical things (public policy exception).
  • Whistleblower – Report unethical / illegal activities to outside agency.

As I said above, we all belong to a protected class of some sort.  Take me for example, it would be illegal for an employer to discriminate against me because I’m: white, Catholic, or male.

So what constitutes discrimination?  There are two main types of employment discrimination: (1) Harassment; and (2) Disparate Treatment.  Let’s take a look at each one.

Harassment

The legal term for this is “hostile work environment”.  It is illegal for your employer to subject you, or allow you to be in, a hostile work environment because of a protected characteristic.   An easy example is sexual harassment, but it can take many forms.  Let me give you some examples of real life cases my firm and I have handled involving harassment:

  • A young woman is constantly sexually harassed at work by coworkers. She has a dildo given to her after she breaks up with her boyfriend and is told that “she will probably need it.”  Co-workers make unwanted advances on her.  She is texted inside and outside of the office on a regular basis.  She complains to her boss, but he really doesn’t fix the problem.  She has to go to work every day in a sexually hostile work environment.  This is illegal because she is being harassed because of a protected class: sex.  In other words, if she was a man she would not be treated this way.
  • An African American man has a racist white supervisor.  The supervisor never outright calls the African American employee names or racial slurs. However, the supervisor treats the African American worker significantly worse than the white employees, gives him much more work and some of the worst jobs possible, and when the worker complains the supervisor brushes him off and says “you don’t know nothing about discrimination. This is illegal because it is harassment based on race.

Disparate Treatment

Disparate treatment is a lawyer way of saying something bad at your job happens to you because of a protected class.  Common examples are: you are fired; you are denied a promotion; you are demoted; you are denied other benefits such as raises.  There can be more.  Again, the reason the event happens must be based, at least in part, on a protected characteristic.  Examples are:

  • A highly qualified black candidate is passed over in a promotion to a lesser qualified white candidate;
  • A woman is given lower wages than her male counterparts;
  • A person is fired after revealing to their employer that they have a medical condition (e.g., epilepsy)

Employment law is convoluted and complicated.  You MUST contact an attorney as soon as the first signs of trouble appear so that he or she can advise you on how to handle the situation.  You don’t have to have smoking gun evidence.  Don’t keep telling yourself things will work out.  Don’t wait.  It can be too late. My clients who come and see prior to being fired are in much better shape than a client who comes to me only after the illegal employment actions have already taken place.  I have handled hundreds of employment cases, so if you or someone you know is facing an employment issue, do not hesitate to contact me.

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.

AUTO NO FAULT? WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?

One person died in this three-car crash. (KATU News photo)

In Michigan, when we talk about auto insurance and auto accidents we hear the same familiar phrases: “Michigan is a no fault state”, “first-party benefits”, “third-party case”. But while everyone seems to know that Michigan is a “no fault” state, do we really know what that means?

Prior to devoting my entire life and career to the law, I didn’t. So I’m guessing that many of you don’t either. In today’s blog post, I’m going to try to demystify and lay out just what “no fault” means for you. After all, in Michigan we all pay the highest auto insurance rates in America. We should know what we’re buying when we write that check to the insurance company every month.

Once upon a time, a long long time ago in Michigan, we didn’t have “no fault”. If you were in a serious car accident, even one so serious that you died or you were unable to work or you lost a limb and became disfigured or paralyzed, your only option was to sue the driver of the car that hit you. If you wanted to be compensated for your loss you had to go after the driver who was at fault for the accident. One of the big problems with this system was in almost every accident, there’s someone who’s at fault (the person who ran the red light or was drinking and driving) and there’s someone who’s not. So if you were at fault for the accident and you screwed up, which frankly happens a lot, your whole life could be ruined. The system led to a lot of lawsuits and litigation.

