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Motorcycle Accidents

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  • Motorcycle Accident Law

  • Q&A with Atty Stan Feldman

  • Q & A With Atty Ron Marvin

  • No-Fault Law Basics

  • No-Fault Law History

  • The No Fee Guarantee

  • What Happens When You Call Sam

Motorcycle Accident Lawyers MI

Many of our lawyers and staff ride. We take these cases personally and call our work for bikers the Bernstein Biker Advantage.

Most motorcyclists use every possible safety precaution. However, a mistake by another driver may put even the most careful and skilled motorcyclist at risk of life-threatening injury.

Over 3,000 motorcycle accidents happen in Michigan every year causing over 2,600 serious injuries.  That’s a 4 in 5 chance of being injured if involved in an accident while riding a motorcycle.

After a motorcycle accident, it is essential to consult a Michigan motorcycle accident lawyer immediately. The legal claims of a Michigan motorcyclist are different — and far more complicated — than the claims of an automobile driver or passenger because Michigan law does not consider a motorcycle to be a “motor vehicle.”

Contact us before you talk to the insurance company. Signing the wrong papers could mean you have settled for less than you deserve.

Submit a simple, free consultation form now for help.

Legal Resources

The following sections have more information on Motorcycle Accidents:

  • How long after an accident can I bring a claim?

    To make the strongest possible case, you need to start as soon as possible with the collection of evidence and the identification of potential witnesses.

    You have THREE YEARS from the date of a motor vehicle accident to file a claim for Third-Party Benefits. This means that if you do not file a lawsuit against those at fault for the accident before the end of that period, you will forever lose your right to file a lawsuit against those responsible for the incident.

    Minors have until one year past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. There are other exceptions for military personnel, mentally incapacitated individuals, and survivors of individuals killed in a car accident.

    You have a ONE YEAR limitation to file a claim for reimbursement for No-Fault First-Party Benefits such as wage loss, medical bills, attendant care, and mileage reimbursement. You can collect on these losses for longer than a year, but you must file a lawsuit within one year of when the expense was incurred.

  • What do I need to win my accident case?

    You must show that you have suffered a “threshold injury” to win against a careless driver to recover non-economic damages in a “Third Party” claim.

    Michigan law defines a “threshold injury” as:

    …serious impairment of an important body function, serious disfigurement or scarring, or death.

    It is common for the insurance company and their attorneys to assert that an injury is not a “serious impairment of a body function.”

    If you have an an injury that effects your ability to live your normal life, then contact our office to protect your rights. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • How are Motorcycles Treated Under No-Fault?

    Motorcycles, which are defined as having an engine displacement of more than 50 cubic centimeters, are not considered motor vehicles under Michigan no-fault law, and are not entitled to the same standard coverages and protections as passenger vehicles.  A typical motorcycle insurance policy includes liability coverage for property damage and bodily injury only.  It does not provide unlimited personal injury protection coverage, including payment of medical bills and rehabilitation, which is automatically included in a no-fault auto policy for a typical motor vehicle.

    A driver or passenger who has been in an accident looks to his/her own insurance policy for no-fault benefits.  The law is not the same for motorcyclists*.

    The no-fault benefits of a motorcyclist who has been in an accident with a motor vehicle are derived from the first of the following to apply:

    1. the owner of the at-fault vehicle
    2. the driver of the at-fault vehicle
    3. the driver of the motorcycle
    4. the owner of the motorcycle
    5. Michigan Assigned Claims Facility**

    The Michigan Department of Motor Vehicles requires the following minimums for motorcycle insurance policies: $20,000 of coverage for bodily injury or death involving one person in a single accident; $40,000 of coverage for bodily injury or death involving bodily injuries or death involving more than one person in a single accident; and $10,000 of property damage in a single accident.  These are minimum requirements only, and additional amounts may be purchased.  No-fault insurance (frequently known as motorcycle PIP coverage) can also be added to a motorcycle policy in $5,000 increments.  Very few motorcyclists exercise the option to add this type of coverage.

    Actual physical contact between the motorcycle and motor vehicle is not required, as long as operation of the motor vehicle was a significant factor causing injury to the motorcyclist.  If a motorcyclist sustains injury as a result of an accident with a non-motor vehicle, such as a stationary object or another motorcycle, no-fault benefits are not recoverable.

    If you have been in an accident, contact your insurance company.  Information provided by you or the police report will help your insurance company determine who is responsible for paying your no-fault benefits.

    *The term “motorcyclist” refers to either the driver or the passenger on a motorcycle.

    **The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility (MACF) provides assistance to people injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle when there is no automobile insurance available.

     

    Sources:

    http://www.michacp.org/

    http://www.dmv.org/mi-michigan/insurance/motorcycle-insurance-minimum-requirements.php

    https://www.michigan.gov/documents/cis/ip227_172811_7.pdf

  • Will my medical bills be covered for life?

