Author: Steven J. Matz

Public bus accident-notice requirement

“I was hurt on a city bus when the driver crashed into another car. How long do I have to make an injury claim against the city?”

Be careful on this one! You must file your notice of injury claims with the authority that regulates the public transportation (city bus, county van, and so on) with written notice of any claim based upon injury within 60 days of the accident. The law that applies to this requirement lists the items that must be included in the notice. If you don’t file this written notice on time against the city or county that operates the public transportation, your case can be dismissed.

You don’t have to file suit within the 60 days, but you must file the notice of injury on time. Consult a lawyer who has experience with public transportation cases if you have any questions.

Source: MCL 124.419

Do I need to hire a lawyer to apply for my no-fault benefits?

“Do I need a lawyer to start no-fault benefits?”

No. You can start your no-fault claim on your own. If you are hurt in a motor vehicle accident, you can contact your insurance company and set up your claim for medical, wage loss and other no-fault benefits. There is no rule that you have to have a lawyer do this for you. In fact, attorneys are required to explain to you that it is not necessary to have a lawyer in order to make this application for benefits.

You may hire a lawyer to help you apply for benefits if you wish. Many people find that the no-fault system is difficult to understand and to work their way through. Others find very quickly that the information the insurance company wants before it will start paying seems unreasonable or overwhelming. Still others are concerned that statements they may make when they apply for benefits on their own could be used against them later on in the case. These can be very legitimate concerns, and you may well need to hire a lawyer to help you receive benefits that are in dispute. Just because you can apply for benefits on your own doesn’t mean that the insurance company is going to pay them. You may very well end up needing a lawyer to help you from the very beginning, if not as your claim continues.

Of course, your case against the other driver for pain and suffering damages is another matter. We don’t recommend to anybody that they try to deal directly with the other person’s insurance company without hiring a lawyer first when it comes to discussing damages for the injuries themselves.

But the point here is that you do not have to hire a lawyer to apply for your no-fault benefits (with your own insurance company) in the first place, nor do you necessarily have to hire a lawyer to help you with your claim if all of your benefits are being paid promptly. This is something that lawyers are supposed to explain to you.

Source: Formal Ethics Opinion C-223

PIP benefits for injury while doing repairs to car?

“Can I get no-fault benefits if I am injured while doing maintenance on my car, even if it is not running?”

Yes, the No-Fault Law says that PIP benefits are available for injuries that occur during maintenance of a vehicle. It is not necessary that the vehicle is in motion to bring this provision into effect. For example, in one case, a man had his car up on a jack so that he could replace his shock absorbers. It slipped off the jack and landed on him. At first, the car insurance did not want to pay his medical expenses, claiming that the car wasn’t running, or even being used as a motor vehicle at the time, meaning that no-fault benefits should be denied.

But the appeals court said that the No-Fault Law makes it clear that “maintenance” of a vehicle is an activity that is covered by benefits if someone is injured while working on an insured vehicle. Replacing shock absorbers is certainly maintenance. Benefits were ordered to be paid to the injured person.

Other cases have said that “maintenance” covers such activities as hooking up your car to be towed, or to looking under the hood to see why the car won’t start. Even though the cars weren’t running at the time the person was injured doing those things, the courts have said that these activities are covered by no-fault insurance.

Remember: like all the postings in this series, these situations reflect Michigan law, not necessarily the way things work in other states.

Source: MCL 500.3105; 157 Mich App 711

Serious Impairment

“Do I have to have a permanent injury to qualify for money damages against the other driver in a Michigan no-fault case?”

This is a question we answer in one form or another just about every day in our practice. In a Michigan motor vehicle crash case, you may qualify for money damages against the owner, driver, or both of the other vehicle if:

  1. The other driver was at least 50% responsible for the collision
  2. You had no-fault coverage on your vehicle (if you were a pedestrian or bicyclist, that doesn’t apply)
  3. You suffered serious impairment of body function, permanent serious disfigurement, serious neurological injury or death

The area that causes the most questions is “serious impairment.” Some Michigan judges and courts used to think that “serious” meant “permanent,” or even “disabling.” In recent years, however, the Michigan Supreme Court clarified the definition somewhat. It seems clear now that an injury from a car accident is “serious” if it can be verified by a doctor, and if it alters the way a victim has to live his normal life.

We take that to mean that even if you go back to most of your regular activities at some point after an auto crash injury, you may still qualify for damages if you can show that proven injuries are making it clearly more difficult to function than you did before the accident.

Source: 487 Mich 180

Social Security Disability and PIP

“If I am disabled in a Michigan auto collision, and therefore receive Social Security Disability benefits, can I still receive no-fault PIP wage loss benefits as well?”

Michigan courts have ruled that your PIP carrier is entitled to a credit for any Social Security Disability benefits you may receive for injuries received in a motor vehicle collision. The PIP carrier can’t force you to apply for Social Security Disability, but if you are awarded such benefits, your car insurance company can deduct any amount you receive from your wage loss payments.

For example, if your PIP wage loss monthly reimbursement is $2000, and you qualify for $900 per month from Social Security for the same injuries, your PIP carrier will owe you $1100 per month, and you’ll also get the $900 per month from Social Security. You still get the same amount that you would have received from PIP, alone ($2000 per month); it is just divided between two sources. If you get a large lump sum once your Social Security Disability is approved, the PIP carrier may stop paying you until the lump sum has evened out with the PIP payments that are due.

A couple of things to remember: This analysis only applies to Social Security Disability granted because of injuries caused in a car accident (not to Supplemental Security Income that a person receives because of a long-term illness not related to the car accident). Secondly, the PIP carrier can only claim the credit against wage loss benefits, not your other benefits, such as replacement services or attendant care.

