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2 BERNSTEIN BOOKS Since 1970 our firm has worked to educate the public about the law and safety issues. We believe that knowledge is power. The more you know about your legal rights the more likely it is that you ll be treated fairly. Bernstein Book publications represent our effort to continue informing the public about important issues. Contact Us: Phone: CALL-SAM or Web: :
3 Page Introduction 4 Chapter 1 Automobile Accidents 5 Chapter 2 Michigan Automobile Accident Checklist 7 Chapter 3 Your Rights in the Event of an Injury Resulting from an Auto Accident 9 Michigan No-Fault Law Specific Michigan First-Party Benefits Chapter 4 What Should I Do If I am in a Auto 15 Accident Chapter 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Auto 17 Accidents Chapter 6 SUV Rollover Accidents 20 Chapter 7 Truck Accidents 22 Michigan Truck Accident Checklist 24 Chapter 8 Motorcycle Accidents 25 Motorcycle Accident Statistics Motorcycle Accident Claims What To Do After a Motorcycle Accident FAQ s about Motorcycle Claims Chapter 9 Drunk Driving Accident Facts 34
4 3 Chapter 10 How To Get Your Car Fixed Or Replaced 39 After An Accident Insurance Companies Have One 40 Priority-Profit Chapter 11 If Your Car is Totaled 54 Chapter 12 Eight Ways to Save on Your Auto 58 Insurance Chapter 13 Why You Need a Car Accident Lawyer 61 Chapter 14 Why We Win 64 Our Auto Accident Attorney Qualifications 65
5 4 Our firm helps thousands of serious auto accident victims each year. Introduction A serious car accident is a traumatic experience. No one wants to imagine being involved in a car accident. Even the best drivers cannot always avoid the negligent actions of others. The number of serious injuries caused by auto accidents each year is staggering. That is why you need to be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect yourself in the event of a car accident. Automobile Accident Statistics At the national level, the National Safety Council estimates that approximately 6 million auto accidents occur on an annual basis. More than 3 million individuals are injured, and more than 2 million of these injuries are permanent. The most recent study in Michigan from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that 4,967 people died in Michigan traffic crashes between 2006 and Car accidents in the United States accounted for 188,158 deaths from 2006 to Collisions occurring at speeds as low as 5 miles an hour can lead to significant cervical or neck injury. This is true even though there is little to no damage to the motor vehicles in a low speed collision. Even if an accident causes no broken bones, a victim may suffer soft-tissue injuries that last for months, or sometimes years.
6 Chapter 1 Automobile Accidents
7 6 What We Do Our firm helps thousands of serious auto accident injury victims each year. The vast majority of auto accidents, fortunately, do not result in serious personal injury. If you are in an accident and have questions about your legal rights, contact The Sam Bernstein Law Firm before you talk with the insurance company of the person at fault. Signing the wrong papers could mean you have settled for less than you deserve. For the thousands of Michigan car accident victims, the actual auto accident is only the beginning of the physical and emotional hardships that they experience. However, the time for an adult or child to take action to preserve their legal rights starts to run from the day of the collision. It is not unusual for an auto accident victim who is struggling to deal with the effects of a disabling injury to forget that time is running out to take the steps necessary to secure benefits. This Bernstein Book is designed to provide useful information on how to handle these types of auto accidents. This Bernstein Book also covers a wide range of topics on auto accident related replacement and repair. We hope that the information in this Bernstein Book is helpful to you and your family in the event of an auto accident.
8 Chapter 2 Michigan Automobile Accident Checklist
9 8 Michigan Automobile Accident Checklist The following checklist can help you take the necessary steps to protect your legal rights in case of an auto accident. Stay calm after the accident. Stop to protect your passengers and car. If necessary, call an ambulance for any injured party. Set out flares, if you carry them. Do not leave the scene of the auto accident. Exchange documents after the auto accident. Exchange only your license, registration, and motor vehicle identification car with the other drivers. Do not discuss the auto accident with anyone other than the police. Do not blame yourself or anyone else. Get ownership facts after the auto accident. Write down the name, address, and insurance company of the owner of the other car involved in the auto accident. Do not assume that the other driver owns his or her car. Get information about witnesses to the auto accident. Be sure to write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any people who saw the auto accident, but were not involved in it. Draw a diagram of the auto accident scene. Write the date and time of the auto accident on the diagram. In addition, write down information about the location of the auto accident, including the intersection, street names, any stop lights or traffic control signs, or other landmarks.
