I Was Involved in an Automobile Accident, Do I Need to Call the Police?
For insurance and safety purposes as well as potential future claims against the at-fault driver, it is essential that the police be called following an automobile accident. Call the police department or dial 911 and let the dispatcher know an accident has occurred, the location, and whether you or others might be hurt.
Once the police arrive and perform their investigation, they will obtain lots of information that will be included in an official police report that will be used to document the incident for your insurance company and for claims against the negligent driver. This report should contain important information including the date and time of the crash, weather conditions, names and addresses of the persons involved, names and addresses of any witnesses to the crash, make, model and years of the vehicles involved and the amount of damage to the vehicles, assessments of any injuries, a detailed description of how the accident occurred, and a determination of who was at fault. Having official documentation of the accident will preclude insurance companies from disputing whether the accident even happened and prevent the inevitable “he said / she said” arguments about who was at fault if there was no report.
Should I Go to the Hospital or See a Doctor Following an Automobile Crash?
Because of the shock associated with just being in an accident, it is oftentimes not clear whether you have sustained any injuries but that is no reason not to seek medical care. First, from simply a health perspective, you should err on the side of caution and just get checked out as soon as possible. Second, it is not uncommon for it to take days or weeks before you may start experiencing symptoms following a crash. We see this in our practice almost daily and medical attention obtained shortly after an accident will go a long way toward corroborating your injuries related to the crash. If there is a long delay in seeking medical treatment, you can bet the insurance companies and their lawyers will take the position that your injuries are not serious or are not related to the accident. Despite being flawed from a medical perspective, delays or gaps in treatment will always be used by insurance companies and defense lawyers to deny benefits and/or minimize recovery for victims of automobile accidents. The arguments usually go something like this: “If you were seriously hurt in the accident, you would have sought medical treatment immediately following the accident” or “Since you waited so long to seek medical treatment, your injuries must be caused by something other than the crash.” By seeking immediate medical attention following an accident, it will be much easier to pursue your claims for no-fault benefits from your own insurance company and damages against the at-fault driver.
Do I Need a Lawyer After Being Involved in an Automobile Crash?
Automobile accidents in Michigan are extremely complex and if serious injuries are involved, usually result in two claims; one with your own insurance company for Michigan No-Fault benefits, i.e., medical care, wage loss, household services, medical mileage, etc. and another against the at-fault driver for the harms suffered as a result of his/her negligence. We offer free consultations so if you want an understanding of your particular claims and rights to assess whether you may need an attorney, give us a call anytime. 248-865-7740.
What Exactly Does "No-Fault" Mean?
In most cases in Michigan, every motor vehicle is required to be covered under a policy of “No-Fault” insurance. (There are now limited exceptions discussed_____________) If you are hurt in an auto accident, this part of your no-fault policy will pay your medical costs up to the amount of coverage chosen, including mileage to and from your medical providers. It will also pay 85% of your wages, up to a maximum amount ($5,755 per month in 2020), for the wages you would have earned if you had not been hurt. This coverage only lasts for up to three years however. If you are seriously injured, you may also collect attendant care benefits, paid at an hourly rate, which are practical nursing services performed by untrained medical personnel. These services can include serving meals, bathing, administering medication, and assisting with various therapies. No-fault insurance also provides up to $20 per day in replacement services which pays for services you are no longer able to provide for yourself or your family because you are injured, such as housekeeping and yard work. If you are killed in an accident, your policy will pay your family up to the maximum monthly amount for three years, based on what they would have received from your earnings and fringe benefits.
Insurance companies usually pay some of these benefits for a few weeks but will then send you to one of their doctors to be examined. This doctor will usually write a report that you suffered a strain/sprain in the crash which should have resolved within 4-6 weeks. At that point and regardless of what your own doctors say, your insurance company will terminate benefits and the only way to make them continue to pay is to file a lawsuit. A good attorney will help you recover the benefits you are entitled to.
I Was Seriously Hurt in a Car Crash. What Are My Rights Against the Person That Caused the Accident?
Auto accident injury victims can also receive compensation from an at-fault driver that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement or a “serious impairment of body function.” Serious impairment of body function is defined as, (1) an objectively manifested impairment, (2) of an important body function that, (3) affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life. What this means has now been codified at MCL 500.3135(5):
(5) As used in this section, “serious impairment of body function” means an impairment that satisfies all of the following requirements:
(a) It is objectively manifested, meaning it is observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions by someone other than the injured person.
(b) It is an impairment of an important body function, which is a body function of great value, significance, or consequence to the injured person.
(c) It affects the injured person’s 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. Although temporal considerations may be relevant, there is no temporal requirement for how long an impairment must last. This examination is inherently fact and circumstance specific to each injured person, must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, and requires comparison of the injured person’s life before and after the incident.
To ensure you meet this threshold and maximize your recovery, it is imperative you understand how to prove your case and are able to prove your case. A lawyer specializing in these types of cases will help you do that.
So I Need to File a Lawsuit Arising Out of the Crash, What Should I Expect?
There are a few basic stages involved in most all personal injury cases in Michigan. 1) Initiation of the lawsuit, 2) Discovery, 3) Mediation / Facilitation and 4) Trial.
A lawsuit begins with the filing of a Summons and Complaint. The summons gives notice to all parties of the existence of the lawsuit, the court it is pending in and the time in which the Defendant needs to respond after being served with the lawsuit. The Complaint outlines the Plaintiff’s claims against each Defendant. The Plaintiff has 91 days to properly serve the summons and complaint after it has been filed unless the court grants an extension.
Depending on how the Defendant was served, it has 21 or 28 days to file an Answer to the complaint including any defenses it will assert during the course of the lawsuit. These are called “Affirmative Defenses.” Either party can also request a jury trial or a bench trial. In a jury trial, a jury will render a verdict. In a bench trial, the judge determines who wins or loses.