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I Was Visiting Michigan from Out-of-State and was Hit by a Michigan Driver and Injured – What Are My Rights?

January 6, 2021

While the pandemic has put a damper on travel in 2020, our state usually has more than 120 million visitors each year. If you were visiting Michigan and were involved in an automobile accident, you should know your rights and how our laws work, especially in light of the recent changes to Michigan’s no-fault PIP (Personal Injury Protection) benefits.

What are the Changes to Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance Laws?

Beginning in July 2020, Michigan put into effect some auto insurance law reforms that affect out-of-state drivers involved in car accidents that happen in our state, along with Michigan drivers.

Prior to the change, out-out-state drivers who were injured in a Michigan auto accident could receive PIP benefits. However, the new law states that unless you’re operating a vehicle that’s registered and insured in Michigan, out-of-state drivers involved in Michigan accidents are not entitled to receive any PIP benefits.

Section 500.3113(c) of the Michigan Insurance Code now provides that a person isn’t entitled to be paid personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits if he or she wasn’t “a resident of this state, unless the person owned a motor vehicle that was registered and insured in this state.”

What Does this Mean for an Out-Of-State Driver Who’s Involved in a Michigan Auto Accident?

The changes to Michigan’s auto insurance no-fault law mean that an out-of-state resident can only seek damages from an at-fault Michigan driver through tort law. As a result, any recovery must be brought through a lawsuit directly against the driver responsible for the collision, and all types of economic loss, such as medical expenses, must be pursued in tort (with some exceptions).

To support an action for damages, an out-of-state resident must have sustained a “threshold” injury, which is an injury that is so serious it affects the victim’s daily life.

Such a claim is subject to Michigan’s modified comparative fault rule that says that if an out-of-state resident is found the be more than 50% at fault for the collision, he or she is ineligible to recover anything for their injuries. However, an out-of-state driver may have a recovery under the PIP medical coverage provided by their own auto insurance or health care plan.

What’s the Standard for a “Threshold Injury” Under Michigan’s New No-Fault Law?

The “threshold” injury is a legal standard for the level of harm an out-of-state victim must suffer in order to claim non-economic damages from an accident in Michigan. Non-economic damages includes compensation for pain and suffering.

Michigan law defines a “threshold” injury as “death, serious impairment of a body function or permanent serious disfigurement.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals has held that to prove a serious impairment of a body function, a plaintiff must establish (i) an objectively manifested impairment (observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions) (ii) of an important body function (a body function of value, significance, or consequence to the injured person) that (iii) affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life (influences some of the plaintiff’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living).

The Court went on to explain that there’s “no bright-line rule or checklist to follow,” and that whether a person has suffered a serious impairment is based on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.

Do the Changes to Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance Laws Affect Michigan Residents?

Yes. With out-of-state drivers in Michigan auto accidents only eligible to cover their losses under tort law, Michiganders can be held liable for the injured party’s medical expenses—no matter if the Michigan driver has an unlimited no-fault PIP policy.

Thus, in light of the fact that out-of-state drivers must now recover all their damages through a tort action, Michigan drivers found to be 51% or more responsible for the accident can be responsible for the total amount of injured party’s damages.

Michigan residents aren’t subject to the new “threshold” injury standard to collect PIP benefits. Nor do Michiganders need to satisfy the threshold injury standard to recover excess economic damages, such as medical bills in excess of their PIP medical limits. But they must meet the specified criteria in order to recover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Takeaway

With the new no-fault law, out-of-state drivers must seek damages from an at-fault Michigan driver through tort law. Plus, their injury must meet the “threshold” standard, which is an injury that’s to the extent that impacts the victim’s daily life.

Also, a Michigan driver who causes an accident with an out-of-state motorist may have a higher exposure for damages if he or she is sued by the injured out-of-state driver. It’s a good idea to review your auto policy coverages because you may now have insufficient coverage to protect yourself in the event of an auto accident.

Contact Us

If you have questions about the new Michigan no-fault law, contact an experienced auto accident attorney in Michigan. The Buchanan Firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs.

We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital, to accommodate you.

Contact The Buchanan Firm today!