It’s not the first thing you think of in the moments after impact. But after the dust has settled, the police report has been made, the car’s been towed and you’ve received medical treatment, the thought occurs to you: how am I going to pay for all of this?
If you’ve been involved in a serious car accident, Michigan no-fault insurance law means that you will be entitled to certain benefits. Learn what they are, and what you need to do in order to access them.
Michigan First-Party and Third-Party Auto Insurance Claims
Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law can be confusing at first glance. If you are in a car accident, what benefits are you entitled to, and from whom? How do you pursue those benefits? The first thing to know is that there are two types of cases, commonly referred to as first-party (no-fault) and third-party (uninsured motorist coverage).
In a first-party situation, the case is between you and your own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault for the accident (hence the name “no-fault insurance”). First-party benefits are also known as personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. They include:
- Medical expenses related to your car accident
- Compensation for lost wages for three years following the accident
- Payment for attendant care (nursing assistance and help with activities of daily living, such as bathing)
- Payment for household replacement services (such as housework, yard work, or child care you cannot do because of your injury
- Reimbursement for transportation expenses to and from medical treatments, rehabilitation, and therapy related to injuries from the accident
What if you don’t have your own auto insurance policy? You may still be covered under someone else’s policy for PIP benefits, such as a member of your household who does have an auto policy, or the owner of the vehicle in which you were riding at the time of the accident.
Receipt of these benefits is not automatic. If you fail to take the proper steps to secure benefits, you will be permanently barred from claiming them. You must, within one year of the accident date, file an application for no-fault benefits with the correct insurance company. Although you have a year to do this, you should file this document as soon as possible. If your insurer does not pay the full amount of your medical bills or other expenses, you will need to file a lawsuit to recover those expenses within one year from the date they were incurred. If you miss this critical deadline, recovery will be barred, even if you otherwise have a right to those benefits.
A third-party case is between you and another driver who was at fault in your car accident. In a third-party case, you would sue the driver at fault for damages for your pain and suffering, and for any excess economic damages you may have suffered. The at-fault driver’s insurance company typically pays these damages. As sometimes happens, the driver at fault may not have procured the insurance they were supposed to carry. If that is the case, you will be able to file an “uninsured motorist claim” against your own insurer or the insurer of the vehicle in which you were traveling at the time of the accident.
Do I Need a Lawyer if I’ve Been in a Car Accident in Michigan?
You may receive a fairly prompt settlement offer from an insurance company, but that doesn’t mean you should take it. The offer may seem generous, and the prospect of avoiding a lawsuit tempting, especially if you are in pain. The reality is that you can’t know soon after an accident what your true expenses will be, and if you accept a settlement, you will be prevented for asking for more later if it turns your expenses were greater than you expected. Never accept a settlement before consulting with a qualified Michigan personal injury attorney.
Talk to an experienced Oakland County personal injury attorney to learn more about what benefits you are entitled to after an automobile accident, and how to claim them. Attorney Jim Hubbert has helped numerous Michigan clients navigate the aftermath of an auto accident.