    Yes. Michigan law requires that no-fault related medical coverage continue for life, or for as long as you need treatment, for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. However, many factors may complicate payment of your medical bills. If you have questions about the way these complex issues apply to you, contact us now.

    To qualify for medical expense reimbursement, a medical bill must be reasonable (in cost and necessity) and the expense must be actually incurred, meaning you must have already completed the appointment or procedure. The law does not provide for guaranteed pre-payment of bills for treatment of injuries resulting from an accident. Sometimes, an insurance company will try to escape its responsibility by questioning the need for a medical test or procedure ordered by your physician or by disputing the amount of the bill.

    Michigan’s No-Fault insurance providers offer two types of medical coverage:
    1. Uncoordinated benefits
    2. Coordinated benefits

    An uncoordinated policy pays benefits, regardless of the presence of other health insurance.

    A coordinated policy requires your other health insurance to pay first, and your automobile insurance to pay amounts that your primary health insurer does not cover. Your auto insurance policy states which type of benefits you should receive.

    It is common for a primary health insurance policy and auto insurance policy to contain contradictory language regarding which policy is first obligated to pay medical bills. If you have questions about this or are experiencing difficulty getting your medical bills in a timely manner, it is important to contact us immediately.

  • Can I recover lost wages?

    Yes. Michigan law allows you to receive 85% of your lost wages if you are disabled from work due to injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. This benefit is tax-free and lasts up to three years.

    The law also sets a monthly cap on the amount of lost wages that the auto insurance company must reimburse.

    Contact us for help addressing issues related to no-fault benefits and lost wages.

  • What if my accident was caused by a road in disrepair?

    Some motorcycle accidents are not caused by negligent motorists, but instead result from a roadway defect, due to faulty maintenance or repair of the pavement.

    In some cases, an injured motorcyclist can make a claim against the state, county, or local government agency responsible for the roadway. These cases involve complicated legal and factual issues. The time limit to file these claims is much less than the time for pursing other legal actions.

    Contact our office by phone or web form immediately to make sure you get started before time runs out.

  • What Commonly Causes Motorcycle Accidents?

    Motorcycles make up only 3% of registered vehicles in the United States.  However, trauma as a result of a motorcycle crash is disproportionate to this number.  Drivers of passenger cars, who are focused on like-size and larger vehicles, often do not watch for motorcycles, which fit easily into their blind spots.  Also, without the protection of a metal frame, motorcyclists are more vulnerable to injury and/or death than their passenger car counterparts.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were approximately 8.4 million motorcycles on the road in 2013.  Of these, 4,668 motorcyclists died, and 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in crashes.  Of the 4,668 fatalities, 94% were riders and 6% were passengers.  Motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities, and 4% of those injured in crashes.  Motorcyclists were 26 times more likely to die and 5 times more likely to become injured in a crash than passenger car occupants.  Michigan had the 11th highest number of motorcycle fatalities in 2013.

    The class of motor vehicles known as motorcycles includes mopeds, 2-3 wheeled motorcycles, off-road motorcycles, scooters, mini bikes, and pocket bikes.  93% of motorcycle fatalities involved 2-wheeled motorcycles.  34% of fatal accidents were caused by speeding, a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 was detected in 28% of fatalities, and 22% involved fixed objects.

    Education and preparation are the best ways to reduce one’s odds of becoming injured in a crash.  Completing a rider safety course, wearing safety gear, and increasing visibility by wearing bright colors can help to avoid an accident.

    Common causes of motorcycle accidents include:

    • a vehicle turning left in front of you
    • hitting gravel in a blind turn
    • entering a turn too fast
    • another vehicle changing lanes in front of you
    • sudden stop
    • sudden locking of the front brake
    • slippery weather conditions
    • drunk driving

    As a motorcyclist, remember that hypervigilance is vital to your life and safety on the road.

    Sources:

    http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812148.pdf

    http://www.iii.org/issue-update/motorcycle-crashes

    https://rideapart.com/articles/10-common-motorcycle-accidents-and-how-to-avoid-them

  • Who will take care of me while I am recovering?

    Attendant Care

    Michigan law requires an insurance company to pay for attendant care and nursing services if you need supervision or assistance while recovering at home. A severely injured person may need around-the-clock supervision.

    If a member of your family is helping take care of you, they may be entitled to reimbursement. Though the law does not set a specific hourly rate for the caregiver, the reimbursement should reflect the type and complexity of the services that you receive.

    Replacement Services for Chores and Errands

    An accident can prevent you from completing household services, chores, and errands. If you have paid or promised to pay for activities which you previously accomplished on your own, then you may be entitled to reimbursement for these expenses.