So a long time ago the insurance companies, the legislature, and all the attorneys got together and instituted in Michigan a revolutionary idea: no fault auto insurance. Under no fault, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault for the accident. It doesn’t matter if you were drinking and driving. It doesn’t matter if you ran the red light or were speeding. It doesn’t matter if both drivers are pointing the finger at the other driver blaming them for what happened. Under no fault, every person would purchase auto insurance that made sure that they would be protected and be given certain limited benefits if they were in an automobile accident and hurt. Think of it as Obamacare for auto accidents.

But nothing’s for free. So as part of this grand bargain, the attorneys and the legislature and everyone else agreed that since everyone was going to be covered regardless of fault, drivers had to give up certain rights to make claims that they were traditionally allowed. So let’s talk about just what no fault means for you.

As I stated, under no fault, if you are in an automobile accident you’re entitled to certain benefits regardless of who’s at fault for the accident. Even if you are the driver who is at fault, you are still entitled to benefits. And sometimes, even if you don’t have your own auto insurance you can get benefits (e.g., you’re a passenger). As long as your injuries came from the accident you are generally entitled to the following benefits:

 

  1. Medical Bills

You are entitled to all your medical bills incurred as a result of the accident, to be paid by your insurance company. Let me repeat that. Every single medical bill that you incur as a result of the accident your insurance company has to pay. You need physical therapy? No problem. Your insurance company has to pay for it. Do you need a nurse to come in and take care of you for a while? No problem. Do you have to have invasive back surgery that costs $50,000.00? No problem. As long as it was due to the accident, your insurance company is obligated to pay for it under no fault auto insurance.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you have your own healthcare insurance to be entitled to these benefits. I’ve represented pedestrians and even homeless people who have been hit by a car, who have no insurance and no way to get medical care, and they are entitled to have all their medical bills paid under the No Fault Act.

Perhaps even more important, your entitlement for medical benefits is for life. That means if you’re in an automobile accident today and let’s say you rupture a disc in your back. But you’re able to live with it for five years and it doesn’t get worse. But after five years that disc degenerates to the point where you need to have back surgery. It’s still covered. As long as you can trace the medical bill to the auto accident, the insurance company has to pay for it.

 

  1. Nursing Care

You’re also entitled to nursing care, under the No Fault Act. This is commonly referred to in legal parlance as “attendant care.” It doesn’t need to be performed by a nurse. But if you need help with traditional caretaker functions, such as bathing, taking you to the doctor, administering medications or caring for your wounds, or other caretaker functions, the insurance company is obligated to pay your caretaker an hourly rate. You can have an outside professional agency perform these duties and be reimbursed by your insurance company. Or, under the law you can actually have a family member perform these duties.

So let me give you another example. I represented a gentleman who was in a serious car accident which displaced the vertebrae in his back. This guy was in a lot of pain and he couldn’t work and could hardly perform his jobs. He needed someone to take care of him at least eight hours a day. This means he needed someone to help him get up and get back on the bed, remain in the general proximity to care for him, and to help him use the bathroom. He didn’t want a stranger coming into his house and doing all these invasive things. So he had his wife, who was not trained in nursing or had any medical experience, perform these services for him. His wife was entitled to be paid at an hourly rate for caretaker services by the insurance company under no fault insurance.

 

  1. Lost Wages

If you can’t work, you’re still entitled to a paycheck for your lost money due to not being able to work. The insurance company is obligated to pay you 85 percent of what you would have made had you not been in the automobile accident.

Let’s say that you make $1,000.00 a week at your job. You’re involved in an automobile accident and you have to take a month off of work to get better. You lose $4,000.00. Under no fault, your insurance company has to give you a check for 85 percent of the money that you lost ($3,400.00).

Things can get a little tricky if you own your own business or you have variable income such as bonuses, commissions, etc.. An attorney can assist you in ensuring that you get all the money that you’re entitled to under your insurance.

