Michigan law is clear that for an at-fault driver to be liable for noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) to a car accident victim, the injured person must have “suffered death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement.”
Whether an injured person falls into one of the latter two prongs often requires an intimate knowledge of Michigan caselaw, which is precisely what our attorneys at Macomb Injury Lawyers specialize in. We are devoted to representing victims of auto accidents and can clearly tell you whether you have a case based on the law.
Once a case is filed against an at-fault driver, the question for personal injury attorneys becomes what insurance policies are available to compensate a victim for his or her injuries? While it may seem like a simple concept, there are several possibilities that are discussed in further detail below.
Does the At-Fault Driver Have Insurance?
The first thing we must discover is whether the at-fault driver had insurance on his or her vehicle at the time of an accident. If the car was insured, the question becomes how much coverage is on the vehicle for “Bodily Injury” (also referred to as “BI” in the industry)?
If you look at the Declarations Page of your own auto insurance policy, you will see a list of coverages, the first typically being for Bodily Injury. In most cases, Bodily Injury coverage has a separate limit per person and per accident or occurrence.
By way of example, if the Bodily Injury coverage listed on a Declarations Page is $100,000 / $300,000, that means the highest amount the insurance company must pay each person involved in the accident for personal injury is $100,000 but the most it could be liable for the entire crash is $300,000 if there were multiple injured parties involved.
What if the At-Fault Driver Does Not Have Enough Insurance to Cover My Injuries? Underinsured Motorist Benefits.
This is best explained by way of hypothetical. Let’s say the at-fault driver only has the State minimum Bodily Injury coverage in the amount of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident, and the victim of the crash is significantly injured to the point where spinal surgery is required and he or she can no longer work. In that scenario, $20,000 is clearly not enough to compensate the victim for the pain and suffering endured as a result of the crash. That is where we next look to your own insurance policy for what is known as “Underinsured Motorist” (or “UIM”) coverage.
Unlike Bodily Injury coverage, Underinsured Motorist coverage is OPTIONAL protection, though normally offered by insurance companies. Like Bodily Injury coverage, however, you can look to the Declarations Page of your own auto insurance policy to see whether you have Underinsured Motorist benefits. If you don’t have it, we strongly recommend you contact your insurance representative to discuss adding the coverage to your policy. In many cases, it may only cost a few extra dollars in premiums!
UIM coverage is very important to maintain on a vehicle because in the hypothetical discussed above, the at-fault driver would be considered “underinsured” and the injured party can then look to their own insurance company to seek additional compensation for their injuries and won’t be capped at the $20,000 carried by the at-fault driver.
The Bodily Injury and Underinsured Motorist limits cannot be stacked, however, meaning if the at-fault driver had a $20,000 in BI coverage and the victim had $100,000 in UIM benefits, the most the victim’s insurer could potentially be liable for is the difference between the two policies: $80,000.
What if the At-Fault Driver Does Not Have Insurance? Uninsured Motorist Benefits.
Like UIM coverage, if the driver who caused the accident was driving an uninsured vehicle at the time of an accident, the victim can then look to their own auto insurer for “Uninsured Motorist” (or “UM”) benefits to compensate the victim for their pain and suffering sustained in an accident.
UM coverage also is not mandatory but can be found listed on the Declarations Page of your insurance policy – if you have it. Seeing how many people in Michigan are driving around with the bare minimum BI coverage or no insurance at all, however, we again strongly urge you to contact your insurance representative to discuss adding it to your policy. It’s for your own protection!
CALL US TODAY! WE CAN HELP!
If you’ve been injured in an accident and want to know whether you have a case, CALL US AT MACOMB INJURY LAWYERS TODAY AT (586) 333-3000.
Let us deal with the insurance companies to get you the compensation you deserve!