Michigan Car accident lawyer specializing in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). At Christensen Law, we are leaders in helping victims of automobile and truck accidents. We understand the overwhelming challenges that come with these life-changing events, and we want to help. You are not alone – we will become your voice.
State legislators appear intent on once again trying to “reform” Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance system. Members of both the House and Senate have already introduced two proposals in the new 2019-20 legislative session, purportedly aimed at slashing auto insurance rates.
House Bill 4024, introduced January 10, 2019, would make insurance reform a 2020 ballot proposal, letting the state’s voters decide what changes should be made to the auto insurance system. The measure, which has been referred to the House Committee on Insurance, would:
Give insureds the choice of limiting (i.e., “capping”) their no-fault benefits at $250,000 or $500,000 or choosing a “no maximum limit” coverage (the current coverage for Michigan motorists). For those who choose to cap their benefits, the limited amount would apply not only to medical expenses, but also to attendant care, replacement services and wage-loss benefits.
Senate Bill 1 was introduced January 15, 2019. The proposal, which has been referred to the Senate Committee on Insurance and Banking, would:
Give persons age 62 and older the choice of allowing Medicare (or other lifetime healthcare benefits) to cover medical costs after an auto accident.
Give insureds the option of choosing the amount of their no-fault insurance coverage; in other words, capping their benefits.
Purportedly offer “more transparency” in medical provider billing.
Meanwhile, House lawmakers have indicated they plan to introduce their own no-fault legislation (other than the proposed ballot measure) in the coming months. Until they do, a special nine-member House committee has been established to further examine the no-fault system.
House Bill 4024: Look Familiar?
House Bill 4024 – again, a proposal to put auto insurance reform on the statewide ballot in 2020 – mirrors prior failed attempts to overhaul Michigan’s no-fault system. In particular, the measure resembles House Bill 5013 (known as the Duggan-Leonard-Theis plan), which was resoundingly defeated by lawmakers in November 2017.
Let’s take a closer look House Bill 4024 and what it seeks to do.
1. Caps no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
Insureds could select a $250,000 limit or a $500,000 no-fault PIP insurance limit, nixing the unlimited catastrophic injury coverage they currently receive for themselves and their family members. The capped amount would not just pertain to medical costs, but would also be used for replacement services, attendant-care benefits and wage-loss benefits.
House Bill 4024 also offers the choice of a “no maximum limit.” Basically, this would provide the same unlimited catastrophic injury coverage that all Michigan motorists currently have under the existing no-fault insurance system.
What is the concern about limiting no-fault benefits to $250,000 or $500,000? When a person is injured in a Michigan auto accident, no-fault insurance does not only pay their medical expenses. It also pays for any replacement services and attendant-care benefits that are necessary for the injured person’s recovery. In addition, many car crash victims seek no-fault wage-loss benefits because they cannot work due to their injuries. However, a cap of $250,000 or $500,000 is likely going to be wholly insufficient to cover all these costs.
Capping benefits also has other negative consequences:
Forces many car crash victims to seek coverage from their health insurance plan or from Medicare/Medicaid. When this happens, coverage is uncertain because such plans often include coverage exclusions or limitations.
Increases the number of auto accident lawsuits. Injured parties will have no choice but to bring a claim against the at-fault driver for the additional money that is needed, beyond the $250,000 or $500,000 cap, to pay their medical bills.
Forces injured individuals to pay out-of-pocket, using retirement, savings or college education funds to pay for necessary medical care. For those persons who do not have the funds to pay, it forces them into bankruptcy.
2. Purportedly lowers auto insurance rates.
House Bill 4024 says Michigan motorists should see the following “average” insurance savings:
40 percent for policies with a $250,000 cap.
20 percent for policies with a $500,000 cap.
10 percent for policies with “no maximum limit.”
Is it possible to legislate insurance rate reductions? Yes. But when you dig deeper into the language of House Bill 4024, you will see this on page 23: “The premium rates filed, and any subsequent premium rates filed by the insurer for personal protection insurance coverage for automobile insurance policies effective before 5 years after 90 days after the effective date of the amendatory act that added this section, must reflect savings expected from the amendments to this chapter made by the amendatory act that added this section ….”
Similar “5 year” language can be found on page 25 of the bill. Basically, this means that any savings would only be temporary.