10 Chapter 3 Your Rights in the Event of an Injury Resulting From an Auto Accident
11 10 Michigan No-Fault Law Basics of Car Accident Claims The laws that govern Michigan automobile accidents are complex. Often, the terms used by car accident insurance agents and lawyers are confusing. Here are some useful terms: 1. First-Party Benefits 2. Third-Party Benefits Michigan is a No-Fault State. This means that your own accident insurance company pays most of the economic losses you suffer in an automobile accident, regardless of the party at fault. These economic benefits are called First-Party Benefits. Third-Party Benefits usually cover non-economic losses, including damages for pain and suffering. Both of these types of benefits are described in detail below. Michigan First Party Basics The Michigan law defining First-Party Benefits states: First-party benefits are payable to anyone who suffers an injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. The following analysis looks at: Who has to pay your Michigan No-Fault Benefits? What are the specific benefits you may be entitled to receive after a Michigan auto accident?
12 11 Michigan First Party Order of Priority Although your own insurance is first in line to pay in a Michigan automobile accident, there are times when an uninsured individual is an innocent passenger in a motor vehicle. In these circumstances, determining who is responsible to pay No-Fault Benefits can be complex. Driver or Passenger Order of Priority 1 st priority is your own insurance company, if none then 2 nd priority is to the insurance company of a resident relative (i.e. spouse, parent, or sibling), if none then 3 rd priority is to the insurer of the owner of the vehicle occupied, if none then 4 th priority is to the insurer of the driver of the vehicle occupied, if none then 5 th priority is to the State of Michigan Assigned Claims Facility. The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility is a State Agency with the power to assign an auto accident insurance company to provide benefits, if an injured victim cannot obtain benefits from other sources. Remember that uninsured drivers, operating a vehicle they own, most likely do not qualify for Michigan Assigned Claim Facility assistance. To apply for Assigned Claims Benefits, call the Michigan Assigned Claim Facility directly at
13 12 Specific Michigan First-Party Benefits Medical Bills for Life Michigan motor vehicle accident law requires that medical coverage continue for life, or for as long as you need treatment for injuries suffered in the accident. There are many complicated factors to getting your medical bills paid, if you are in a motor vehicle accident. We recommend that you contact our office about your rights. To qualify for medical expense reimbursement, a bill must be reasonable (in cost and necessity), and the bill must be actually incurred. Michigan law does not provide for guaranteed pre-payment of bills due to a motor vehicle accident. Sometimes, an auto accident insurance company will try to escape its responsibility, by questioning the need for a medical test or procedure, which your physician ordered, or by disputing the amount of the medical bill. Insurance companies in Michigan provide two types of medical coverage in the event of an automobile accident: Uncoordinated benefits Coordinated benefits Your insurance policy states which type of benefits you should receive. 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 insurer does not cover. It is common for a primary health insurance policy and a motor vehicle insurance policy to contain contradictory language about which insurance company has the first obligation to pay medical bills. Meanwhile, the motor vehicle insurance company may escape its obligation to pay a bill, if it did not receive it within one year of the date that you received the medical treatment.
14 13 Wage Loss Michigan No-Fault Law allows an injured individual to receive 85% of his or her lost wages, if a doctor found the victim disabled from work due to injuries suffered in a car accident. This benefit cannot exceed a period of 3 years. The wage loss benefit is set at 85%, rather than 100%, of lost earnings because the benefit is tax-free. The law also sets a monthly cap on the amount of lost wages that the insurance company must reimburse. In some cases, these and other rules create complicated issues. We encourage you to contact our office to receive additional information regarding your rights in the event of an auto accident. Attendant Care Michigan auto accident law requires the no-fault insurance company to pay for attendant care, also known as nursing services, for an injured victim who needs supervision or assistance while recovering at home. A caregiver, who is a member of the victim's family, is entitled to attendant care reimbursement. Although the law does not set a specific hourly rate for the caregiver, the reimbursement should reflect the type and complexity of the services that the injured person receives. Replacement Services The term replacement service refers to reimbursement for services that you would have performed on your own, if you were not injured in an accident. If you paid or promised to pay for household services, chores, errands, etc., which you usually accomplished on your own, then you may be entitled to reimbursement for these expenses. A physician needs to provide a written statement that you are unable to do these tasks on your own. In addition, your insurance company may require documentation of who performed what services. Michigan law states that an auto accident insurance company is obligated to reimburse up to $20 per day for replacement services. These benefits last for up to three years.
