Representing people who have been injured in automobile accidents in the Kalamazoo area is the primary focus at the Giffels Law Office. Michigan law in this area has undergone a great deal of change recently. Therefore, it is vital that people involved in serious injury automobile accidents consult with an experienced, aggressive auto accident attorney. Not many auto accident lawyers have handled million dollar cases like Attorney James Giffels.
Michigan has a “no-fault” law relative to automobile accidents. This law provides you with valuable benefits if you are involved in an accident.
“No-fault” simply means that you make a claim against your own insurance company for medical, wage loss and property damages related to the accident. If you have serious injuries you may be able to make a claim against the other driver or owner.
Medical expenses include all medical and transportation expenses reasonably related to your injuries. It is wise to keep a log of your expenses and submit them to your insurance company. Transportation expenses include mileage reimbursement for trips to the doctor, hospital or physical therapy. These medical benefits are not time limited. In other words, if you have a permanent injury, they are lifelong in nature. Michigan is one of the few states which have lifetime medical care as part of their automobile law.
The wage loss provision of the No-fault Act requires that your insurance company reimburse you for 85% of the wages you lose as a result of your injuries. This wage loss provision is limited to three (3) years.
If your injuries are serious you may be able to make a claim against the at-fault driver for your injuries. The law requires that you sustain an injury involving “death or serious impairment of an important bodily function” before you are entitled to benefits from the at-fault driver. If you have scarring, the scars must be serious and permanent. A free consultation from an expert attorney like James Giffels is an important step early in the process.
Unlike many other attorneys, James Giffels does not represent insurance companies . . . only injured people. Kalamazoo Auto Accident Attorney Giffels takes pride in the success he has had in helping victims of negligent and careless drivers. Call today for a free consultation to find out what your rights are.
Call Giffels Law (269) 381-4172
What should I do if I am hurt in a traffic accident?
The most important thing to do if you are hurt in an accident is to seek medical attention. At the accident scene, you should get the driver’s license numbers and vehicle registration information along with the names and addresses of vehicle passengers and bystanders who may have witnessed the accident. Don’t forget that many people are in shock after a collision and fail to realize they are injured. Some injuries don’t start to hurt for 24 hours or more after the accident. The next thing you should do is call your insurance company.
Should I speak with the insurance adjuster for the at-fault party if he/she calls?
The insurance company for the at-fault party will be conducting an investigation soon after the accident. One of the first things that is typically done may be to contact the victim and ask them to give a statement, either in writing or by tape recorder. You should absolutely refuse to do this. There are times when I allow insurance adjusters to speak with my client (in my presence) but I never allow them to record a statement.
Should I contact an attorney if I have been seriously injured in an automobile accident?
It is important for you to contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. There are many potential problems that could arise if you attempt to deal with the insurance company yourself. By failing to contact an experienced automobile injury attorney, you could actually harm your case in the long run.
What if the insurance company calls me on the phone and says they want to pay me money to settle?
Many times the insurance company representing the at-fault party will approach a seriously injured victim and offer to make a settlement of the bodily injury tort claim in exchange for the victim signing a full release of liability. Typically, you should not sign such a settlement agreement without consulting an attorney first.
How much does an attorney consultation cost in these types of cases?
Nothing. I will evaluate your case free of charge. There will be no fee unless we recover on your case.
Does my insurance company owe me for lost wages after my accident? If so, what are the limits on what they owe?
Yes. Your insurance company owes you for lost wages. There are two limits on the amount of reimbursement for wage loss. The first is the limit that they only have to pay 85% of your lost wages. However, you do not have to pay state or federal taxes on this benefit like you would your regular wages. The second is a cap under Michigan law. Essentially, there is a maximum monthly payout of No-Fault wage loss benefits. If you were making a high salary or income, you will not be reimbursed at 85%. This maximum amount or cap amount is adjusted every year for inflation. Although your insurance company is limited to three years of wage loss, the other driver’s insurance company could be liable for wages in excess of three years.
I did not have insurance on my car when the other guy crossed the centerline and struck me head on. The accident was not my fault. What are my rights?
The law requires you to have insurance and there are penalties under the PIP law for failing to have insurance. In effect, you are denied certain, but not all, benefits if you fail to carry the mandated insurance. For example, the no-fault statute excludes owners of vehicles who violate the law by failing to have insurance, from receiving first party benefits. You could still potentially have a claim against the at-fault driver.
Should I take photographs?
Yes. Take photos of the accident scene and your injuries, even while you are still in the hospital. The most powerful evidence in most cases are the photographs or video. Pictures really do speak louder than words!
Does the no-fault statute cover motorcycles?
The short answer is yes as long as you are injured in an accident involving a “motor vehicle.” However, the Michigan No-Fault Act treats motorcycles differently as they are not considered a “motor vehicle.” You should speak to an experienced attorney if questions arise about coverage.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured Motorist Coverage is an insurance coverage option which allows you possible recovery from your insurance policy if the at-fault driver does not have insurance coverage, or if the at-fault driver cannot be identified (i.e. hit and run driver). I always recommend that all drivers carry uninsured motorist coverage on their policy.
Is there a difference between uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage?
Yes. Underinsured coverage provides an additional means of collection when one is seriously injured in an accident. It is different than uninsured coverage which is available when there is no insurance on the at-fault vehicle. For example, if you carried a policy of $100,000 underinsured coverage and there was a $20,000 policy of insurance on the at-fault driver, it would be possible to seek up to $80,000 in additional compensation from your own insurance company. This is provided that your attorney secures the entire $20,000 policy limit from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. These claims must be handled carefully. Your attorney must carefully review the terms of the underinsured policy (or uninsured policy) before settling the underlying case with the at-fault driver. Failure to do this could result in forfeiture of your rights under the policy.
What if I already have health insurance or other medical coverage which is paying for my medical treatment?
No-fault benefits may be coordinated with health and accident coverage if the injured person has purchased a coordinated policy. There may be a set-off of governmental benefits from no-fault benefits and for the coordination of private insurance benefits. In those situations where your no-fault coverage is coordinated, your no-fault insurer only pays those allowable expenses and work loss benefits that are not paid by private health and disability insurance. If you have purchased uncoordinated no-fault coverage, it is possible for you to recover under both the no-fault policy and the other health and disability policy.
What are the Notice Provisions Under Your Policy/Other Limitation Periods?
The Michigan No-Fault Statute also contains very specific provisions addressing how no-fault benefits must be claimed and when they are payable. In this regard, there are two important rules to remember. First, an accident victim must give his or her no-fault insurance company written notice in order to be legally entitled to receive PIP benefits. This written notice must be provided within one year of the date of the accident and must set forth the name and address of the claimant and a summary of the time, place and nature of the injuries. Second, the statue also contains a one year enforcement rule. This means that if a particular expense has not been paid by the no-fault insurance company, legal action must be filed within one year of the date that particular expense was incurred or payment of that particular expense will not be enforceable. Therefore, it is very important for accident victims to process their PIP claims expeditiously and to seek legal advice if a benefit has not been fully paid within a few months after it has been submitted. There are exceptions to these one year time rules. For example, if an accident results in catastrophic injury which renders the victim incapable of fully appreciating his or her legal rights, then the one year rules may not apply. This is often the case with persons sustaining serious traumatic brain injury. In addition, the courts have ruled that the one year rule does not apply to children. You should contact an attorney and make sure your claims are processed correctly within the time periods, even with minors and incapacitated persons.