After a Fatal Accident What Compensation Is Available?

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in , .

When you lose a loved one to someone else’s careless behavior, it is easy to feel confused, scared, angry, and alone. You deserve to be compensated for the death of your loved one after a fatal car accident to help you with the financial costs and emotional losses you have suffered. Wrongful death lawsuits can reach millions of dollars, but the insurance company often tries to pay out meager settlements or even nothing at all. If a few thousand dollars seems insultingly low for the death of a loved one, you are not wrong.

The personal injury lawyers at Matz Injury Law are here to stop the insurance company from coercing you into accepting scant settlements. No amount of money can bring back your loved one, but compensation for the funeral expenses, medical bills, and other costs is critical. We have won millions for our clients over the years, and we will fight for the fair compensation you deserve in your wrongful death claim.

Car rolled over on the road

Benefits You Are Entitled to as a Surviving Family Member

After a wrongful death in a Michigan car accident, the surviving spouse and close surviving family members are entitled to two general types of damages for the loss of their loved one. These are no-fault survivor’s loss benefits and wrongful death compensation.

Survivor’s Loss Benefits

Michigan is a no-fault state for car accidents. This means surviving family members are entitled to survivor’s loss benefits, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. The state’s no-fault law guarantees that after a fatal car accident, surviving family members can receive benefits based on their economic losses.

Wrongful Death Compensation

Michigan also has a Wrongful Death Act that allows family members of a person killed in a fatal car accident to sue for damages. These can help if your survivor’s loss benefits are not enough to cover your expenses and loss.

If you are unsure what benefits you can receive after a fatal car accident injury robs you of your loved one, or you do not know what to do when an insurance adjuster tries to get out of paying your claim, Matz Injury Law is here to help. Get in touch today at 1-866-22Not33, or use our online contact form to get a free consultation. Your legal rights matter, and we are here to fight by your side.

How Are Survivor Loss Benefits Calculated in Michigan?

The exact amount of survivor’s loss benefits changes every year, with the monthly maximum considered the maximum in effect at the time of the car crash. They may also be limited by the amount of the insurance policy. Survivor loss benefits under no-fault law can include:

  • Lost wages
  • Social Security
  • Investment and annuity income
  • Disability benefits
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Pension and retirement benefits
  • Health insurance costs such as medical bills
  • Household replacement service benefits
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Other fringe benefits

No-fault benefits are paid for up to three years after the car accident. Dependents under state law are typically the surviving spouse and any children under 18 years of age. They may, however, also include adult children with physical or mental disabilities at the time of the decedent’s death.

Who is Allowed to Sue Under Michigan’s Wrongful Death Act?

The close relatives of the deceased person may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Close relatives include the spouse, children or other descendants, parents, siblings, and grandparents. If none of these survive the decedent, any persons that serve as beneficiaries of the estate under intestate succession laws, determined as of the date of death, may file a wrongful death claim. Before these persons can file a wrongful death claim, they must appoint themselves as a personal representative of the estate in probate court.

What Damages Am I Entitled to After a Family Member Dies in a Michigan Car Accident?

If you are one of the parties mentioned above, you are entitled to damages. The exact amount of compensation and damages available in wrongful death cases are unique and individual to each case. Your Michigan wrongful death attorney will be able to give you a better idea of what yours might be worth after speaking with you about what happened. The specific types of damages, however, that you may be able to collect after a fatal motor vehicle accident may include the following.

Medical Bills

If your spouse incurred medical expenses from necessary medical treatment for bodily injury between the auto accident and their death, you may sue for damages to cover these expenses just as you would in a personal injury claim. These can cover hospital and doctor’s office bills, transport to medical appointments, medication, procedures, and all other medical bills and costs.

Funeral and Burial Expenses

Funeral costs can be expensive. If another motorist’s careless or malicious behavior causes the death of your loved one, you may be able to sue to cover these costs. Your car accident attorney can help you determine how much you can collect.

Pain and Suffering

“Pain and suffering” is a catch-all term in personal injury cases that refers to all of the non-economic damages you suffer from injury and loss. Non-economic damages after a fatal car accident can cover a range of invisible injuries such as mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of companionship, PTSD, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of comfort and support, and a range of other damages and losses.

Punitive damages are not part of pain and suffering. They are a different type of damage altogether and are only granted in the most egregious cases where the at-fault party shows deliberate malice or is excessively negligent, such as with drunk driving. They are in place purely to punish the driver for their acts. You should not assume that you can sue for punitive damages. Your Michigan personal injury attorney will let you know if they are on the table.