15 14 Mileage Reimbursement Often, proper medical treatment, tests, and physical therapy require an injured person to travel long distances. Michigan No-Fault Law provides for the reimbursement for mileage travelled to and from this medical care. Third-Party Auto No-Fault Law Basics Under Michigan auto law, while First-Party Benefits cover most economic losses, Third-Party Benefits provide damages for pain and suffering, scarring or disfigurement, death, and wage loss in excess of 3 years. In Michigan, a Third-Party legal claim is filed against the at-fault driver in the motor vehicle accident. With the exception of excess wage loss, the damages sought in a Third-Party case are noneconomic in nature. To prevail in a claim against a careless driver for non-economic damages in Michigan, the injured auto accident victim must show that he or she suffered a "threshold injury." It is very common for insurance company adjusters to assert that an injury is not a "serious impairment of a body function." However, if you have an objectively documented injury to an important part of your body, and this affects your life, then you should speak to an attorney at our office.
16 Chapter 4 What Should I Do If I am in a Michigan Auto Accident?
17 16 What to Do If You Are Involved in an Auto Accident In addition to the checklist previously provided, here are twelve guidelines to help you in the event of a Michigan car accident: 1. Stay calm. Do not panic or leave the scene of the car accident. 2. If possible, call the police. If anyone is injured in the car accident, ask for emergency medical personnel. 3. If the police do not come to the scene of the accident, report it immediately to the local police department in the community where the accident occurred. 4. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Often, very serious injuries are not immediately apparent. 5. Obtain the following information from the other driver(s) involved in the car accident: name, address, phone number, driver s license number (including expiration date), license plate number, registration, and insurance information, including the specific insurance policy number. 6. If the owner of the other vehicle involved in the auto accident is not the same as the driver, you should also obtain the owner s name, address, phone number, and insurance information. 7. Seek out all witnesses to the Michigan car accident and get their names, 8. addresses, and phone numbers. This includes passengers in vehicles involved in the car accident. 9. Promptly notify your own insurance company that you were in an auto accident. Ask for a claim number and make it clear that you wish to have a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) file opened to preserve all of your rights under your policy. 10. If the driver who struck you fled the scene of the accident, you must still make a police report and notify your insurance company immediately. Some insurance policies require you to give notice of a claim for an accident involving an unidentified driver within 30 days of the accident. If you are in a hit-and-run accident, consult an attorney immediately. 11. If the driver/owner of the car that struck you did not have automobile insurance, which is a violation of Michigan law, immediately notify your own insurance company that you are claiming your rights to any uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage. Some insurance companies require prompt notice of these claims, and reserve the right to deny benefits to those who do not follow the strict regulations of their policies. 12. Contact our office. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a Michigan auto accident, talk with an experienced Michigan auto accident lawyer at The Sam Bernstein Law Firm.
18 Chapter 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Auto Accidents
19 18 Frequently Asked Questions Question #1: If I receive wage loss benefits from my own Michigan auto accident insurance company, is there a limit to how much they will pay me per month? Answer: Yes. Michigan auto accident law places a cap on the maximum monthly pay out of no-fault wage loss benefits. This amount is adjusted every year for inflation. Question #2: Are my wage loss benefits taxable? Answer: If you are receiving your wage loss benefits through a motor vehicle insurance company because of an accident, those benefits currently are not taxable under Michigan and Federal law. Question #3: What if I was driving a motor vehicle that was uninsured at the time of the Michigan auto accident? Answer: If the car you were driving is uninsured and you were the registered owner of the vehicle, then you are legally barred from bringing suit against an atfault driver and from claiming First-Party benefits. Question #4: What if the police say that I was at fault in the car accident? Answer: If you are determined to have been more than 50% at fault, then you do not have a claim against the other parties involved in the auto accident. However, it is strongly recommended that you check with our office about the percentage of fault that is likely to be attributed to you in a Michigan auto accident. Question #5: What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage? Answer: Uninsured Motorist Coverage is an auto accident insurance coverage option that allows you possible recovery from your own insurance policy, if the at -fault driver does not have insurance coverage or if the at-fault driver cannot be identified, i.e. hit and run driver. It is recommended that all drivers carry uninsured coverage.
