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News & Case Results


Matz & Pietsch Blog

  • Mar

    11

    2015

    Who pays PIP for children of divorced parents?

    “My ex-spouse and I have shared custody of our children. Whose car insurance covers them if they are in an accident and need medical care?”

    The answer to this depends partly upon which parent the child was staying with when the accident happened, and partly on the custody order from the divorce. If one parent has sole legal and physical custody, that parent’s no-fault covers the child’s auto-related expenses (of course, any health insurance the child has also may be involved).

    If the parents share legal and physical custody, the insurance comes from whichever parent the child was living with on the day of the accident. The exception is where one parent has primary physical custody. In that case, the insurance comes from the parent with primary custody, no matter where the child was staying on the date of the accident.

    If the child happens to be staying with a parent who does not have car insurance and who is not the parent with primary custody, and the child is in someone else’s car when there is an accident, the car insurance will come from sources in this order: the owner of the vehicle the child was in, the driver of that vehicle (if different from the owner), or the Assigned Claims Plan.

    Source: 494 Mich 475 (2013)


  • Mar

    09

    2015

    Work loss benefit reduced to 85%

    “Why is my no-fault wage loss check not as much as I was making at work?”

    The No-Fault Act allows the insurance company to reduce its wage loss payment to an injured person by 15%. In other words, you will get 85% of your gross (before tax) earnings for as long as you can prove that you are disabled due to the accident.

    The 15% is taken out because you would normally be paying taxes on your wages. The amount you get from the no-fault carrier is not taxable to you. If you can prove that you were in a tax bracket less than 15%, you would get your full wage minus the percentage tax bracket you were in.

    Remember, your insurance company has the right to decide on its own whether you are disabled because of the accident. The insurance company may cut you off from wages and other benefits, such as medical coverage, even if your doctor believes you are still disabled. Many lawsuits arise between injured people and their insurance companies over whether a claimant is truly entitled to continuing insurance payments.

    You should also keep in mind that there is a three year time limit on no-fault wage loss claims, and there is a monthly maximum you can receive, no matter how much you earn. Attorneys who work on auto accident cases will be able to tell you more about how these benefits and limitations work.

    Source: MCL 500.3107(1)(b)


  • Mar

    02

    2015

    Intentionally Caused Collision Damage

    “If another driver crashes into me on purpose, and wrecks my car, can I sue for the damage?”

    Yes, if you can prove that the other driver intended to crash into you. The key word is “intended.” Ordinarily, you can’t collect more than the $1000 minitort maximum from the other driver to pay for your collision damage. But if you have proof, such as witnesses to a road-rage incident, that the other driver meant to slam into your car, you are eligible to sue for the full amount of your collision damage that is not covered by your insurance.

    Please remember that you have to carry the minimum “PL/PD” coverage on your vehicle in Michigan. Otherwise, you are not eligible to make no-fault or collision damage claims yourself. It is not mandatory to carry collision coverage, although, if you have an auto lease or loan, the finance company or dealer may insist that you have it. If you don’t have collision coverage, you run the risk of absorbing the financial loss of damage to your vehicle. See the previous blog entries about collision damage and minitort.

    Source: MCL 500.3135(3); 470 Mich 28


  • Feb

    25

    2015

    Rehabilitation Expenses for Auto Injuries

    “What kinds of rehabilitation benefits will no-fault insurance pay in serious injury cases?”

    The No-Fault Act says in general terms that the auto insurance must pay for “reasonably necessary” medical and nursing care, products, services and accommodations related to a motor vehicle accident. Examples of such services might include physical, occupational and speech therapy, in-home care, transportation costs to obtain treatment and modifications to a home to make it accessible to an injured person during recovery.

    Recent court decisions mean that the insurance company may only have to pay for items that are ”over and above” what the injured person might have needed even before the accident. Take, for example, the case of a woman paralyzed in a car accident, and confined to a wheelchair thereafter. The auto carrier, according to the recent court decisions, may not be responsible to buy her a specially-equipped van that will permit her to drive or be driven to her medical appointments. Rather, the insurer may argue that she needed some sort of vehicle to get around anyway, and that the company will only pay for the modifications to a van that she buys on her own! This is an area where many new lawsuits are being filed.

    Another example pertains to home modifications. The insurer has the option of fixing the patient’s current home to accommodate her injuries, or it can decide that it would be less expensive to move the client to a home that is better-suited to her needs. There can be considerable friction between a family that wants to stay in its current home, and an insurer who will only pay for a (less expensive) place that won’t cost as much to get ready. That friction often leads to lawsuits by the patient against his or her insurance company.