Further, House Bill 4024 appears to give insurance companies an “out” when it comes to achieving the required rate reductions. The measure says an insurer that does not reach the required rate reduction can provide “[a] detailed explanation of the reasons for the insurer’s failure to achieve the required reductions and a demonstration using generally accepted and reasonable actuarial techniques that the required reductions are not justified because of requirements under subsection (1) or 1 or more of the following: (i) expected losses of the insurer from the provision of automobile insurance. (ii) inflation …. (iii) a change in an assessment imposed on an insurer ….”
There is also the possibility that any savings witnessed by policyholders could end up being lost two ways: 1) in legal costs, when more lawsuits are filed to collect medical expenses not paid by capped policies, and 2) in out-of-pocket costs for medical care and services not covered by capped policies.
3. Imposes a medical provider fee schedule for auto accident claims.
House Bill 4024 sets forth a medical provider fee schedule that is 100 percent of the workers’ compensation fee schedule. This schedule is insufficient to guarantee that auto accident victims will have access to the quality medical care they need to recover from their injuries.
In fact, the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault (CPAN) says of such a fee schedule: “These substantially lower rates will cause a disincentive for the best medical providers to render care to auto accident victims and will cause the unreimbursed portion of medical care to be shifted to other health care payment systems, including employer-provided health insurance and other insurance plans.”
Senate Bill 1: Where’s The Substance?
Senate Bill 1 lacks any substantive information at this time – and that is on purpose. Lawmakers have said they want to basically mold and create the measure as they move throughout the legislative session.
Here is one portion of Senate Bill 1: “It is the intent of the Legislature … to bring much needed cost controls to the no-fault system, thereby providing rate relief for consumers, reducing the number of uninsured drivers in this state, and incentivizing more automobile insurers to write business in this state.” Other sections follow with the same vague language repeated over and over: “It is the intent of the Legislature ….”
There are, however, a few things that Senate Bill 1 does make clear.
Insureds would be able to “choose an amount of personal injury protection coverage that suits the individual’s needs, lifestyle, and budget,” allowing insureds to “enjoy a corresponding savings on his or her automobile insurance premium that corresponds with the chosen benefit level.”
An “annual utilization review” would be conducted to “reduce overutilization of medical treatments, products, and services related to no-fault insurance claims in this state.” The review would be conducted by an “independent third party” who would “identify utilization above the usual range for the treatment based on medically accepted standards, with consequences for providers that knowingly provide false or misleading information.”
Persons over age 62 with lifetime healthcare benefits could opt out of no-fault insurance coverage, “to enjoy savings … when they effectively already have coverage for injuries in automobile accidents.” Presumably, this language refers to Medicare benefits.
Special No-Fault Committee
A special no-fault committee has been formed that will be responsible for drafting the House’s legislative reform measure (again, different from the ballot proposal in House Bill 4024). The committee will reportedly have the authority to take legislation directly to the House floor for consideration.
According to Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare), who chairs the special committee, the House does not plan to introduce no-fault legislation anytime soon. Rather, the committee will hold hearings so that legislators from both sides of the aisle can become better educated on the issue of auto no-fault insurance.
In addition to Rep. Wentworth, the committee includes: Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), vice-chair; Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp), minority vice-chair; Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp); Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield); Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Owosso); Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain); Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon); and Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit).
Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is set on tackling the growing problem of auto insurance fraud. She has established a new Auto Insurance Fraud Specialist position within the AG’s Office. Keisha Glenn, a former Wayne County assistant prosecuting attorney and lawyer at Hackney Grover in Detroit, has been tapped for the position.
Stay with Christensen Law for updates on the renewed push to reform Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance system.
If you’ve been injured due to a dog bite, or if you are the owner of a dog who has bitten someone, you are probably wondering who is going to be responsible for covering the costs stemming from the injuries the victim sustained. After all, the dog certainly can’t be found liable. Below we discuss Michigan’s dog bite laws and how they can apply to your canine bite case.
Filing Your Claim Within the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Michigan is just three years. This means that you’ll need to file your claim within three years from either the date that you were diagnosed with an injury related to the dog bite, or from the date that the dog bite occurred.
The timing is critical because once the statute of limitations expires, the courts will no longer be willing to hear your case and you’ll be barred from seeking compensation that would cover your damages. If you are unsure of when the statute of limitations began running in your case, speak with your attorney.