20 19 Question #6: Is there a difference between uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage? Answer: Yes. Underinsured coverage provides an additional source of collecting for serious injuries caused by an auto accident. It is different from uninsured coverage, which is available when the at-fault vehicle had no identifiable insurance. For example, if you carried a policy of $100,000 underinsured coverage and the at-fault driver only had a $20,000 insurance policy, it would be possible to seek up to $80,000 in additional compensation from your own insurance company. This is possible if your car accident attorney has secured a tender offer for the full amount of the underlying insurance policy. Claims for uninsured or underinsured coverage must be handled very carefully. An uninsured endorsement on a policy does not necessarily include an underinsured endorsement. Your premature acceptance of an underlying policy in full settlement of a claim could forfeit your right to additional coverage. To protect all your rights, contact our office for a free legal consultation. Question #7: What if the person who hit me had been drinking? Answer: This may entitle you to a Dramshop Claim. This is the legal term for a lawsuit against a liquor store, bar, or other business, which illegally sold alcohol to a person involved in an automobile accident. The most common Dramshop Claim involves alcohol sold to someone who is visibly intoxicated. A valid Dramshop Claim also exists if alcohol was served to a person who is under 21 years of age. Michigan laws governing Dramshop Claims are complicated and require the injured victim to make the claim 120 days after he or she retains an attorney. If alcohol was involved in your accident, you should contact our office immediately.
21 Chapter 6 SUV Rollover Accidents
22 21 SUV Rollover Accidents According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration s 2009 Annual Report, over 35% of fatal accidents involving passenger cars and light trucks were the result of vehicle rollovers. SUV rollover accidents are among the most dangerous of all motor vehicle accidents. Sometimes, rollovers result from a collision between two or more vehicles. At other times, a rollover is a single vehicle accident. After a single-vehicle rollover, the driver may not realize that someone s negligence may have contributed to the accident. In fact, a rollover accident may be caused by factors like gross negligence in the production of tires, poor vehicle design or road defects. The serious nature of these crashes is clear. Rollovers account for 25% of the deaths in passenger cars, 48% of the deaths in pick-up trucks, and 56% of all deaths in SUV accidents. Often, the occupants of a vehicle are physically ejected during a rollover. A person who is in a rollover accident is extremely lucky, if he or she escapes without serious injury. One reason for the higher rate of SUV rollovers may be the vehicle design. An SUV may have a high center of gravity and a relatively narrow wheelbase, making it more likely to rollover in a collision. If you drive an SUV, be sure that you always wear a seatbelt and drive within the posted speed limit.
23 Chapter 7 Truck Accidents
24 23 Truck Accidents No one wants to imagine being in any motor vehicle accident. Perhaps the most frightening prospect is a highway crash involving a large truck or tractor-trailer. The facts are shocking. In the United States, accidents involving large trucks kill about 5,000 accident victims every year. Highway crashes injure another 2 million Americans annually. At The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, we understand that many survivors of truck crashes suffer such serious injuries that they require hospitalization, surgery, and/or long-term medical treatment. Often, truck accident victims never fully regain their ability to return to work or resume family responsibilities and personal relationships. Even if a truck accident victim recovers, a truck crash takes its toll. An individual may lose time and income from work, need help with household chores, and have to cope with the pain of injuries and necessary medical treatments. After truck accidents, victims and their families frequently concentrate on their physical, emotional, or financial challenges. However, the time that truck accident law allows an adult or child to act to preserve their legal rights starts to run from the day of the truck accident. It is not unusual for a truck accident victim who is struggling to deal with a disabling injury to forget that time is running out, or to overlook other steps necessary to secure benefits.
25 24 Truck Accident Checklist If you were involved in a truck accident, the following checklist can help you take the necessary steps to protect your legal rights: Stay calm after the truck accident. Stop to protect your passengers and car. Call an ambulance for any injured party, if necessary. Set flares if you carry them, and do not leave the scene of the truck accident. Exchange documents after the truck accident. Exchange only your license, registration and motor vehicle identification card with the other drivers. Do not discuss the truck accident with anyone other than the police. Do not blame anyone, including yourself. Get driver facts after the truck accident. Take down the name, address, operator's license number, date of birth, gender, state of license, and the phone number of the truck driver and any other drivers involved in the truck accident. Get ownership facts after the truck accident. Write down the name, address, and the insurance company of the owner of the tractor-trailer, semi-truck, or other vehicle involved in the truck accident, if any driver is not the owner. Get information about injured parties after the truck accident. Seek information from police about all injured parties, including passengers of vehicles involved in the truck accident. Take down their names, addresses, dates of birth, gender, and extent of injury. Get information about witnesses to the truck accident. Be sure to write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any people who saw the truck accident, but were not involved in it. Note the damages caused by the truck accident. Write down the make, body type, year, and license number of the truck. Also, make note of the damage to the truck involved in the truck accident. Draw a diagram of the truck accident scene. Write the date and time of the truck accident on the diagram. In addition, write down information about the location, including the intersection, street names, any stop lights or traffic control signs, and other landmarks. Report the truck accident: Tell your insurance broker or agent immediately. Report the truck accident to the police right away, and get a copy of the police report as soon as it is available.