    The main area of conflict with nursing and rehabilitation services comes when the insurance company argues that the care isn’t reasonable, necessary, related to the collision or some combination of those factors. The insurance company may conduct its own review, and if its hired expert says the care doesn’t meet all three of these factors, the insurance company will cut off payment for those services.

    In many instances, it is necessary to file suit in order to enforce the requirement that the insurance company will pay for services, products and accommodations that the patient believes are needed to cope with the effects of an automobile accident.

    Source: 494 Mich 10; MCL 500.3107(1)(a).


  • Feb

    16

    2015

    Can’t sue if you don’t have car insurance

    “I was hurt in an accident caused by another driver. I didn’t have insurance on my car, but why does that matter if the accident was his fault?”

    This is one of the most common questions we get from callers. In Michigan, you can’t sue the other driver for pain and suffering if you were driving your own vehicle at the time of the accident and you didn’t have insurance on that vehicle. The intent behind this law is to prevent people from having the financial benefit of the insurance system without paying into the system. It is true even if the other driver was 100% at fault.

    You should also know that the No-Fault law also says that you are the “owner” of a vehicle, even if it belongs to someone else, if you have the right to use that person’s vehicle for more than thirty days. In other words, if a relative lets you use an uninsured vehicle that is in his or her name whenever you wish, and this is an arrangement that is intended to last at least thirty days, insurance must be purchased for that vehicle, even though it is not “yours” in the common meaning of the word. If you get in an accident in that uninsured vehicle, you will not get no-fault wage loss or medical coverage, wage loss or other benefits. You also cannot sue the other driver for pain and suffering.

    Don’t try to “get around” the requirement that there is insurance on the vehicle you are driving. The law is very strict and very clear on this point, and the consequences for violating the law could mean financial disaster for you even if you were not at fault.

    Source: MCL 500.3101; MCL 500.3135(2)(c)


  • Feb

    10

    2015

    Insurance Agent Liability

    “What if I find out after an accident that my insurance agent didn’t sell me the proper coverages? Can I sue the agent for the mistake?”

    Many people don’t pay much attention to their insurance coverages until they have an accident. Only then might they find out that they weren’t covered at all for a particular loss, or that they didn’t have nearly enough coverage to take care of their losses. The question often arises whether the insurance agent should have told the customer which coverages to buy, or how much to buy.

    The answer is usually “No.” In Michigan, an insurance agent is generally just an “order taker” who sells you whatever you ask for. The agent doesn’t have a duty to help you figure out whether you are buying more or less coverage than you need, and it is your responsibility to know what your coverages are. As with most things in the law, there are some exceptions, although they can be difficult for the customer to prove. Here are the four exceptions:

    1. Did the agent tell you something about your coverage, or lack of it, that was incorrect?
    2. Did you make a request when you applied for coverage that the agent should have asked you to clarify?
    3. Did the agent offer advice about what you should do that turned out to be wrong?
    4. Did the agent promise to do something that the agent didn’t do?

    Remember, you need proof to get anywhere with these exceptions. Your word alone against the agent means you lose.

    Please keep in mind that the insurance policy is a contract. You are expected to know what it says. If you think you have been misled by an insurance agent and that you can prove one of the exceptions, a lawyer who does insurance work may be able to help you.

    Source: 461 Mich 1


  • Feb

    07

    2015

    Matz and Pietsch Earns Special Recognition in 2015

    The Law Offices of Matz and Pietsch is proud to congratulate its principal attorneys, Steven J. Matz and Samuel H. Pietsch on the extraordinary recognition each has recently earned.

    The legal publication Martindale Hubbell continues to award both Steven J. Matz and Samuel H. Pietsch its highest evaluation, “AV Preeminent”, which, according to Martindale Hubbell “is a significant rating accomplishment – a testimony to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him at the highest level of professional excellence.”

    The legal publisher, Thomson Reuters has recognized both Steven J. Matz and Samuel H. Pietsch as “Super Lawyers”. According to Thomson Reuters “. . . As part of the selection process, peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement.”