Strict Liability for Dog Bites
The state of Michigan follows strict liability law in terms of dog bites. This means that the injury victim will need to demonstrate that their injuries were caused by the dog bite for the owner to be held accountable for the actions of their dog.
It doesn’t matter whether the dog has bitten before or shown a predisposition for aggressive behavior. If the dog bit someone, the owner is responsible for covering the injury victim’s losses.
This law is specifically designed for dog bites, though, and not just any injury that occurs because of a dog. For example, if a dog jumped on you and you fell, this law would not apply to your case. Additionally, you must not have provoked the dog in any way for the law to take effect. Examples of provocation might include one or more of the following:
What’s more, anyone who had been trespassing on the owner’s property will not be able to seek compensation for their losses and will be responsible for covering their own costs. Invited guests of the dog’s owner who are subsequently bit will have their case fall under Michigan’s strict liability dog bite laws.
You can discuss the details of your case with your lawyer for more information about how strict liability law will apply to your case.
Consult a Detroit Personal Injury Lawyer
When you’re interested in holding the dog’s owner accountable for your losses, but you aren’t sure what your next steps should be, reach out to an experienced Detroit personal injury lawyer at David Christensen Law.
We are proud to offer all victims of dog bites a free consultation where we can discuss the details of your case. Schedule yours today by calling our office at 248-213-4900 or by completing the convenient contact form provided at the bottom of this page.
When you’ve suffered a serious injury due to another’s irresponsible and negligent actions, they should be held liable. This includes compensating you for the injuries you sustained and the losses you endured as a result of those injuries.
However, your case could fall apart if your claim isn’t filed within the statute of limitations. What’s more, Michigan allows some exceptions to their statute of limitations that you’ll need to be aware of, as they could apply to your claim. Continue reading to learn more about the statute of limitations in Michigan and the exceptions to the law that you’ll need to know.
The Standard Statute of Limitations
In Michigan, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is just three years from the date that the accident occurred, or three years from the date that you are diagnosed with an injury relating to the accident you were involved in.
This seems like plenty of time, but you might be surprised how time-consuming building your case will be, which is why it’s important to file your claim as soon as possible. If the statute of limitations runs out in your case, the courts will not allow you to have your case heard and you’ll be stuck covering any damages on your own.
When you aren’t sure when the statute of limitations started ticking in your case, discuss the details of your claim with your attorney.
Exceptions to Every Rule
Section 600.5851 of Michigan law lists certain circumstances that allow for the delayed start of the statute of limitations. Some of these scenarios are described as follows:
When the injury victim is considered insane at the time of the accident – In these cases, the victim will have one year following a sane diagnosis to file their claim in court. Insanity, as it pertains to personal injury claims and the statute of limitations, is defined as someone not being able to understand their rights.
If the injury victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident – The statute of limitations for minors does not begin running until they reach the age of 18, at which point they will have one year to file their claim.
When the liable party leaves the state – This is a legal gray area, because with the culpable party out of state, the plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to serve a lawsuit to the defendant.
Should the at-fault entity leave the state after the accident but before the claim is filed in court, and is out of state for two months or longer, the statute of limitations can’t begin running until the liable party returns to the state and the victim is able to serve them.
the exceptions to the statute of limitations can be complex, which is why it’s in your best interest to work with your attorney to determine whether the circumstances of your accident, and the aftermath of it, fall under any of these exceptions.
We offer all injury victims a complimentary case review, where we can discuss the details of your case in greater depth. Take advantage of this opportunity by calling our office at 248-213-4900 or by filling out the brief contact form included at the bottom of this page.
When a child is being taken advantage of in a place where they should feel safe, it’s up to you as their parent to identify and protect them from such abuse. Unfortunately, sexual abuse in public schools happens far more frequently than you might think, and it’s not always apparent.
Children can suffer abuse from anyone they come in contact with at their school. Janitors, school nurses, teachers, the principal, lunch attendants, aides and anyone else who spends time with your child could be the perpetrator of the abuse. For this reason, it’s important that you keep your eye out for the warning signs associated with sexual abuse.
Often, holding the abuser accountable can be empowering for the victim and their family, and help to prevent other children from being harmed. Read on to learn more about signs of abuse and the compensation your family deserves.