    Your physician may need to provide a written statement identifying the tasks you are unable to do on your own. Michigan law states that an auto insurance company is obligated to reimburse up to $20 per day for replacement services and that these benefits last for up to three (3) years.

    Contact us for help addressing issues related to no-fault benefits and lost wages.

  • If my motorcycle was uninsured, can I still sue the driver who hit me?

    Yes. Michigan law treats motorcyclists differently than individuals driving their own automobiles without insurance. An injured motorcyclist who did not have insurance on his or her bike may still bring a lawsuit against the motor vehicle driver who caused the accident.

    While the Michigan No-Fault law permits an uninsured motorcyclist to pursue a claim for pain and suffering, several complex issues with regard to medical bills must be addressed. A different set of issues impact the rights of a motorcycle passenger. For these reasons, contact us today to discuss the unique facts related to your bike accident.

  • What if the driver who hit me had been drinking? (Drunk Driver)

    If the negligent driver was intoxicated, then a “Dramshop” Claim may exist. This is the legal term for a lawsuit against a liquor store, bar, or other business, which illegally sold alcohol to the person whose unlawful behavior caused an accident. Whether or not the sale of alcohol was legal may be based on the sale of alcohol to either a minor (under age 21) or to a visibly intoxicated adult.

    Michigan law requires the accident victim to assert the claim against the seller of the alcohol within 120 days after he or she retains an attorney. Therefore, contact us immediately if your accident involved a drunk driver.

  • What is Michigan’s Helmet Law?

    Only 19 states in America require all motorcyclists to wear helmets.  Another 28 states require helmets for some motorcyclists, usually those under the age of 18 years old.  Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire have no helmet laws at all!

    The wearing of a helmet was formerly mandatory for all motorcyclists in Michigan.  As of April 12, 2012, Michigan law changed so that not all motorcyclists are longer required to wear helmets.  The relatively new law, however, does not allow unfettered helmet-less riding.

    In order to legally operate a motorcycle without a helmet, the operator must:

    • be at least 21 years of age;
    • have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits; and
    • have held a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years, or have passed an approved motorcycle safety course.

    In order to legally ride a motorcycle as a passenger without a helmet, the passenger must:

    • be at least 21 years of age; and
    • have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits insurance in addition to the insurance that is required of the motorcycle operator.

    All operators and passengers under the age of 21 must wear a helmet approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.1

    Since passage of the new helmet law, Michigan has seen a rise in the number of motorcyclists killed and injured in accidents.2  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists, and per mile, motorcyclists are about 30 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash and about five times as likely to be injured.  (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, Motorcycles, July, 2012)3

    In light of these statistics, whether you are wearing a helmet or not, it is important to always put safety first when driving!

     

    1) http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1585_50413-277037–,00.html

    2) http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/11/higher_death_rates_medical_bil.html

    3) http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-1878_1711-13677–,00.html

  • Can I collect reimbursement for travel to my treatment?

    Yes. Often, proper medical treatment, tests, and physical therapy require travelling long distances. Michigan law provides for the reimbursement for mileage traveled to and from medical care.

  • Who pays for my First-Party No-Fault Benefits? (Motorcycle)

    Michigan No-Fault law treats bikers differently than other motorists. As a result, the order of priority used to determined the correct insurance company responsible for coverage of no-fault benefits is significantly different than the method used for other motor vehicle accidents.

    In a motorcycle accident, the most likely source of no-fault benefits coverage will be the insurance of the motor vehicle involved in the accident. This is the order of priority for a Michigan motorcycle accident:

    1. The insurer of the owner of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, if none then…
    2. The insurer of the operator of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, if none then…
    3. The motor vehicle insurer of the operator of the motorcycle involved in the accident, if none then…
    4. The motor vehicle insurer of the owner of the motorcycle involved in the accident, if none then…
    5. The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility.

    The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility is the State Agency with the power to assign an insurance company to provide benefits to an injured victim who is not eligible for other No-Fault insurance coverage. To get an application for these Benefits, you can contact the Assigned Claims Facility directly at 517-322-1875.

    This order is different than that for a car or truck accident victim because Michigan law does not treat motorcycles the same as cars and trucks.

  • Michigan No-Fault Law Basics

    Under Michigan No-Fault law, an injured party is eligible for two types of benefits:  FIRST party benefits, which are derived from one’s own insurance company, and THIRD party benefits, which are usually derived from either the at-fault driver or vehicle’s insurance company.

    First party benefits include personal injury protection (PIP) and property protection (PPI) benefits.

    PIP includes the following:

    • 100% of medical costs;
    • 85% of lost wages for up to three years (with a maximum of $5,398/month as of 10/01/15);
    • survivor loss benefits (with a maximum of $5,398/month as of 10/01/15); and
    • up to $20/day in replacement services, which pays for routine household services, such as household chores and yard work.

    PPI includes the following:

    Up to $1,000,000 for damage to other people’s property or properly parked vehicles.