 

  1. Household Chores

A big thing for people that are injured in an automobile accident is that they can’t do some of the stuff around the house that they used to. Who’s going to mow the lawn? Who’s going to take out the trash? Who’s going to clean? A lot of these activities involve bending, twisting and being able to be physically active and to be able to do them.

Don’t worry. Under the No Fault Act, you’re entitled to $20.00 a day to pay for someone to come and do household chores that you can’t do because you’re hurt. Just like nursing services, this can be a family member or friend, it does not need to be a professional company.

 

  1. Mileage

You’re also entitled to mileage reimbursement for traveling to and from doctors’ appointments and other necessary appointments related to the accident. So if you have to travel 75 miles to go see your specialist, your insurance company will reimburse you for that mileage.

 

  1. Other Benefits

There are also other benefits you may be entitled to, such as modifying your home or car for your injury. Check with an attorney to see just what you are entitled to.

 

I’ve laid out the basic benefits of no fault above. So what are you giving up? All these benefits don’t come for free. The insurance company wouldn’t agree to that. As a result of no fault and the benefits that it gives, people who are in car accidents give up certain rights. Among them, is the ability to claim and collect for pain and suffering, and for certain other benefits. Some of the benefits that I have listed above, such as household cleaning and work loss, are limited and only last a certain amount of time.

As with anything else in the law, there’s always exceptions and there’s always special circumstances. For your specific situation, you must contact an attorney who can advise you on what benefits you’re entitled to and what you need to do to get them. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who have come into my office who have been in a serious accident and who have lost thousands upon thousands of dollars in benefits that they were entitled to under their own insurance policy because they had no idea what they were doing.

 

You can’t rely on the advice of your own insurance company when you get into an auto accident. Oftentimes, the insurance company will give you the least benefits that they can get away with.

 

Go and see an attorney as soon as you can. Another reason that it’s imperative that you see an attorney as soon as possible after an auto accident, is that the insurance company will often fight you on certain benefits, deny you benefits, or after a certain amount of time arbitrarily just cut your benefits off. I recently had a woman come into my office who is a speech therapist in the medical field and who was involved in a serious car accident. The car accident caused her serious brain injury and she could no longer work. She has been undergoing weekly medical rehabilitation services to try to get her back to normal. At first, the insurance company paid her benefits. But after eight months, without warning, the insurance company cut off her benefits and has refused to pay her medical bills or her lost wages. As a result this poor woman is unable to get the medical care she needs to get better, and she is losing her house and her ability to survive. She’s in jeopardy of being out on the street. I’m currently in the process of helping this woman, but it would have been a lot easier had she come to me from day one. I might have been able to prevent her benefits from getting shut off in the first place.

I hope that this week’s blog post has helped shed some light on the no fault system in Michigan so the next time that you or someone you know is involved in an auto accident you will know your rights. Or at the very least, the next time someone starts mouthing off about Michigan no fault, you’ll be able to know what you’re talking about. Michigan’s no fault system can be very complicated and confusing. I have personally helped thousands of people get the benefits that they’re entitled to and put their lives back together after an auto accident. Feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

Next week, I’m going to cover what’s known as “third party” auto cases. This is where you actually sue the driver or person responsible for the automobile accident. So instead of getting benefits from your own insurance company as in no fault, in a third-party case you’re actually suing someone and going after them and their insurance company. Confused? Don’t be. All will be revealed next week. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend.

 

 

YOU JUST GOT INTO A CAR ACCIDENT… NOW WHAT?

Thanks for tuning into my new blog.  My goal is to provide you with short and helpful weekly articles on common legal issues facing many Americans.  The first few articles are going to be on auto accidents.  Last year in Michigan alone there were 289,061 car accidents.  And these were just the ones reported.  At least 951 people died in these wrecks, and countless others were permanently injured.  Think about these numbers for just one year in Michigan.  It’s startling.