Signs of Abuse
There are many signs you can watch for if you suspect your child might be suffering from sexual abuse at their school. Some of the most common red flags include one or more of the following:
Loss of appetite
Desire to self-harm
Refusing to go to school or complete schoolwork
Post-traumatic stress disorder
If you see just one of these signs, it doesn’t always mean that your child is being abused. However, if you see multiple red flags, speak with a skilled mental health counselor to determine if your child has experienced sexual abuse.
If you believe your child is being sexually abused at their public school, the first thing you should do is ensure your child’s immediate safety. Don’t send your child back to school until you’ve contacted the police and they’ve notified the school of their concerns.
You might also consider enrolling your child in counseling and retaining an experienced sexual abuse attorney in Michigan. Working with a lawyer can give you the best chance to obtain justice for your child and secure the compensation they’ll need to move forward with their life.
Bringing the Abuser to Justice
A civil claim is much different than a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, the prosecutor will bring charges against the abuser, whereas a civil suit is brought against the abuser by you and your attorney. Many sexual abuse survivors find that filing a civil lawsuit against their abuser helps them feel empowered, and allows them to heal.
The outcome of a criminal trial should have no bearing on the results of your civil suit, as the burden of proof is much different in a civil suit. In your civil claim, you’ll be seeking compensation for the damages the abuser inflicted on your child. Such losses could include:
When calculating the value of your claim, your attorney will review all of the ways your child’s life has been impacted by the abuse. Your child has the right to secure maximum compensation for their suffering. A sexual abuse lawyer can help.
Consult a Sex Abuse Lawyer
When you’re ready to hold your child’s abuser accountable for their abhorrent actions, get in touch with an experienced sex abuse lawyer at David Christensen Law.
Our firm will work tirelessly to obtain the funds you need to move forward with your lives. You can give our office a call at 248-213-4900, or fill out the online form below to schedule your free case review today.
Michigan is a no-fault state for auto insurance, which means you’ll need to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage on your auto insurance policy. In the case of a car accident, you’ll file a claim through your own insurer. PIP coverage will cover your medical expenses and lost wages up to the limits of your policy.
However, when another driver is liable for your damages, your insurance company will attempt to recover the amount paid to you from the at-fault driver or their insurance company. This is referred to as subrogation. It’s an opportunity for auto insurance companies to recoup the funds they’ve paid out to their policyholders.
If you receive a subrogation letter from the insurance company of the other involved party, an experienced car accident attorney can help explain your options. Insurance companies are notorious for taking advantage of those in need, which is why working with a lawyer can ensure you don’t hurt your claim or lose out on the compensation you need for recovery.
When Subrogation Is Used
Subrogation doesn’t happen until after the settlement has been issued. Typically, drivers don’t need to deal with subrogation at all, as it’s usually discussed directly between insurance companies. When opting to pursue subrogation, the insurer will be obligated to inform you of the decision to proceed.
You could be expected to provide additional information about the accident, including documentation. And, you might be able to recover your deductible if subrogation is successful. Here’s how it works: the insurance company covers your damages. Then, the insurer could decide to pursue subrogation against whoever is at fault for the accident, and then work to recover the funds paid out for the settlement.
Liability and Waiving Subrogation
When the insurance company investigates the accident, it’s to establish fault. If you are found to be partially liable, the deductible you’d be able to recover will be reduced based on the percentage of blame you’re assigned. For example, if you are found to be 10 percent liable for a $1,000 deductible, you could only receive 90 percent—or $900—back.
It’s important to note that you should always discuss your settlement with your attorney before signing anything. Insurance providers will often attempt to include a waiver of subrogation clause in the settlement agreement. If your insurance company sees this clause, it could refuse to pay out on your claim, as those funds will become unrecoverable from the other driver’s insurance company.
Reach Out to a Michigan Car Accident Lawyer
The laws surrounding auto insurance and car accidents can be quite complex and difficult to understand, if you aren’t trained and experienced in this area. The insurance company will likely attempt to capitalize on this lack of knowledge and take advantage of you to reduce their financial loss.
Our highly trained attorneys at David Christensen Law are prepared to handle the insurer on your behalf, which enables you to focus on your recovery.
We proudly offer our prospective clients a complimentary case review to discuss the initial details of your case. You can schedule yours today by calling our office at 248-213-4900, or by filling out the convenient contact form at the bottom of this page.
