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What Damages Can I Recover from the At-Fault Driver?

Damages that can be recovered from the at-fault driver – non-economic and excess economic damages

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 that driver’s insurance company.

Under Michigan law, if you’re injured in a car accident, you can bring a liability claim against the negligent driver who caused your 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.

In addition to the damages you can recover from an at-fault driver, you may have very important rights to no-fault PIP benefits as well.

Injured in a Car Accident? You May Recover Non-Economic Loss Damages from the At-Fault Driver

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
  • incapacity
  • shame and mortification
  • disability
  • loss of function
  • diminished social pleasure and enjoyment
  • mental anguish and emotional distress
  • harm to marriage and relationship with children
  • scarring and disfigurement

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In order to bring a claim for non-economic loss damages, your injuries must satisfy Michigan’s “threshold injury” requirement. Because the standard for what constitutes a “threshold injury” is subject to court interpretation, it’s important to seek the advice an auto accident attorney in Michigan who can help determine whether or not your injuries satisfy this threshold requirement.

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. 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 entirely. woman-after-car-crashTherefore, 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 for the first three years following the crash. The work loss benefits are payable up to 85% of the injured person’s lost income. However, this amount cannot exceed 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 ($5,755 October 1, 2020 – September 31, 2021). 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.

Unlike non-economic loss claims, you do not need not show a “threshold injury” 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.”

Car Crash Damages – Why Lawyers Need to Understand the Total Impact

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 life. 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.