    Third party benefits include bodily injury and property damage.

    Bodily injury includes the following:

    Compensation for death, serious impairment of bodily function, or permanent disfigurement.  The amount of compensation payable by the insurance company is confined to the limits of the legally responsible person’s policy.  The minimum limit is $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident; however, depending on the insured’s policy, additional coverage may be available.  An amount in excess of the policy limits may be awarded by a court of law, in which case the defendant would be personally responsible for the uninsured amount.

    Property damage:

    Property damage is covered up to $1,000 if you are 50% or more at fault in an accident which causes damage to another person’s car that is not covered by insurance.

    No-fault coverage extends to every person living in the same house as the primary insured.  PIP benefits will be paid even when a household member is a pedestrian or a passenger in a non-household member’s car.  PIP benefits also extend to anyone who is injured as a passenger in the insured’s vehicle and does have a no-fault policy of his/her own.

  • When did No-Fault Insurance become Law?

    The Michigan No-Fault Automobile Insurance Law took effect on October 01, 1973 under Governor William Milliken.  Prior to this date, Michigan operated under a tort liability system, in which fault in an accident had to be determined before benefits could be paid.  The tort system was cumbersome and inefficient and gave rise to excessive legal and administrative fees.  Additionally, most at-fault parties had insufficient insurance to cover the injured party’s damages, which resulted in under-compensation.

    Under current Michigan law, no-fault insurance is required in order to register a vehicle.  Payments for collision damage, medical treatment, and wage loss are administered by one’s own insurance carrier.  Adoption of no-fault law resulted in an increase in benefits paid to the injured person, more efficient distribution of payments, and reduced premiums for legal and administrative costs.  Disputes over who is at fault are irrelevant when making a claim for benefits.  In exchange for this uncomplicated access to no-fault benefits, the injured party can sue only in the case of serious injury, disfigurement, or death.

    Currently, 12 states* and Puerto Rico have no-fault auto insurance laws.  Michigan’s law is unique because it offers unlimited medical and rehabilitation benefits, while other states place a monetary cap on these benefits.  Under Michigan no-fault law, an insured is entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, residual bodily injury coverage, and property protection insurance.  (These benefits will be discussed more extensively in a separate entry.)

    There have been many challenges to the Michigan No-Fault law, on both the judicial and legislative levels.  Although the law has been tweaked in multiple areas, its main structure has prevailed since implementation nearly 42 years ago.

    *Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Utah

  • Landmark Cases in No-Fault Law

    Under Michigan Compiled Laws §550.3135, a cause of action for damages may be brought by a person who has suffered serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.  The definition of “serious impairment of a body function” is considered a verbal threshold, since the term is not defined specifically in the statute.  The question of what constitutes serious impairment of a body function has been debated ever since the law took effect in 1973.

    In 1982, the Michigan Supreme Court asserted its first interpretation of “serious impairment of bodily function” in Cassidy v. McGovern.  The court established a threshold that specified that an injury must affect the ability to live a normal life.  Since “a normal life” can be loosely defined, few plaintiffs were able to recover non-economic damages under Cassidy.  Only those who were completely unable to work and/or care for themselves were considered disabled enough to qualify under this standard.

    In 1986, the Michigan Supreme Court decided the DiFranco v. Pickard case, in which the definition of “serious impairment of a body function” was expanded.  The court held that an injured party must show that there is a physical basis for subjective complaints of pain and suffering.  Factors to consider included the extent of the impairment, the body function affected, the length of time of impairment, and the treatment required.  The more generous interpretation opened the doors for fairer recovery for personal injury plaintiffs.

    The success experienced after DiFranco lasted until 2004, when the Michigan Supreme Court decided Kreiner v. Fischer and narrowed the definition of “serious impairment of bodily injury” to an injury that affects the general ability to lead a normal life.  Under Kreiner, it was insufficient for an injury to affect just part of one’s life, and could not be a mere minor interruption.  Therefore, a person who suffered and eventually recovered from a severe injury, or a person who suffered an isolated injury but could still proceed with his/her life, was unlikely to be compensated for the injuries.

    McCormick v. Carrier, decided by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2010, expanded the restrictive definition of “serious impairment of a body function” that had been imposed under Kreiner.  Where under Kreiner a person had to show total disruption of his/her life, under McCormick, an injured victim has only to establish that the impairment affected some of the person’s capacity to lead a normal life.  Under this more inclusive standard, many more people are able to be compensated for their injuries.

     

    Sources:

    • Cassidy v. McGovern, 330 NW 2d 22 (1982)
    • DiFranco v. Pickard, 287 NW 2d 896 (1986)
    • Kreiner v. Fischer, 683 NW2d 611 (2004)
    • McCormick v. Carrier, 795 NW2d 517 (2010)