David Christensen is the founder of Christensen Law, which has locations in Southfield and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together with his team of talented trial attorneys, he will stand up for you against insurance providers and other tough defendants. David has one of the best reputations in the state when it comes to auto accident and […]
Sarah Stempky Kime is a key part of Christensen Law, which has locations in Southfield and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Working alongside head attorney David Christensen since 2010, she is one of the team members who will stand up for you in the courtroom. Sarah is responsive and compassionate when it comes to her clients. She […]
Tom Economy is an Associate Attorney at Christensen Law, with offices in Southfield, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan. An experienced trial attorney, Economy joined the Christensen Law team in November 2016. He is ready and able to stand beside our injured motorist clients in the conference room and in court. TOM ECONOMY STANDS BESIDE YOU […]
Deborah A. Tonelli is an Associate Attorney at Christensen Law, with offices in Southfield, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Deb has worked with Founder David Christensen for 9 years as a contract attorney before joining Christensen Law officially in June 2016. As a key part of the presuit team, Deb will be with you from […]
Dustin C. Hoff is an Associate Attorney at Christensen Law, practicing out of both the Southfield, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan offices. He has been working alongside Founder David Christensenand Attorney Sarah Stempky Kime since April 2015. As a key part of the legal team, Dustin will be there for you in court. DUSTIN C. HOFF’S ROLE AT […]
Michelle R. Waddell is Christensen Law’s Firm Administrator. She manages the day to day policies and procedures to keep the office running smoothly and is the main contact for anything dealing with our computer system, including dealing one on one with the technicians and account representatives on the programs we use, both in trouble shooting […]
Stephanie McPherson is Christensen Law’s Litigation Paralegal. As a paralegal, she assists the lawyers with cases and handles a lot of the procedural aspects of the files. She is the one you can call with all your questions about how your case is progressing. Stephanie works with clients from day one, performing initial client intake […]
Stacey is a Legal Assistant at Christensen Law, working with attorney Tom Economy. She has over 30 years’ experience working in the legal field, is a Certified Member of the Michigan State Bar Legal Assistant Section, and is a Notary Public. Stacey works in the office to support Mr. Economy in handling his calendar, preparing […]
Courtney Hedler is a Legal Assistant at Christensen Law, with offices in Southfield, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has been working for founder David Christensen since June 2015. You may meet Courtney when you call in to the office. COURTNEY HEDLER, LEARNING WITHIN CHRISTENSEN LAW Over her time with Christensen Law, Courtney’s role has grown from […]
Ericka is our receptionist. She is the first smiling face you see when you walk into our office and the pleasant voice you hear when you call us. She makes sure to direct you to the right person efficiently, and if that person isn’t available, she goes above and beyond to try to help the […]
Kimberly Martin is a Lead Legal Assistant at Christensen Law, with offices in Southfield, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has been working for founder David Christensen since July 2015. Medical provider clients may meet Kimberly when you call or visit the Christensen Law offices. HELPING MEDICAL PROVIDERS GET PAID Kimberly is a key part of the […]
Kecha is a Legal Assistant who works with Dustin Hoff on provider cases. Kecha helps Dustin with filing all the initial paperwork with the court when we need to file suit because we cannot get the insurance company to pay voluntarily, as well as works on drafting and filing all the supporting document we need […]
Rashia is a Legal Assistant who works with Dustin Hoff in the provider department. She has been working with the firm since 2016 and has over 12 years’ experience working in the legal field. Rashia works hands on with provider cases and assist Dustin with drafting and filing all the initial paperwork with the court […]
Lori Freeman Legal Assistant Lori is a Legal Assistant who works with Dustin Hoff on provider cases. She has several years’ experience of working in the legal field. Lori helps with Dustin’s calendar by preparing him for court appearances as well as deals with the closing documents on all our provider cases once they are […]
Leslie Christensen has a 20-year background in operations, sales and management for Apple Computer and DTE Energy. This experience brings a unique ability to organize efficiently while focusing on customer service. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, she has experienced the startup of multiple companies, growing systems, marketing campaigns, employee headcount and clients at […]
Linda has an expertise in accounting, cost and system operations and coordination of work processes, that allows her to work well in our fast-paced environment. With her demonstrated success in problem solving, process improvement and organizational ability, she is able to handle our company financial needs in a professional and timely manner. Linda has been […]
Many people think that they simply need to contact their insurance company after a vehicle crash, and in some cases, this is the correct response; however, if you’ve been seriously injured in your crash, you’ll want a lawyer to help you handle your vehicle wreck claim.