Loss of Financial Support

Loss of financial support in a car accident case refers to the financial losses you suffer outside of funeral or medical expenses. This covers things like the lost wages of the deceased person, the loss of their retirement income, Social Security, investments, and other money you would have benefited from if they were still alive.

Loss of Companionship

Loss of companionship is a major part of pain and suffering in your car accident case. It refers to the mental anguish and heartache you suffer from not having your beloved in your life anymore. It can be difficult to value, of course. No amount of money can bring back your beloved parent, child, or close relative. Your lawyer, however, can help you determine a fair value that will become part of your case.

Does Car Insurance Pay for Accidental Death?

Again, it is important to note that Michigan is a no-fault state. This means when you seek to collect survivor’s benefits, your insurance company pays for the damages. These benefits come from your PIP, or personal injury protection, also sometimes called no-fault insurance. Family members may receive survivor’s benefits regardless of whether the deceased was the at-fault driver in the crash.

As stated above, the benefits you can receive under no-fault laws include payment of all medical bills related to the crash, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, investment income, retirement benefits, Social Security, disability benefits, and other economic losses related to the crash.

Survivor’s benefits do not cover your pain and suffering and your other non-economic damages. Lost wages are prorated at a percentage of pre-tax income and are only paid for up to three years after the death. These benefits are also capped at a maximum monthly total that changes every year, though the benefits you receive will always use the cap that was in place at the date of the death.

Understanding which insurance company pays benefits comes down to the order priority under state law. The first priority is your insurance (your PIP coverage). Next is the automobile insurance of someone related to you by blood or marriage who cohabitates with you in the same home. If you are completely uninsured, the state will assign an insurance company. Finally, the benefits you receive may be capped by the maximum available under the insurance coverage you carry in your car insurance policy.

Motorcycles are a unique case. Motorcycle riders are not required to purchase PIP insurance like other motorists. A motorcycle is not considered a motor vehicle under Michigan’s no-fault act.

Why Are PIP Benefits Capped?

Michigan recently altered the laws to permit drivers to cap PIP benefits to receive a lower premium. Now, you can completely opt out of PIP coverage or choose to have benefits capped at $50,000, $250,000, or $500,000. You can also still choose unlimited coverage. Unlimited coverage, however, applies only to medical and nurse’s aid costs. It will likely not come into play unless the accident victim suffers a catastrophic injury.

Does No-Fault Mean You Don’t Have to Prove Negligence?

You will need to prove negligence if you sue the at-fault party in a wrongful death case. Michigan has a modified comparative fault rule that states you can only collect damages from a car accident if you are 50% or less responsible for the accident.

If the decedent carried any responsibility at all, the award to which you are entitled may be reduced by that amount. If, for example, the deceased person holds 20% responsibility for the accident, the final award will be 80% of the maximum value the courts consider the accident worth; a case worth $100,000 would see only $80,000 awarded.

In addition, a personal injury lawsuit in Michigan requires that accident victims meet certain thresholds for their type of injury. A lawsuit requires serious permanent disfigurement or serious impairment of bodily function that you can objectively show to affect the quality of your life, or the victim must die because of the accident.

Why Do People Hire Attorneys for Wrongful Death Cases?

People hire attorneys for one of two general reasons. First, if you were not at fault for the accident and you meet one of the three thresholds for injury, a lawsuit is likely, and the insurance adjuster will go to great lengths to get out of paying a claim. Having a wrongful death attorney in your corner improves your chance of a successful claim.

The second reason you might hire a wrongful death attorney is that your own insurance company or the one assigned by the state to pay PIP benefits refuses to pay, the adjuster tries to pay you less than requested, or the insurer delays payment.

Is There a Statute of Limitations in Michigan?

Yes, there is a statute of limitations. In Michigan, you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, you only have one year to file for survivor’s loss benefits under no-fault insurance.

You Deserve Compensation for Your Tragedy

Dealing with the death of a loved one is tragically overwhelming. You have enough on your mind already. You do not need to deal with insurance companies bullying you into signing off on an insufficient offer. Let the attorneys at Matz Injury Law take over the fight so you can mourn and move forward. Get in touch with us today at 1-866-22Not33 or fill out our online contact form to get a case evaluation. Let us fight for you.

Written By Steven Matz

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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