Understanding The Threshold Injury Requirement For Michigan Auto Negligence Cases



Michigan law divides the rights of car accident victims into potentially two types of claims: a first-party claim and a third-party claim. A first-party claim is an action brought by a person injured in an automobile accident against his or her own insurance company for payment of benefits for certain losses (typically medical expenses and lost wages) that arise from the automobile accident. In order to obtain compensation for non-economic damages including pain and suffering, the injured party must bring a third-party claim against the at fault driver (and the owner of the at fault vehicle if different). For a detailed explanation of the differences between a first-party claim and a third-party claim, click here

Michigan law, however, limits the ability of a person injured in a car accident to bring a third-party claim for non-economic damages. Unlike first-party benefits, which are available to a person injured in a car accident regardless of fault, a person cannot bring a third-party claim if he or she was more than 50 percent at fault for the accident. MCL 500.3135(2)(b).

Furthermore, the injured party must demonstrate that he or she suffered an injury that meets the no-fault damages threshold. This requires that the injury suffered in the car accident be one of the following:

  1. Death;
  2. Permanent or serious disfigurement; or
  3. A serious impairment of an important body function.

Much of the litigation regarding the no-fault damages threshold focuses on the “serious impairment” element.  Pursuant to Michigan law, a person has met the injury threshold for a “serious impairment to an important body function” when he or she suffers the following:

an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life
— MCL 500.3135(5)

While the definition is complicated, the focus is on whether the injured party suffered some observable impairment, which affects their ability to lead their normal life. The medical records from your treating physicians can help satisfy the objectively manifested impairment requirement.  The more objective the injury is, the easier it is to prove that you have suffered a serious impairment. The court can dismiss the claim however, if it determines that there is not sufficient objective evidence to constitute a serious impairment.

The injury must also affect your ability to lead your normal life, but it need not destroy it. There is no minimum percentage amount of your normal life that the injury must affect, nor minimum time requirement. Rather, whether someone’s ability to lead his or her normal life has been affected is determined by comparing the person’s life before and after the accident. As a result, friends, family and co-workers can play a vital role in helping to prove that the “serious impairment” threshold is satisfied. The people with whom you engage with daily can oftentimes provide persuasive testimony on the changes in your pre-accident and post-accident life.

Generally, a third-party auto negligence lawsuit must be brought within three years from the date of the accident. Failure to do so means the claim is forever barred. There are some exceptions for minors. A minor may bring a claim until his or her 19th birthday.

If you believe you or your loved one has suffered a threshold injury as a result of an automobile accident, contact the Metro Detroit Injury Lawyers today for your free consultation and evaluation. Analyzing whether your injuries meet the threshold is complex. Let our knowable and experienced Metro Detroit Car Accident Attorneys review your claim and determine your rights to compensation.