That’s because if you’ve been seriously injured, you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim against an at-fault party after a car crash.
What’s that you say? You thought Michigan was a no-fault state? It is! But the exception to filing a claim with your own insurance provider is when you’ve received a great injury and extensive damages.
A lawyer will help you obtain monetary compensation from the negligent party’s insurance company, ensuring that you are adequately compensated for your injuries and your economic and non-economic losses. Here we cover the main reasons why you’ll need a lawyer for your car accident claim.
Reason 1 – Help with Determining Fault
The first reason to hire a lawyer is to help you determine the cause of your crash as well as who is liable for your injuries. You must be able to prove your claim if you expect to receive a payment.
Gathering evidence in your injured state would be difficult on your own, but you don’t have to do this by yourself. A lawyer will help investigate the crash, collect evidence, and advise you on what types of documentation you’ll need to win your claim.
Reason 2 – Assistance with Paperwork and Other Legal Matters
Once you believe you have a decent case, you’ll need to actually file your claim paperwork. If you don’t know what you’re doing, your claim could be denied on technicalities.
The third reason to get legal assistance with filing a claim is that your lawyer will deal with the insurance companies for you. Insurance companies sometimes have a way of taking advantage of vehicle crash victims who don’t have representation.
Your attorney will make sure to negotiate maximum compensation for your injuries and losses, and we won’t let the insurers treat you unfairly. Going it alone could mean getting less compensation than you rightly deserve.
Speak with a Car Crash Claim Lawyer
Serious injuries mean serious losses for you, such as medical expenses, missed wages, mental health treatment costs, physical therapy costs, pain, suffering, and loss of life enjoyment. You can be compensated for all of these losses, but the best way to get the money that’s owed to you is to work with an experienced auto wreck lawyer.
To get in touch with a car accident attorney at David Christensen Law, you can dial us directly 248-213-4900, or you can enter your contact information into the form on this page. Our firm offers free claim assessments so you can easily get an idea regarding how much your case is worth.
You were going along, maybe heading into the office, when out of the blue a distracted driver struck you. How do you know that a person was driving distracted? In some cases, phone records will demonstrate cell phone use while driving. In other cases, the driver may admit that they weren’t paying attention.
The result? Serious injuries for you that could have easily been prevented had the other driver been paying attention.
Driving distracted has been found to be as dangerous as drunk driving in many cases.
What Is Distracted Driving?
It’s when you engage in any other behavior while driving that is diverting your attention away from the road and the task of driving. Pretty much anything that takes your attention can be a form of distracted driving. Here are some of the most common examples:
Cell phone use, especially texting
Eating and drinking
Changing the radio station
Talking with or looking at other passengers in the vehicle
Putting on makeup in the car
Texting Seems to Be the Worst Form of Distracted Driving
All distracted driving is dangerous and can lead to accidents, but texting while driving has become especially concerning. Texting takes a lot of attention away from driving for a lengthy period of time, and auto accidents are often the result.
What Are the Consequences of Distracted Driving?
Regrettably, thousands of people are killed each year because of distracted driving in this country alone, and countless more are injured. Cell phone use especially has become a major risk factor in today’s world. If a distracted driver has injured you, you have options to recover monetary compensation for all the suffering your accident has put you through.
Have You Been Injured by a Distracted Driver?
If you’ve been seriously hurt in a vehicle crash, you may be able to take your accident claim out of Michigan’s no-fault system and file a personal injury claim. Filing a claim against a negligent driver can allow you to recoup the financial losses you’ve suffered, and it allows you to obtain some justice for this experience.
Distracted driving is dangerous, and your claim could prevent other people from being hurt. Some of the types of damages you can seek when filing a personal injury claim are:
You were being a safe and careful driver and you were injured because of another person’s recklessness—you deserve justice and monetary compensation! The only way to get it is to file an injury claim against the party that hurt you. Filing a claim isn’t easy, and Michigan has some special laws that need to be considered during the process. Get help with your claim today.
It has been several years since the Michigan Court of Appeals issued its groundbreaking decision in Bahri v IDS Property Casualty Ins Co, holding that alleged fraud by an insured voids the entire no-fault policy, thereby eliminating the insurance company’s obligation to pay benefits.
