Car Accident Damages – Non-Economic & Excess Economic Losses
If you’re injured in a motor vehicle collision in Michigan, you may recover car accident damages from the at-fault driver, usually paid by the driver’s insurance company. No-fault PIP benefits provided by your own auto insurance provider do not include non-economic loss damages and excess economic loss damages.
Under Michigan law, persons injured in auto accidents can bring a liability claim against the negligent driver who caused their injury. In this lawsuit — called a “liability claim” or an “auto negligence claim” — car crash victims can seek two types of damages: 1) non-economic loss damages and 2) excess economic loss damages.
Injured in a Car Accident? You May Recover Non-Economic Loss Damages
If you’re injured in an auto accident, non-economic loss damages are the losses that affect your quality of life. They include:
- pain and suffering
- shame and mortification
- loss of function
- diminished social pleasure and enjoyment
- mental anguish and emotional distress
- scarring and disfigurement
- harm to marriage and relationship with children
In order to bring a claim for non-economic loss damages, your injuries must satisfy Michigan’s “threshold injury” requirement, which the No-Fault Act defines as a “serious impairment of body function,” “permanent serious disfigurement,” or death. Because the standard for what constitutes a “threshold injury” is subject to change, it is important to seek the advice of an auto accident attorney in Michigan, who can help determine whether or not your injuries satisfy this threshold requirement and enable you to pursue a claim for non-economic loss damages.
Excess Economic Loss Damages From Auto Accident Injuries
Excess economic loss damages are the past, present, and future expenses not covered by your no-fault PIP benefits. These include damages for lost wages that exceed the 85% statutory maximum for PIP benefits. Under the recent Michigan no-fault insurance reforms, people will be able to purchase limited no-fault insurance coverage or opt-out of no-fault coverage completely. Therefore, these people can claim their medical expenses against the at-fault driver that ultimately exceeds the no-fault medical expense coverage available to the injured person.
Excess economic loss damages also include damages for lost wages that exceed the amount payable through the injured person’s Michigan no-fault work loss benefits. Michigan no-fault work loss benefits cover the lost income from work the injured person sustains for the first three years following the crash. The work loss benefits are payable up to 85% of the injured person’s lost income, but not more than the statutory maximum amount for the given time when the crash occurred. Every year, the work loss maximum benefit is adjusted. As of 2019, this benefit maximum is $5,718. Workers who make more than this maximum may be able to pursue a claim for excess economic loss damages against the at-fault driver of their accident.
It’s important to note that, unlike claims for non-economic loss damages, you do not need not show a “threshold injury” in order to recover damages for excess economic loss. This means you can collect damages for your excess economic loss even if your injuries do not rise to the level of “serious impairment of body function” or “permanent serious disfigurement.”
Beware of Insurance Policies that Limit Auto Accident Damages
During the past several years, some Michigan auto insurance companies have begun using a rather troublesome tactic to try and limit their damage payouts to the insured’s relatives who are injured in a car accident. This tactic is called a “step-down” insurance clause.
Step-down insurance clauses treat injured family members of the insured harsher than total strangers. What’s even worse, no-fault insurance policies often include these clauses without the policyholder even knowing. Oftentimes, the insured doesn’t find out about the policy’s limiting language until it’s too late. Unfortunately, this realization usually occurs after a family member is seriously injured in a car crash.
Check your auto insurance policy today for any language including “step-down” or “intra-family exclusionary” clauses.
When it comes to assessing the damages suffered by a person injured in a car accident, Michigan auto accident attorneys too often compartmentalize the victim’s injuries into two categories: 1) objective evidence of the injuries and 2) the lifetime impact of the injuries. Many car accident lawyers in Michigan tend to first focus on the physical nature of injuries, any surgery, treatment, or therapy required, and the long-term residual deficits. They then turn their focus toward how the car accident injury has diminished the injured person’s quality of life.
However, this way of thinking prevents lawyers from appreciating the full extent of a significant car accident injury. Lifestyle changes following a serious injury in an auto accident – such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for instance – are associated with numerous health risks. In fact, medical research shows that a change in one aspect of a person’s lifestyle has significant ripple effects throughout that person’s entire body. Because of this, it is important that attorneys also understand all these ripple effects on the accident victim’s way of life.
At Sinas Dramis Law Firm, our attorneys fully appreciate the total impact of car accident injuries. We strive to advocate for and ensure the rights of the injured to pursue car accident damages against negligent drivers.