    The Trial Lawyers Board of Regents, LLC has awarded Steven J. Matz and Samuel H. Pietsch its Litigator Award. According to the Trial Lawyers Board of Regents, LLC, “The 2014 Litigator Award represents the highest honor in trial law and justly stands as the nation’s most coveted symbol of Litigation Achievement . . . award winners rank among the top 1% of all lawyers. Those awarded join an exclusive fraternity of super star lawyers who have won one million, multi-million and/or billion dollar cases. Of the nearly 1.1 million-dollar-lawyers considered, only a select few (about 12 law firms) per state . . . will win the distinction annually in any given practice speciality.

    Steven J. Matz has received the following additional recognition:

    ● The National Trial Lawyers has certified that Steven J. Matz has met the standard of excellence for selection to “Top 100 Trial Lawyers”.

    ● Crains Detroit Business has recognized Steven J. Matz as one of the Top Attorneys in Michigan.

    ● Avvo, a legal information publication recently gave Steven J. Matz it’s Client’s Choice Award and its rating service has accorded him a perfect “10″ – superb.

    Statement of Steven J. Matz

    I am very proud of the professional recognition Sam and I continue to receive. I am more proud of the trust and confidence our past and current clients have shown in our ability to provide expert legal assistance and counsel. While wining awards and being honored by our peers is always nice, winning settlements and judgments for our clients is what brings us the greatest satisfaction.

    Our goal at Matz and Pietsch is to get the largest settlement or judgment possible and permit our clients to keep more of their settlement. That’s why we charge just 22% of the net settlement, not the 33 1/3% many other firms charge.

    It is only because of our enormous past success in obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients that we have been able to reduce our fees. At Matz and Pietsch, our clients have the advantage of retaining award winning attorneys who accept a limited number of cases per year, offer a reduced fee and achieve extraordinary results.

    Thanks to all our past and present clients who have allowed us to work for you and reach this level of success and public recognition.

    Please visit us at 22not33.com for more information about our firm. To learn more about your rights under Michigan Law visit the Blog section at 22not33.com or give us a call, toll free, at 1-844-Twenty-Two (893-6898).

     

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    NTL-top100superlawyers


  • Feb

    02

    2015

    Case Costs and Attorney Fees Explained

    “What is the difference between case costs and attorney contingency fees?”

    Just about all personal injury attorneys will take your case on a contingency fee basis. The word “contingent” means “depends upon.” In a legal case, “contingency fee” means “depends upon winning.” If your lawyer gets you money for your case, you pay a percentage fee to the lawyer. If no money is recovered for your case, you pay no fee to the lawyer. You can use a contingency fee agreement in a personal injury case, but not in a criminal case or divorce matter.

    That’s a separate item from the case costs. In order to prepare your personal injury case, a lawyer will spend money on such things as ordering the police report and your medical records. The lawyer will also pay for court filing fees, deposition transcripts and other items that are necessary to build the case. These are costs that the lawyer pays out in advance, rather than asking you for them each time an item must be ordered.

    At the end of the case, the lawyer adds up the amount he or she has spent to get the case ready. The total is subtracted from the settlement. This leaves what is called the “net amount” of the settlement. From the net amount that remains, the attorney charges the percentage contingent fee that you agreed to. The rest is yours.

    There is a maximum amount of one-third of the net amount that the lawyer can charge in Michigan. However, there is no rule that says you have to pay that much. You are free to negotiate a lower fee with a lawyer if you wish. Paying a lower contingency fee means that you will keep more of the settlement the lawyer gets for you. It pays to “shop around” when you are interviewing lawyers to handle your personal injury case.

    One final word: you are responsible to repay the lawyer for the case costs that the lawyer spends to get your case ready. This is true whether you get a settlement or not. It is important that you ask questions about this before you hire a lawyer. That way, you will understand the kinds of things the lawyer will be spending money on, what items they will charge you for, and whether they charge you interest to pay these costs in advance.

    Source: MRPC 1.5


  • Jan

    30

    2015

    Small Claims Court

    “What are the basic guidelines for filing a case in Small Claims Court?”

    Note: This article describes the law in Michigan. Other states have their own rules.

    If you have a disagreement with another person, or a company, that involves a money value of no more than $3000, you might think about suing in Small Claims Court. Here are some of the rules, and some of the realities, as well.

    Kinds of Cases: Money damages, but not cases of fraud, intentional misconduct (like assault, or slander). No cases where you ask the court to rule on the fairness of someone’s behavior (so-called equitable relief).

    Dollar limit: Cases where damages are $3000 or less and can be proven. Remember: in auto minitort claims for repayment of your deductible or collision damage by the driver who caused the collision, the most you can get is $1000.

