Auto Accident FAQ
Q: I was injured in an accident involving the operation of a motor vehicle, why types of claims might I have?
A: Every case is different and there are exceptions to generic statements. However, in general, an individual involved in a motor vehicle accident may be entitled to several types of claims: (1) a First-Party (PIP) claim for No-Fault Benefits against the insurance company in priority; (2) a Third-Party (Tort/Negligence) claim against the driver of an at fault motor vehicle; (3) a potential claim for Underinsured and/or Uninsured insurance benefits against the insurer of your vehicle; and (4) dependent upon circumstances, other types of claims such as Workers Compensation or a claim for Social Security Disability.
Q: What if the car I was driving was uninsured?
A: Where you are the registered owner of the vehicle and did not maintain the Michigan minimum insurance then you are legally barred from bringing a lawsuit against an at-fault driver or claiming First-Party benefits. However, if you were not the owner or “constructive owner” (as defined by the No-Fault Act), you may still be entitled to benefits.
Q: What if the police said the accident was my fault?
A: The Police are not always correct, and there still are likely a host benefits you may be entitled to recover. It is important in this situation to contact our office immediately.
Q: What is uninsured motorist coverage?
A: Uninsured motorist coverage is an option that allows you to recover money from your own auto insurance policy. If the negligent driver did not have insurance coverage or could not be identified (i.e. a hit-and-run driver) then you could then look to your own insurance company to compensate you for your injuries assuming that you had Uninsured Motorist Coverage written in your policy.
Q: What’s the difference between uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage?
A: Uninsured coverage, maybe available when the at-fault vehicle had no identifiable insurance and underinsured coverage provides an additional source of collecting for serious injuries caused by a car accident that may not have been adequately covered by the at fault insurance company.
Q: What if I was “at fault” for the accident?
A: You are still entitled to all First-Party (PIP) No-Fault Benefits, as long as you are not subject to a statutory exclusion.
Q: What are First-Party (PIP) No-Fault Benefits?
A: Michigan’s No-Fault Law allows a person to obtain benefits from the insurer of highest priority (or, in some cases, the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan) for any expense allowed under the Act. These benefits are defined as “all reasonable charges incurred for reasonably necessary products, services and accommodations for an injured person’s care, recovery or rehabilitation.” Generally speaking, these types of benefits can be broken down into the following categories: Medical Expense Benefits, Medical Transportation Benefits, Wage Loss Benefits, Replacement/Household Service Benefits, Attendant Care Benefits, and Survivor Benefits.
Q: What are No-Fault Medical Expense Benefits?
A: Under the No-Fault Act, you may be entitled to have all reasonable and necessary medical expenses, which are related to injuries from the accident, paid by the auto insurer in highest priority (or, in some cases, the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan). In theory, you are entitled to these benefits for your lifetime.
Q: What are No-Fault Medical Transportation Benefits?
A: Under the No-Fault Act, you may be entitled to reimbursement for any round-trip mileage driven for any treatment or medical purpose relating to an accident.
Q: What are No-Fault Wage Loss Benefits?
A: Under the No-Fault Act, you may be entitled to reimbursement for any missed work as a result of injuries from the motor vehicle accident. The benefit is limited to 85% of your weekly wage rate (up to the statutory maximum) for a period not to exceed three years.
Q: What are No-Fault Replacement/Household Service Benefits?
A: Under the No-Fault Act, you may be entitled to employ someone to assist you around your home for “activities of daily living”. Examples would include things like: cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, cutting the grass, and taking out the garbage. Pursuant to the Act, you could be entitled to make a claim not to exceed $20/day for three years following the accident.
Q: What are No-Fault Attendant Care Benefits?
A: Under the No-Fault Act, Attendant Care Benefits are technically a subset of Medical Expense Benefits. Unlike Replacement/Household Services Benefits, which many people think of as household chores, Attendant Care Benefits relate to someone assisting you in your recovery and attending to your personal needs. Examples would include things like: help dressing, helping in/out of bed, helping in the bathroom, and supervisory care. There is no statutorily defined limit on the amount an individual/agency may charge on an hourly basis for assistance and, like medical expenses, the benefit theoretically exists for your lifetime.
Q: What Do I Do When I Am Stopped by Police While Driving?
