ACCIDENT INJURY DAMAGES
A personal injury case is typically a case in which an individual suffers an injury as a result of an accident or the negligence of another. There are many different types of injuries that a person can suffer, including broken bones, soft tissue damage, spinal, closed head, back, knee, hip, and even death. And there are many different ways that a client suffers an injury of this sort as a result of the negligence of another.
One of the most dangerous activities we do in our daily lives is operate a motor vehicle. If you are injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident, you may have a claim against the at-fault driver. Often it is difficult without an expert to determine who was at fault for the accident. Manny Chahal partners with accident reconstruction experts to examine the information obtained from law enforcement regarding the accident, along with witness statements, and examine the vehicle to determine the cause of accident.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS
In Michigan, all vehicles on the road are required to carry auto insurance. Unfortunately, not all vehicles are insured. In the event that you are injured as a result of another driver or other individual’s negligence, and that person is not insured, you may still be able to recover from your insurance company. Many drivers carry underinsured or uninsured coverage, and most attorneys would recommend that if you do not have such coverage, you should get it. Underinsured or uninsured coverage is insurance that applies when the at-fault driver has no insurance, or does not have sufficient insurance to cover your injuries. Under those circumstances, an injured person can you look to his or her own insurance company to recover for the injuries sustained.
Many times, after being in an accident, a person refuses medical treatment at the scene of the accident thinking that he or she is okay. After a day to two, the injury surfaces and medical treatment ultimately follows. This person can still recover for his or her injuries, and all the medical expenses, wage loss, and property damage should be covered.
In 1973, the Michigan legislature adopted the Michigan No Fault Act, which requires every person operating a motor vehicle on Michigan public roadways to have insurance on the vehicle being operated. What “no fault” means is that when you are injured in a motor vehicle accident or there is property damage, you look to your own auto insurance for three primary things: your medical bills, your wage loss, and your property damage. This is true no matter who is at fault for the accident. When you buy auto insurance in Michigan, the auto insurer is required by law to provide you with a policy that, in the event you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, your medical expenses for that injury will be covered for life, your wage loss will be covered for 3 years at 80 percent of your average weekly wage, and your property damage will be covered from the accident.
Despite the fact that Michigan is a “no fault” state, a claim against the other driver can still be made based on the fault or negligence of the driver. In Michigan, in order to make a claim against the other driver, it must be shown that:
1. the driver was at fault for the accident;
2. and that that the party bringing the claim has suffered a serious impairment of body function, permanent serious disfigurement, or death.
Essentially, not just anyone can bring a claim, but it must be someone whose injuries are above a minimum threshold. Serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement is a legal standard to be determined by the Judge. The leading case on this issue is McCormick v. Carrier. In McCormick, the Michigan Supreme Court referred to MCL 500.3135(7) for the definition of ‘serious impairment of a body function’, which is “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.” The Court broke this definition down into three prongs that must be established, which are as follows:
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
Under the plain language of MCL 500.3135(1), in order to meet the disfigurement threshold, a plaintiff must have a disfigurement that is both permanent and serious. To disfigure something is to “mar the appearance or beauty of,” to “deform,” or to “deface.” Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (1997). Hence, with regard to a person, a disfigurement is something that mars, deforms, or defaces the person’s appearance. Further, the disfigurement is permanent if it will exist perpetually or is otherwise “long-lasting,” and will be considered serious if it is “significant” or “not trifling.” Id. Thus, a threshold disfigurement is a long-lasting and significant change that mars or deforms the injured person’s appearance.1
Because this is a legal standard, it is important to have a qualified lawyer to consult with you on your case and who can assist you navigate through the No Fault Act to maximize your recovery.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE “NO-FAULT” INSURANCE IN MICHIGAN?
Typically in a personal injury case, a lawyer takes the case on contingency fee. Contingency fee means that the lawyer’s fees are contingent on a settlement or award being paid to the client. In the event that there is no award to the client, the attorney does not get paid any money for his or her time. In Michigan, when a client hires an attorney on a contingency fee basis for a personal injury case, the ethical rules limit an attorney’s percentage to 33 1/3 % of the award that may be obtained for the client.
A client should be suspicious of a lawyer who requires the client to pay money when the Lawyer is being engaged to represent the client for a personal injury case. Almost all lawyers who handle personal injury cases on a regular basis, take the case on a contingency fee and do not require money to be paid during the course of the litigation. If your lawyer is requesting a retainer fee to pursue a personal injury case, you should get a second opinion.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TAKE THE CASE ON A CONTINGENCY FEE?
Negligence is a legal term of art and a cause of action, meaning that it can be a basis to sue someone. Negligence consists of four elements. In order to prove negligence, a person must establish the following:
(2) Breach of Duty;
(3) Causation; and
A cause of action for negligence can apply to many different types of cases, including auto accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall/premises liability claims, products liability, and legal malpractice. A negligence claim is the foundation for most personal injury cases and Manny Chahal is well-equipped for prosecuting negligence cases on behalf of his clients.