    Where to file the case: This is done in the Small Claims Division of the District Court for the city where the person you are suing lives, or in the city where the breach of agreement or injury happened. There is a filing fee. The Complaint can be served on the Defendant in person or by certified mail (the Clerk of the Court does that).

    Court date: You will receive a hearing date that can vary from about two weeks to about two months after the Complaint is served.

    Attorneys: No attorneys are allowed to represent the parties.

    Transfer of case: If either party wants to ask the Court to transfer the case to the general civil division, the Court will do that. This would happen, for example, if the Defendant wants to protest the suit, and wants to use a lawyer, or if the Plaintiff discovers that the actual financial loss is more than $3000, but less than $25,000.

    Appeals: Not allowed, unless the case is heard by a district court magistrate; in that case there is a seven day appeal period

    Collecting the money: If the Plaintiff wins a judgment, it is up to the Plaintiff to take further legal steps to try to collect the money. This is done at the Plaintiff’s expense. There is no guarantee that attempts to collect the judgment will be successful. Hiring an attorney to attempt collection is entirely up to the Plaintiff.

    Where to get formshttp://courts.mi.gov/ – Small Claims Forms

     

    Source: Michiganlegalaid.org


  • Jan

    27

    2015

    Insurance policy limits

    “What do the numbers such as ‘$20,000/$40,000′ mean on my insurance policy?”

    A question that we are often asked (and usually too late, after someone has already had an injury accident) has to do with how much insurance coverage they have. This is especially important to know if the other driver caused a serious injury accident. For purposes of this posting, we will discuss only coverages that apply to pain and suffering damages.

    Take a look at the sheet that comes with your car insurance policy every time you renew. This is called the “declarations page” because it lists (declares) the amounts and types of coverages you have chosen, as well as how much you are paying for each.

    You are covered up to the amount shown on the “bodily injury” or “personal liability” line on the declaration page. This is usually the first category listed on the sheet. You will see a code that says something like “20/40” or “100,000/300,000 per occurrence.” Occasionally, the line will read something like “250,000 single limit,” or “250,000/250,000.” What does all that mean?

    Bodily injury coverage applies to the person who caused the accident. It is the maximum the insurance policy will pay, no matter how badly the at-fault driver injures someone. In the example of $20,000/$40,000 coverage, the driver who caused the accident has insurance that will pay up to $20,000 for any one person who is injured due to the fault of a covered driver, and up to a total of $40,000 for two or more victims.

    Single limit coverage means that the policy covers up to a particular amount, and the victims can dispute among themselves how to split it up, it they qualify.

    This doesn’t mean that the insurance automatically pays that much if the insured driver hurts someone-it’s simply the maximum that will be paid out. After that, the at-fault driver, which could be you, is on his or her own for damages above the coverage limits.

    Now take a look at the line that says “Uninsured/Underinsured” coverage. Again, there will usually be an entry such as “$100,00/$300,000 per occurrence.” This means that you have coverage up to those amounts if you are injured by a driver who doesn’t have any insurance (uninsured), or who has less coverage that the amount you are carrying for this category (underinsured). Once again, you don’t automatically get these amounts if you are injured—you have to file a claim, or even a lawsuit, and fight to prove what you are entitled to. Lawyers call this “UM/UIM” coverage.

    Michigan law requires that you carry a minimum of $20,000 per victim and $40,000 total on your liability coverage. That is not much coverage, and it doesn’t go very far if you cause a serious accident. Over and above those amounts, you may be personally liable to pay additional damages, and depending upon the circumstances, you may not be eligible to declare bankruptcy and try to escape financial judgments for damages above your policy limits.

    It has been many years since this portion of the insurance code was changed-we certainly believe that everyone should carry as much liability coverage as they can afford, and should have at least $100,000 uninsured/underinsured coverage, too. Take a look at how inexpensive UM/UIM coverage is compared to the other items you pay for on your car insurance bill. It makes sense to buy a lot of UM/UIM coverage. You are insuring yourself and your family against the rest of the driving public doing something careless and causing you harm. Often, the worst drivers also have the least insurance-or none at all. Protect yourself—buy lots of UM/UIM!

    You should go over your policy and make sure you have the types and amounts of coverage that will protect you if you cause a serious accident, or if you are involved in an accident that is the fault of a driver who either does not have much coverage, or who may have none at all. Now that you know what the numerical codes mean, this should be easier to do, and simpler to price out.



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