26 Chapter 8 Motorcycle Accidents
27 26 Motorcycle Accidents Most Michigan motorcyclists use every possible safety precaution. However, a mistake by another driver may cause a motorcycle accident. In that situation, even the most careful and skilled motorcyclist is at risk of life-threatening injury. In the United States, over 4,000 motorcyclists die on the highway every year. In 2009, 84,000 motorcyclists were injured in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many survivors of motorcycle crashes suffer serious injuries, requiring hospitalization, surgery, and long-term medical treatment. Often, victims never fully regain their ability to return to work or resume family responsibilities. At The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, our experienced motorcycles accident attorneys understand that, even if a motorcycle accident victim fully recovers, the motorcycle accident takes its toll. An individual may lose time and income from work, need help with household chores, and have to cope with the pain of injuries and necessary medical treatments. In short, a serious motorcycle accident can significantly change a motorcycle accident victim's life -- temporarily or even permanently. That is why, if you or a family member is involved in a motorcycle accident, you need to protect your rights. After a motorcycle accident, it is essential to consult a motorcycle accident lawyer immediately. In important ways, the legal claims of a motorcyclist are different, and more complicated, than the claims of an automobile driver. Michigan law does not consider a motorcycle to be a "motor vehicle."
28 27 Motorcycle Accident Statistics For a motorcyclist, the results of a Michigan motorcycle accident can be extremely serious - or even fatal. The facts about Michigan motorcycle accidents are clear. In 2010, 125 motorcyclists died in motorcycle crashes, according to the motorcycle accident statistics reported by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. Another 2,455 motorcyclists were injured in motorcycle accidents in that year alone. Compared with other travellers, motorcyclists are at much greater risk. A motorcyclist was the victim in 1 out of every 7 crashes causing death, and 1 out of 28 crashes causing injury. Michigan motorcycle accident statistics show that the danger is increasing for motorcyclists. Motorcycle fatalities accounted for almost 10% of total fatal crashes in Michigan. In the last 10 years, the number of motorcycle accidents rose by 45%. At the same time, the number of motorcycle accidents that resulted in death rose by 98%. From 2009 to 2010 alone, motorcycle accident deaths rose 21%. These motorcycle crash facts just begin to show the seriousness of these accidents. Statistics certainly cannot describe the lasting impact of a motorcycle accident on the victims or their families. That is why, if you or a loved one was involved in a motorcycle accident, you need to protect your legal rights immediately. At The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, our experienced motorcycle accident attorneys are standing by to provide the legal help you need.
29 28 Motorcycle Accident Claims Michigan No-Fault Law Basics Third Party Claims for Michigan Motorcycle Accident Victims The most important legal claim that may be available to an individual who is seriously injured in a Michigan motorcycle accident is a Third Party lawsuit against the driver whose negligence caused the collision. Under Michigan law, you must file this legal action within 3 years of the date of the Michigan motorcycle accident. Your claim would include damages for non-economic loss, including your pain and suffering. First Party Claims for Michigan Motorcycle Accident Victims The victim of a Michigan motorcycle accident also may have a First Party claim for No-Fault benefits that cover economic damages, including medical costs, wage loss, attendant care, and replacement services. However, an individual who held legal title to the motorcycle on which he or she was injured, and did not carry the basic liability insurance required by Michigan law, cannot get First Party Benefits. These No-Fault First-Party benefits may be crucial to the economic survival of the injured motorcyclist. Michigan law requires the victim to claim these benefits within one year. To make a proper claim, you first must determine which insurance company is responsible for paying your No-Fault benefits. An experience motorcycle accident attorney can help you through this process, which is based on the following legal guidelines:
30 29 No-Fault Benefits - Order of Priority for Michigan Motorcycle Accident Victims 1st priority is to the insurer of the owner of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, if none then... 2nd priority is to the insurer of the operator of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, if none then... 3rd priority is to the motor vehicle insurer of the operator of the motorcycle involved in the accident, if none then... 4th priority is to the motor vehicle insurer of the owner of the motorcycle involved in the accident, if none then... 5th priority is to the Assigned Claims Facility. The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility The 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 Road Defect Claims for Michigan Motorcycle Accident Victims Some Michigan motorcycle accidents are not caused by negligent motorists, but instead result from a roadway defect, due to faulty repair of the pavement. In some cases, an injured motorcyclist can make a claim against the state, county, or local government agency responsible for repairing the roadway. These cases involve complicated legal and factual issues. In addition, the time to file these claims is much less than the time for pursing other legal actions. You need an experienced attorney to handle these complex requirements properly. If you believe that you may have a road defect claim, contact our office immediately.