A: From the moment the officer stops you, he or she can record everything you say and use it against you. One of the first things an officer may say to you is, ‘‘Do you know why I pulled you over?’’ This is a common technique that police may use to get you to confess to a possible road violation. As soon as the officer approaches the vehicle, say, ‘‘Good afternoon, officer. Can you tell me why I am being pulled over?’’ When the officer asks for your license and registration, pull them out slowly and hand them to the officer. It is often a good idea to verbally tell the officer where your license and registration are located and ask permission to reach for them. This avoids putting the officer on guard as you reach into a purse or glove box where a weapon may be concealed. Try not to say anything while the officer is reviewing the documents. Do not tell the officer you are late for a meeting or you have to pick up your kids from school because that could be considered a reason for speeding or reckless driving. Wait until the officer asks you questions before you speak. The officer may ask you a series of questions about how fast you were going, where you were going and what you were doing. Answer any questions you can honestly. You do not want to provide the officer with any false information at any time. If you do not know the answer, simply respond, ‘‘I don’t know.’’
REMEMBER: You may always refuse to answer any question and request your attorney. If the officer writes you a ticket, accept it quietly. Listen to any further instructions, including information on how long you have to pay the fine or what you must do if you want to contest it. If the officer just gives you the ticket without explaining what your rights are you may be able to successfully challenge the ticket in court.
Before you leave the scene, write down the following information:
- Exact Location of yourself (when you think the Police Officer tagged you with the radar/paced your speed and where you pulled over)
- Traffic and Weather Conditions, including adjacent vehicles
- Any possible interference with Radar Signal (i.e. Airport, Bank, etc.) Other Relevant Information
Q: Can I Just Plead Responsible and Pay the Ticket?
A: Yes, in fact the vast majority of drivers do just that. However, this practice is not always your best interest. Almost every time you plead responsible to a civil infraction, it is posted to your driving record; you receive points and a heavy fine. For insurance purposes these points count against you for a 3-year period. One ticket on your record could result in $1,000's in insurance surcharges that you have to pay.
Q: Who decides how the criminal justice system works?
A: Though legislators have relatively unfettered power to decide whether a certain behavior should be a crime, many rules limit the ways in which the state or federal government can prosecute someone for a crime. These restrictions start with the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which provides basic protections-such as the right to refuse to testify against oneself, the right to confront one’s accusers and the right to a trial by jury-for people charged with crimes. State constitutions may increase (but not take away from) the federal protections. Federal and state legislatures can pass laws governing how criminal procedures work in their jurisdictions, but these laws cannot reduce the protections offered by the federal and state constitutions.
The interplay between constitutional provisions and legislative enactments is regulated by our courts. Courts decide whether or not a particular legislative rule, court practice or police action is permissible under federal and state constitutional law. What may seem like a slight variation from one case to another can be, in the eyes of a court, the determining factor that leads to a vastly different result. For example, a police officer is frisking a suspect on the street and feels a hard object in the suspect’s pocket. Suspecting that the object is a possible weapon, the officer reaches into the pocket and finds both a cardboard cigarette box and a packet of heroin. This action by the police officer -- reaching into the pocket -- would be deemed a permissible search under the rulings of most courts (to protect the officer’s safety), and the heroin could be admitted into court as evidence. However, if the object felt by the officer was soft and obviously not a weapon, then reaching into the suspect’s pocket might be deemed an illegal search, in which case the heroin couldn’t be used as evidence.
Q: What’s the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A: Most states break their crimes into two major groups, felonies and misdemeanors. Whether a crime falls into one category or the other depends on the potential punishment. If a law provides for imprisonment for longer than a year, it is usually considered a felony. If the potential punishment is for a year or less, then the crime is considered a misdemeanor. In some states, certain crimes, called ‘‘wobblers,’’ may be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony, because under some conditions the punishment may be imprisonment for less than a year, and in other situations, the criminal may go to prison for a year or more. Behaviors punishable only by fine are usually not considered crimes at all, but infractions.
Q: Searches & Seizures: What Are the Limitations of the Police?
A: Although people in the United States are entitled to privacy and freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. State or federal police officers are allowed, where justified, to search your premises, car, or other property in order to look for and seize illegal items, stolen goods or evidence of a crime. What rules must the police follow when engaging in searches and seizures? What can they do in upholding the laws, and what can't they do? Call us now for a free consultation.