Although the Bahri ruling was appealed, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to review the decision. As a result, Bahri stands as a victory for auto insurance companies across the state.
Once Bahri was decided, insurance carriers immediately began scouring the no-fault claims of Michigan auto accident victims, looking for any sign of potential fraud, in hopes they will not have to pay personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
Bahri triggered a firestorm in the auto insurance industry: aggressively litigate any possible sign of fraud – even the littlest mistake by an insured.
And therein lies the danger of Bahri. The slightest misstep … even an honest error… will now result not only in protracted litigation, but the denial of PIP benefits – lifetime benefits to which insureds are entitled under the No-Fault Act.
In Bahri, the plaintiff had a no-fault insurance policy with the defendant, IDS Property Casualty Insurance Company. Like most no-fault policies, the plaintiff’s policy included a general fraud exclusion. The fraud exclusion in the policy said, “We do not provide coverage for any insured who has made fraudulent statements or engaged in fraudulent conduct in connection with any accident or loss for which coverage is sought under this policy.”
The plaintiff alleged she was injured in a car accident and sought PIP benefits from the defendant, including replacement services. As required, the plaintiff submitted “Household Services Statements” setting forth the replacement services provided to the plaintiff on a daily basis from October 2011 through February 2012. The defendant noted that, while the car accident happened on October 20, 2011, the Household Services Statements indicated the plaintiff received replacement services for the full month of October. In addition, the defendant surveilled the plaintiff and captured her on video bending, lifting, driving and running errands during the time she had claimed replacement services.
The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim for PIP benefits, arguing she was not entitled to coverage because she had made fraudulent misrepresentations in violation of the policy’s general fraud exclusion. The trial court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s no-fault claim.
The Court of Appeals affirmed. “Reasonable minds could not differ in light of this clear evidence that plaintiff made fraudulent representations for purposes of recovering PIP benefits,” the Court of Appeals said. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s application to appeal.
Gotcha’ Defense Tool
The Bahri decision opened the fraud floodgates. Now, insurance companies are constantly filing dismissal motions and relying on Bahri to assert that the insured engaged in some type of fraud.
Let’s be clear: plaintiffs’ attorneys acknowledge that Bahri involved a clear-cut case of insurance fraud. However, insurers have been taking the Bahri ruling further and arguing that any questionable statement by an insured supports a motion to dismiss the entire PIP claim. For example, insurers are continuously filing motions to dismiss PIP claims based on inconsistencies on forms. Insurers are also filing dismissal motions based on statements that raise questions about the credibility of the insured, which is an issue for a jury to decide and not a judge on a dismissal motion.
Basically, Bahri is being used as a “gotcha” insurance defense tactic to call out what is often a minor technical and oftentimes honest mistake, in hopes of eliminating PIP coverage.
Problem is, this is not how Michigan’s no-fault system is designed to operate. The No-Fault Act was adopted to ensure the prompt payment of insurance benefits to persons who are injured in auto accidents. It was not enacted so that insurance companies could try to wiggle out of paying the statutory benefits to which policyholders are entitled.
Also, keep in mind that if an insured cannot collect PIP benefits because of alleged fraud under Bahri, then neither can the medical providers that treated their auto accident injuries. “Because plaintiff’s claim for PIP benefits is precluded, intervening plaintiffs’ claim for PIP benefits is similarly barred, as they stand in the shoes of plaintiff,” the Bahri Court said of the doctors who treated the plaintiff and who were seeking to recover payment for their services.
To make matters worse, after the Bahri Court ruled the plaintiff’s medical providers could not recover no-fault benefits, the Michigan Supreme Court came to its sweeping conclusion in Covenant Medical Center Inc v State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins Co that medical providers cannot directly sue insurance companies to collect PIP benefits – that is, payment for their services.
Innocent Mistake Or Fraud?
Bahri is the law unless the decision is overturned by a Michigan appellate court. Therefore, the crucial question for insureds is this: when is a mistake a mistake, and when is it fraud?
Unfortunately, it appears under Bahri that any misstep by a policyholder will be labeled as fraud – even an innocent mistake. The cry of “fraud” by insurance carriers is similar to what currently happens during independent medical exams (IMEs), where doctors hired by insurance companies quickly conclude the insured is really not injured at all or that the injuries are being exaggerated.