No one wants to get into a car accident.  But we all know someone who has been involved in one (perhaps you yourself).  Many accidents are minor and the only thing you need fixed is your front bumper.  Other wrecks can ruin someone’s life.  You should always hope for the best but prepare for the worst after an auto accident.

I have represented hundreds of persons hurt in auto accidents over the years.  I often get calls from clients asking me “Jon I just got into a car accident what do I do?  Do I have coverage?  I only have PLPD, is there anything I can do? It was my fault, does that matter?”

Every situation is different.  But here are the general rules of what you should do if you get into an accident.

  1. Make sure you are safe-  Above anything else, when you are in an accident get to safety as soon as possible.  Pull over to the side of the road or a parking lot.  Leave your vehicle and get to safety if it is not drivable.  Make sure you are not in a position where you can get hit again.  I have seen many accidents where people have been hurt after the initial accident.
  2. Dial 911- Once you are safe, call 911 immediately and report the accident.  Even if the accident was minor, or you don’t believe anyone is injured, you should call 911.  The police will come and investigate the accident and try to determine who’s at fault.  They will make a report that is very important for dealing with your insurance company later on down the road.  Even if you are at fault for the accident, you need to call police for a report because you may still be entitled to insurance benefits and they need to investigate.
  3. Get Medical Attention- Even if you don’t believe you are injured, you need to get medical attention right away.  Sometimes this will be by ambulance.  Other times this can be you going to the hospital with a friend or family member, or following up with your doctor immediately.  But the important part is to get evaluated right away.  Many times injuries don’t present themselves right away.  I represented a gentlemen who was run over by a pickup truck and didn’t go to the hospital until 24 hours later because he had so much adrenaline in his body he thought he was fine.  When he was evaluated later, it turned out he had fractured the vertebrae in his back.   He is now disabled.  The insurance company will pounce on any delay in treatment to blame you for your injuries or to claim they were caused by something other than the wreck. Be sure to report to your doctors every single little problem or pain so it can be checked.
  4. Document Everything-  Document everything from day 1.  This includes statements made by the other drivers or witnesses at the scene, medical persons, what happened at the scene, what parts of your body hurt, if you lost consciousness or blacked out, and anything else that could be helpful later.  It’s hard to remember all of these details later on, especially with everything going on due to the wreck.  You are going to have so much on your mind.  Do yourself a favor and write everything down.  Save all receipts, medical bills, and any other expenses stemming from the wreck.  Take photos.  The more the better.
  5. Call A Lawyer- Once you are safe and have sought initial medical treatment, it is essential you call an attorney immediately.  Don’t wait.  Even if you think you won’t need an attorney.  Many attorneys (including myself) will give you a 100% free initial consultation.  If you don’t need my help,  I will tell you from day one, and you won’t have to pay a dime.  Auto law in Michigan is confusing and slanted towards the insurance companies.  Without an attorney, you are at the mercy of the insurance companies. A lawyer can advise you if you have a case and what you need to do to make sure your medical bills and other expenses will be taken care of.  A good attorney will also make sure that you are getting all the medical treatment you need. And finally, an attorney will allow you to rest easy knowing that your claims are being handled.
  6. Don’t Make Any Statements To Anyone Other Than the Police and Your Own Doctors.  Do not make any statements to the Insurance Companies-  Whatever you do, don’t make any statements to any insurance companies.  Not your own insurance company, and not the other driver’s insurance company.  All too often the insurance company will use things you say against you later.  Keep in mind that the goal of many auto insurance companies is to minimize risk for insurance company. In other words, to figure out a way to deny your claim or to pay you the least amount of benefits possible.

Next week, I will dispel the mystery and confusion about Michigan’s “No-Fault” insurance scheme.  Most people have heard of no-fault, but have no idea what it means  (I didn’t either until I went to law school). We will talk about just what that insurance coverage you are paying so much money for every year actually means for you.

Thanks for reading.   I hope you all have a wonderful  and safe holiday weekend. Vote below on my next topic after car accidents!