Source: OAG Number 6111; 370 NW2d 619; 521 NW2d 831

PIP benefits for injury during vehicle unloading?

“If I get hurt while I am loading or unloading my vehicle, can I get PIP benefits?”

Yes, if you are injured by making contact with equipment permanently mounted to the vehicle, or if you are lifting objects into or from the vehicle when you get hurt. Keep in mind that injuries that occur while you are in the course of your employment will be covered by your workers compensation insurance, if you are employed by a company that has that sort of insurance.

You should be aware that the courts are very strict about applying these tests. If, for example, you are walking around to the back of your truck and you trip over a temporary trailer hitch wiring harness, the courts will probably say that you don’t qualify for no-fault medical coverage, because the harness wasn’t permanently mounted to the truck. Or say that you had taken some boxes out of your back seat, and you slip on an icy spot on your porch and twist your ankle. Again, the courts will probably rule that you weren’t injured due to the unloading process, but because you slipped and fell.

If you are unsure whether your “loading and unloading” injury claims might qualify for no-fault coverage, you should check with an attorney who is very familiar with Michigan no-fault laws.

Source: MCL 500.3106(1)(b); 347 NW2d 478

Does third party coverage apply to intentional auto injuries?

“I know I can sue a driver who carelessly runs into me and hurts me seriously, but what happens if that driver hurt me on purpose?”

Many people are hurt by drivers who intentionally crash into them after an argument, or during “road rage” incidents. If the other driver is at fault for crashing into you, and you are seriously hurt, you can still file a bodily injury claim against that person. Even if the other person’s car insurance says that it doesn’t cover intentionally-caused injuries, our courts have said that only applies to their injuries, not yours.

So while nobody wants to get into a situation where tempers flare, and people end up being run over or crashed into, the fact is that these incidents occur. You are not excluded from filing a body injury claim for pain and suffering against the other, so long as you were not the one who was at fault.

Remember, if you were not the person who caused the collision, you still get your no-fault benefits from your own car insurance or through the standard priority system that we have discussed elsewhere in this blog. It is important to note that if you get hurt in an accident that you caused on purpose, your auto insurance may refuse to cover your medical expenses or wage loss, because your injuries were not “accidental.”

This is yet another reason why you don’t want to get involved in road rage, no matter how justified you may feel your actions are at the time.

Source: 95 Mich App 213; MCL 500.3131; MCL 500.3135(3)(a); MCL 500. 500.3105(4)

PIP for motorcylist

“If I am riding my motorcycle, and am hit by a car, which insurance company pays my no-fault benefits?”

A motorcycle is not considered a “motor vehicle” under the common definitions in the No-Fault Act. If it were, the motorcyclist would be required to carry no-fault insurance, including coverage for unlimited medical benefits. Here is the schedule that lists the order of priority for payment of no-fault benefits (wage loss, medical benefits, etc.) for motorcyclists who are involved in collisions with cars and trucks (“motor vehicles”):

  1. The insurance company for the person who owns or registers the motor vehicle;
  2. The insurance company for the person who was driving the motor vehicle during the accident;
  3. The insurance company for any car or truck owned by the motorcycle operator;
  4. The insurance company for any car or truck owned by the person who also owned or registered the motorcycle; and
  5. Assigned Claims.

This is clearly a departure from the usual rules of no-fault coverage, which state that each person in an accident applies to his or her own no-fault coverage first, even if they aren’t in their own car when an accident happens. In cases where motorcyclists are in collisions with cars and trucks, it is the insurance for the car or truck that will provide no-fault coverage to the motorcyclist. It does not matter which driver was at fault.

Please keep in mind that there has to be evidence that a motor vehicle was involved in the collision for these rules to apply. Because a motorcycle is not a “motor vehicle” for no-fault purposes, there will not be any PIP (no-fault) coverage for either driver if two motorcycles collide, or for either person if a motorcyclist runs over, for example, a bicyclist or pedestrian (no “motor vehicle” involved).

Remember to keep your motorcycle endorsements, including no-helmet privileges, up to date, and carry the required insurance for medical coverage and liability so that you will be in compliance with the special group of laws that apply to motorcyclists in Michigan.

Source: MCL 500.3114(5)

Wage loss for self-employed persons

“How are my no-fault benefits calculated if I am self-employed?”

The Michigan No-Fault Law states that an insured person will receive 85% of his or her gross income for up to three years from the date of the accident, provided that the insurance company agrees that the person is off work due to the accident. It is easy to figure out what 85% of a person’s gross pay is if that person takes home a regular paycheck. But how do the calculations work for people who are self-employed, or who are independent contractors who don’t draw a check from an employer?

The basic rule for self-employed people is that net wage loss is calculated by deducting business expenses from gross income. The amount that is left over is the basis for making the 85% payment. Independent contractors, on the other hand, can apply for work loss benefits based upon their record of earnings for a reasonable time before the accident. They can also present evidence of lost opportunities for work during the time they will be disabled.

A common dilemma that many self-employed people face in no-fault wage loss situations is that the amount of “income” they receive is not significant. It is to the advantage of a small business owner to “expense” as many costs as possible to the business, so that the taxable consequences to the business are favorable, and the personal tax consequences to the owner are minimized. However, the benefit of minimizing personal income for tax purposes becomes a negative when it is time to base no-fault reimbursement on your claimed wages.

Many of these cases come down to a battle between the accountant for the insurance company and the accountant a lawyer hires to examine the books of his or her client. It is important that you have detailed and clear records of your business bookkeeping and accounting if you want to argue with your car insurance company about how much wage loss reimbursement you should receive, if you are self-employed or are an independent contractor.

Source: 105 Mich App 290; 191 Mich App 12

© Matz Injury Law.
Back To Top
The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 33 1/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 33 1/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients. 

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients.  We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims.  Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.

Lets Talk Close window