Because of Bahri, Michigan auto accident victims must be extremely careful when filing a claim for no-fault benefits. For example, a claim for PIP benefits will come under intense scrutiny where a mistake is made or inconsistences are found on replacement services, attendant-care or wage-loss forms, or the insured simply forgot to include information about a prior medical condition.
At one time, innocent mistakes on an insurance form would not have necessarily jeopardized a PIP claim. Instead, the insurance company would have asked for clarification or denied only that part of the claim where the mistake occurred.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case under Bahri. Rather than asking for clarification or denying only part of a claim, insurers are seeking to eliminate all no-fault coverage. The past few years since Bahri was issued have proven this to be true. Insurance companies are scrutinizing every detail of PIP claims and are surveilling their policyholders, hoping to find even the slightest notion of fraud. It is not an exaggeration to say that insurers are screaming “fraud!” at every possible opportunity.
Michigan drivers now live in the world of Bahri. As such, no-fault policyholders must be more vigilant than ever when completing insurance claim forms because an innocent mistake can cost a lifetime of insurance coverage.
If you have questions about your no-fault insurance benefits, Christensen Law can help.
However, in cases where a person has died, been disabled or suffered a serious impairment in an auto accident, it may be necessary to seek damages from the person who caused the accident – that is, the at-fault driver. In these unfortunate instances, an auto negligence lawsuit may be filed against the negligent driver and his insurance carrier.
But what happens if an at-fault driver has lousy auto insurance coverage? What if the at-fault driver doesn’t have any car insurance at all?
That’s where uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage come into play. It’s important to know that these two types of insurance are not part of your standard no-fault policy. Rather, they must be purchased separately and operate in addition to your existing no-fault coverage.
Here at Christensen Law, we strongly encourage Michigan motorists to purchase both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If you do not obtain these optional coverages, then you are not fully protecting you and your loved ones in the event of a car accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Simply put, an uninsured motorist (UM) policy protects you from persons who are driving without any auto insurance.
Even though no-fault insurance is required by state law, Michigan ranks 4th in the nation for the number of drivers operating their vehicles without insurance. According to the most recent statistics, nearly 21 percent of Michigan drivers do not have insurance coverage.
When a driver negligently causes an accident, that driver and his insurance company can be sued for two types of damages: 1) excess economic loss and 2) non-economic loss (i.e., pain and suffering). These damages are in addition to the no-fault benefits you receive from your own insurer.
But if the at-fault driver doesn’t have car insurance, you won’t be able to get these additional damages – that is, unless you’ve purchased an uninsured motorist policy. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, it will kick in if you are hurt in a crash with an uninsured, negligent driver.
How does uninsured motorist coverage work? After the crash, you file a claim with the insurance carrier that sold you the uninsured motorist policy. In many instances, this will be your own no-fault insurer, although some insurance companies do not provide uninsured motorist coverage. The insurer that provided the uninsured motorist policy then basically takes the place of the uninsured (at-fault) driver and pays damages above and beyond the PIP benefits that you received.
Believe it or not, uninsured motorist coverage is quite affordable. A good policy can usually be purchased for about $30-$40 a year.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Like uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage offers Michigan motorists extra protection and is purchased in addition to a standard no-fault policy. However, while uninsured motorist coverage protects you from drivers without any insurance, an underinsured motorist policy protects you from drivers with bad insurance.
Why would a driver have shoddy insurance? Because Michigan motorists are only required to carry a minimum of $20,000 in auto insurance coverage. Many of these bare-bones policies are capped at a payout of $40,000 per accident, no matter how seriously injured someone may be.
When it comes to underinsured motorist coverage, there are some critical things to remember. First, certain prerequisites must usually be met before making a claim, such as exhausting the negligent driver’s liability limits. Also, an underinsured motorist policy may include specific conditions that must be satisfied before a claim can be filed, like a time limit for notifying the insurance carrier of the potential claim. So be sure to read your underinsured policy carefully and be aware of any conditions that apply.
Similar to uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured coverage is quite affordable. Drivers can typically get a decent policy for around $50-$60 a year.
If you’ve been injured in a Michigan car accident and think you may have an auto negligence claim, or have questions about your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, the Detroit car accident attorneys at Christensen Law can help. Contact us today.