A year ago, in June 2014, comedians Tracy Morgan and James ”Jimmy Mack” McNair suffered catastrophic crash injuries riding as passengers in a limo bus. The limo flipped over when a Walmart semi truck rear-ended the limo on the New Jersey Turnpike. McNair died at the scene, and medical responders airlifted Morgan and two other passengers by medical helicopter to a local hospital where they were admitted in critical condition. Morgan suffered traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, a broken leg, and a broken nose. He was in a coma for 2 weeks and after he awoke endured a very slow, painful, and private recovery. Physical and emotional recovery will continue the rest of his life.
Earlier this month, Morgan made his first public appearance after the crash, saying “I can’t believe I’m here.” He admits being depressed since the accident, and credits friends and family for helping him. Morgan also mentioned reaching a confidential settlement of his lawsuit against Walmart: “I’m happy that Walmart stepped up to the plate. They took full responsibility.” Soon after waking up from the coma, Morgan (with guidance by brilliant advisors) hired an attorney for help and sued the wrongdoers for reimbursement of the catastrophic injuries.
In Michigan, passengers injured in a vehicle-for-hire (e.g., limos, taxis, bus, Uber) should follow Tracy Morgan’s smart approach of hiring an auto attorney immediately. An excellent attorney will promptly collect and preserve crucial evidence, interview eyewitnesses and take video statements while events and memories are fresh, and enable the injured passenger to obtain appropriate reimbursement for harms and losses. An auto attorney knows Michigan’s No-Fault laws and the categories and amounts of benefits the injured passenger should receive. Unfortunately many insurance companies in Michigan (even your own) will do everything to delay resolution, mislead you, avoid paying what they owe; and employ other tactics to deny reimbursements you should receive.
If you are injured in Michigan as a passenger in a vehicle-for-hire (e.g., car, truck, cab, limo, or bus), you are entitled to Michigan No-Fault insurance for needed medical services and a wage-replacement benefit for lost work-income (a first party claim). A claim for first-party benefits must be filed before the one-year anniversary of the accident. If injuries are severe or fatal, you also may be entitled to reimbursement for disfigurement, pain and suffering, and economic harms (a third party claim). A third-party claim must be filed before the third-anniversary of the accident.
Michigan law determines which no-fault insurance company has primary responsibility for paying you the first party (or PIP) benefits. When the situation involves a vehicle-for-hire, such as injury in a cab, bus, or limo, the injured passenger may collect no-fault benefits directly from the vehicle-for-hire’s insurance company, regardless of whether the passenger has a no-fault policy.
Proper reimbursement for harms and losses requires correct application of Michigan’s No-Fault law. At Buchanan and Buchanan, we are skilled at investigating auto accidents and successfully negotiating fair settlements with auto insurance companies, and persuasively presenting cases at trial when insurers refuse to do what is right. Please contact us as soon as possible after a serious injury in a motor vehicle.