Woman with a catastrophic injury filing a personal injury claim.

What Is a “Catastrophic Injury” Under Michigan’s No-Fault Law?

All motor-vehicle accident-related injuries should be taken seriously. After all, they’re very serious for those whose lives they affect. However, under Michigan’s no-fault law, some injuries are considered more serious than others. Catastrophic injuries are those that tend to produce major harm over a long period of time. These “catastrophic” injuries are often significant and result in major life changes. 

Catastrophic injuries commonly result from the following types of accidents:

  • High-speed accidents
  • Head-on collisions
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents

“Catastrophic” injuries generally involve one or more of the following characteristics:

  • A permanent incapacitation of at least of of the major body systems
  • Permanent inability to perform responsibilities for gainful employment
  • Permanent severe physical, cognitive, or emotional/behavioral disability
  • Damage to the head, neck, or spinal cord 

Common Accident-Related Catastrophic injuries include:

  • Amputations
  • Head/Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Loss of senses (e.g. hearing, sight, etc.)
  • Injuries resulting in permanent disfigurement
  • Extensive Bone fractures

Experienced a Catastrophic Injury Resulting from a Motor Vehicle Accident? What Can You Do?

When you’ve incurred a catastrophic injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, one of the first things you must do is determine who was at fault for the accident. If the accident was caused by the negligence of another driver, you may be able to recover non-economic (i.e., pain and suffering) damages. Such a claim is known as a “third-party” or “automobile negligence” claim. In order to pursue such a claim, you must prove that your injury meets one of three “thresholds” under Michigan’s tort law. The most commonly-pursued threshold is know as the “serious impairment of body function” threshold (SIBF). With the SIBF threshold, you will have to prove that:

  1. Someone other than yourself can observe/perceive your impairment from actual symptoms or conditions;
  2. The impairment is of an important body function (one of great value, significance, or consequence to you); and
  3. The impairment affects your general ability to lead your normal life (this requires a comparison of your life before and after the accident).

Generally, if you’ve sustained a catastrophic injury, you should have little to no issues meeting this threshold. Once you’ve met this threshold, you can proceed with your third-party claim against the at-fault driver. This further entails proving that driver’s negligence. To do so, you must show the following elements:

  1. The defendant had a duty of care;
  2. The defendant breached their duty;
  3. The breach of duty led to the accident; and
  4. The accident was the direct cause of your injury.

Again, a third-party claim generally seeks non-economic pain and suffering damages (and some excess economic damages). Generally, your economic damages (medical bills/expenses, rehabilitation costs, work loss, personal attendant care or household services) would be sought in a “first-party claim” (against your no-fault insurer or another responsible no-fault insurer). However, with the recent reforms to Michigan’s auto no-fault laws (which permit consumers to choose personal injury coverage options that are capped at a certain delineated dollar amounts), more economic damages will be sought through third-party claims.

Much is at stake when you are catastrophically injured in a motor vehicle accident due to the negligence of another party. When you bring a case against another party, you will likely find great difficulty in attempting to negotiate with their insurance company. This is why it’s so important that you consult with a qualified Michigan no-fault attorney. 

The Attorneys at Miller & Tischler, P.C. Can Help

If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury as the result of a motor vehicle accident, you should not have to bear the burden alone. When you are already dealing with so much, the last thing that you want to do is to have to worry about tackling the legalities of your situation.

The Michigan personal injury attorneys at Miller & Tischler, P.C. can help you to fight for the compensation that you deserve. We understand the seriousness of your injury and the physical, emotional, and financial hardships that you have endured and will continue to endure. Because we specialize in the area of Michigan no-fault, we can help you to gather the necessary evidence and build a case to help you receive the most optimal outcome. We’ll help you fight for the compensation that you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!