New Hope for Michigan Car Accident Victims?

On August 20, 2009, the Michigan Supreme Court granted the motion for reconsideration in McCormick v. Carrier as well as leave to appeal. This is the case that Michigan auto accident lawyers and judges have been hoping will finally reverse Kreiner v. Fischer.

I’ve written extensively on how unfair Michigan’s current auto accident laws have become, commenting on previous travesties like Benefiel v. Auto Owners, Plaggemeyer and Gagne. Michigan has the worst law in the country, and thousands of innocent and seriously injured people injured in car accidents, including people who have endured fractures and surgeries, have had their cases thrown out of court and received nothing for their pain and suffering.

The system has become so badly broken and lost its common sense. Now, finally and at long last, McCormick could fix Michigan’s auto law. Here’s the McCormick Michigan Supreme Court order.

In McCormick, Plaintiff Rodney McCormick suffered a badly fractured ankle that required two surgeries. The surgeries were successful, and McCormick returned to work approximately one year later and was able to resume all of his pre-car accident activities, including golfing and fishing. He testified at his deposition that his life was “painful, but normal.”

Only in Michigan could this be dooming.

McCormick was thrown out of court because two surgeries and a year off of work, was not considered serious enough under Michigan law. Judges Whitbeck and Jansen, writing for the majority in the Court of Appeals and dismissing McCormick’s case, found that the “course or trajectory of plaintiff’s normal life” was not affected because he had made a great recovery one year later.

In other words, pain doesn’t matter.  Periods of near total incapacitation and recuperation after surgery do not make a difference. An entire year off of work and of being physically unable to enjoy the activities that are most important to a person – are not enough.

In Michigan, a person can be:

  • Completely innocent;
  • Rear-ended by another driver;
  • Suffer serious fractures requiring two surgeries and a year off work and;
  • Receive nothing for all of his pain and suffering because our law doesn’t consider these devastating  factors “serious enough.”

Again, this sad state of affairs is due to Kreiner, a Michigan Supreme Court decision that interprets the no-fault act’s “serious impairment of body function” statute. It establishes the precondition plaintiffs must meet before they can sue for non-economic damages in such a way that many people who suffer serious injuries and who miss months from work, have virtually zero rights.

Counting Votes on Kreiner

Judge Diane Hathaway, when running for the Supreme Court, called Kreiner a travesty.  I and thousands of other Michigan lawyers agree. The language that has dismissed hundreds of cases was not created by the Michigan Legislature. It was judicially created by the Court’s previous “majority of four”: Taylor, Corrigan, Young and Markman. Kreiner’s requirements like “course or trajectory” or “physician-imposed restrictions” or even that impairments be very serious, are completely absent from the Legislature’s definition of “serious impairment of body function” and the entire legislative history of the Michigan No-Fault Act.

In addition to Justice Hathaway, Justice Weaver with Justice Kelly, joined Justice Cavanaugh’s opinion in Benefiel, where Justice Cavanaugh explicitly states “I continue to believe that Kreiner was wrongly decided.”   Read more in the Benefiel Michigan Supreme Court Order.

It seems there are now four like-minded justices who believe it’s time to go back to the clear wording and plain meaning of the legislative definition of serious impairment.  If so, then Kreiner v. Fischer will be overturned.  If so, then fabricated language that created an ever higher bar to recovery, such as “course or trajectory” will also be overturned.

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles Michigan car, truck and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state.   To talk to an auto accident lawyer contact us at (800) 777-0028.

Steve Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law. He is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past co-chair of the Michigan Association for Justice Automobile Accident No?Fault Committee. He frequently writes and speaks about Michigan No-Fault laws, and is available for comment.

Steve Gursten explains the details behind a case that Michigan auto accident lawyers and judges have been hoping will finally reverse Kreiner v. Fischer.  

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Steven Gursten

Licensed since 1995

Member at firm Michigan Auto Law

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