After a car crash in Michigan, several different insurance companies and policies are responsible for paying different parts of your damages. In general, three different potential claims exist that a crash victim may have. The first is for No-Fault insurance benefits. The second is for your pain and suffering compensation following the crash. The third is for a mini tort recovery to pay for vehicle repair costs.
In most instances, if you have been injured in an auto accident, the the following insurance carriers owe the three above benefits:
You must notify your No-Fault carrier if you were injured in a crash. You have one year from the date of the crash to fill out an "application for No-Fault benefits" which your insurance carrier will provide to you upon receiving notification of the crash. Typically a phone call to your own No-Fault carrier will begin the claims process, and they will furnish to you an application for benefits.
No-Fault benefits provide for 5 distinct categories of benefits when you have been involved in a car crash, regardless if the crash was your fault or not (hence the term "no-fault benefits.") Those 5 categories are: 1) Medical bills for crash-related injuries, 2) lost wages due to crash related injuries, 3) replacement services around your home, 4) attendant care benefits if you require at-home nursing or medical attention, and 5) medical transportation to and from your crash-related appointments.
Determining what insurance company is required to pay for the above No-Fault benefits can be confusing. In general, if you own a vehicle and have car insurance, then that carrier will provide the benefits. If you don't own a vehicle that has car insurance, then determining what insurance company owes you No-Fault benefits is more complicated. Contacting an experienced Michigan car crash attorney will help you determine what insurance company is responsible.
Often times people injured in auto accidents in Michigan don't need an attorney to represent them with No-Fault benefits. However, if the insurance company decides to stop paying your claims, or refuses outright, then contact an experienced Michigan auto accident attorney to represent you.
You should always contact a Michigan auto accident attorney to recover for pain and suffering against the at-fault driver. Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to recover for excess medical bills (that your own No-Fault coverage above does not cover) and for excess wage loss. These questions require an attorney to discuss your potential case with you.
An auto accident victim typically has three years to sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering. Calculating the exact "statute of limitations" however is not straightforward, and an experienced Michigan auto accident attorney will help you navigate this process.
Sometimes the at-fault driver's insurance company will want to settle the claim before a lawsuit is filed. However, in most instances, a lawsuit must be filed to recover the maximum amount of compensation on our client's behalf.
If a loved one dies as a result of an auto accident the "Wrongful Death" laws of Michigan are triggered. These specific laws dealing with the death of a victim have numerous Court requirements above and beyond what is described above. A "Personal Representative" of the Estate of the deceased must be appointed, and that individual acts as the legal representative of the deceased. The Personal Representative may then file a lawsuit against the at-fault drive just like the deceased could have if they survived.
The surviving family of the deceased is allowed to collect all damages that the deceased could have if they survived, as well as damages for "Loss of Society and Companionship." The surviving family may also collect damages for funeral expenses and loss of financial support.
Wrongful death lawsuits are complicated, and should always be undertaken with the help and support of an experienced Michigan auto accident attorney.
"UM" and "UIM" claims stand for "Uninsured Motorist" and "Underinsured Motorist" claims. These insurance claims involve recovering compensation from your own insurance company for damages that the at-fault driver would have been responsible for if the at-fault driver had higher insurance limits, or any insurance at all. You should always work with an experienced Michigan auto accident attorney when attempting to recover these benefits.
Different insurance companies have different "statues of limitations" for UM and UIM claims, so you must contact a Michigan attorney as soon as possible regarding your case to determine if a claim should be filed.
If you carry collision coverage then your vehicle damage claims are covered by your own car insurance company. You may also sue the at-fault driver for a "mini-tort" for up to $3,000 of repairs. The "mini-tort" claim must be filed in Small Claims Court, and you are not allowed to hire an attorney for that process.
Some at-fault drivers carry insurance that covers the "mini-tort" aspect of a claim. In that case the at-fault driver's insurance company is liable for the $3,000. If that claim is denied, then you will have to sue the at-fault driver in Small Claims Court.