June 1st, 2017
Sometimes it's a close friend, an acquaintance, or a even family member: They agree to drive, but through their own fault, injure the passengers. They may collide with another vehicle, loose control on an icy road, or strike a tree. While seeking compensation against a friend can be uncomfortable, you are entitled to it. In this scenario, who pays for the passenger’s injuries?
Our experienced personal injury attorneys at Muth Law know Michigan’s auto accident and insurance laws and guide injured passengers through the process to secure maximum reimbursement, enabling the injured individuals to focus on recovering. In the situation where someone is injured in an accident as a passenger in a car, and the driver of that car is responsible for the accident, there are some general rules that apply.
Michigan No-Fault Insurance Act
In the case of any auto accident in Michigan, the state’s complex No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act applies. Generally, for every auto accident involving serious injury or death, there are two types of claims available:
- First-party (“no-fault”) or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, which include medical and rehabilitation expenses, wage loss benefits, replacement service expenses, and survivor’s loss benefits when the accident results in death.
- Third-party tort liability claim benefits, paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance company for pain and suffering damages and excess economic loss; if the accident results in death, a claim under the Michigan Wrongful Death Act may also be available.
Tort Liability / "Third-Party" Claims
Called "third-party" claims, tort liability entitles a seriously-injured passenger to sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering damages. In Michigan, if you're injured in an auto accident, your injuries must meet a threshold before you can file a "third-party" claim. At Muth Law, we refer to that threshold as "you must be this injured to sue," similar to a Cedar Point Amusement Park ride height requirement. The purpose of the threshold is to prevent cases involving very minor injuries from clogging up the court system. The requirement is defined as "a serious impairment of a body function." Contact Muth Law today to discuss if your injuries amount to a "serious impairment of a body function." Once that threshold is met, the injured passenger may sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering damages.
However, sometimes the driver of the vehicle does not have adequate insurance, or is uninsured. In that instance, the injured passenger can look to their own auto insurance policy for pain and suffering damages. To look to their own auto insurance policy, the injured passenger must have special insurance, called Uninsured Motorist coverage and/or Underinsured Motorist coverage, also sometimes referred to as "UM/UIM." Contact Muth Law today to discuss how to determine if you carry Uninsured/Underinsured coverage. If you do carry that insurance, then your own auto insurance company steps into the shoes of the at-fault driver and must compensate you for your pain and suffering.
Lastly, some insurance policies specifically exclude family members suing each other for damages. If you were injured as a passenger as a result of a family member's negligence behind the wheel, then contact Muth Law immediately to discuss your claim. We know how to get compensation for injured passengers due to the negligence of family members.
As with any Michigan vehicle accident, the first order of business is to get well. In most circumstances, you have three years to file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver. You should always get healthy and focus on your recovery. Muth Law, P.C. will take care of the third-party claim for you.
PIP / No-Fault Benefits and Claims
For a passenger injured in an accident that was the fault of the person driving the car in which the injured person was riding, no-fault benefits are usually available. In Michigan, there is a specific order in which the passenger can make an insurance claim. It applies no matter who is at fault in the accident. The no-fault law establishes these priorities:
Priority 1: No-Fault Insurer of the Passenger
The injured person must first make a claim for no-fault (PIP) benefits with his or her own insurance company, which is the company that issued a policy in which he or she is named as an insured.
Priority 2: No-Fault Insurer of the Passenger’s Spouse
If the injured person is not named on an auto insurance policy, he or she may claim no-fault benefits from the insurance company of a spouse.
Priority 3: No-Fault Insurer of the Passenger’s Resident Relative
If neither the injured person nor his or her spouse have no-fault insurance, the injured person may claim benefits from the insurance company of a relative of either the passenger or his/her spouse who lives in the same household (“resident relative”).
Priority 4: No-Fault Insurer of the Owner or Registrant of the Car
If the injured person does not have either a no-fault policy or a spouse or resident relative with a no-fault policy, the injured individual may recover no-fault benefits from the insurance company of either the owner or registrant of the vehicle in which the injured person was an occupant.
Priority 5: No-Fault Insurer of the Operator of the Car
If the owner and registrant of the car have no insurance, the injured person may recover no-fault benefits from the operator of the car in which the injured person was riding.
Priority 6: Michigan Assigned Claims Facility
If all of the persons named above are uninsured — so that none of the above options are available — the injured person may file a claim with the Michigan Assigned Claims Facility. The Facility will assign the claim to a participating no-fault insurance company.
Exceptions to the Priority Rules
There are some exceptions to the priority rules:
- Vehicles for Hire: In some situations, the injured passenger may be able to collect directly from the insurer of the vehicle, regardless of whether the injured passenger has his or her own insurance policy. There are some exemptions.
- Employer-Provided Vehicles: If a passenger is injured while in a vehicle owned or registered with his or her employer, the injured passenger may collect from the employer’s insurance company, regardless of whether the passenger has his or her own policy. The passenger’s spouse and other resident relatives may also collect through the employer’s policy. The exception applies regardless of whether the accident occurred within the scope of employment.
- Motorcycle Accidents: Michigan law does not require motorcyclists to purchase no-fault policies, but a motorcyclist injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle is entitled to no-fault benefits. The rules of priority are different than for passengers in a motor vehicle.
Contact Us for a Free Confidential Auto Accident Consultation
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Michigan, your focus should be on recovering from your injuries, not spending time trying to understand Michigan’s complex no-fault insurance laws. Our personal injury attorneys at Muth Law have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies to secure maximum economic recovery for our clients.
Your initial consultation is free-of-charge and completely confidential. You never pay a fee unless we recover money for you. We work with clients in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and throughout Michigan. Please contact us to schedule your free case evaluation by calling 734-481-8800 or completing our online form.
Categories: Auto Accidents