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When one party sues another, sometimes there may be other parties that also want to be part of the lawsuit. There are specific laws that govern who may do so and when a party can join into a lawsuit. The Eastern District of Michigan District Court recently heard a case that illustrates this concept and gives an example of when it may apply.

No-Fault Personal Injury Protection

Michigan is a “no-fault” state. That means insurance policies will pay insured individuals after a car accident no matter who was at fault. In this case, a driver had personal injury protection benefits through a commercial insurer. Personal injury protection is meant to pay for injuries suffered by the driver after a car accident. The plaintiff was later in a car accident where he was injured. As part of treating his injuries, he saw physicians at a Michigan medical provider. Instead of paying the healthcare provider directly, the plaintiff assigned his right to collect on the bills to the healthcare provider. Now, the injured driver is suing his insurance company to collect the benefits he is owed. Thus, the healthcare provider filed a motion to join the lawsuit against the insurer to collect on the money they are owed for the healthcare services.

The trial court dismissed the healthcare provider’s action under recently decided Michigan case law that held that healthcare providers do not have their own cause of action against insurance companies for personal injury protection payments. Further, the court held that under the insurance policy itself, the consent of the defendant is necessary in order for the collection rights to be assigned.

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When you buy insurance, you think that you will be covered in the event of the accident. This is especially true if you answer all the questions truthfully and continue to pay your premiums. However, sometimes insurance companies may see things differently and try to get out of paying the money that you are owed. If this happens to you, you should contact a knowledgeable Michigan personal injury to help you hold the insurance company accountable. In a case recently heard by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the court upheld a ruling that forced the insurance company to pay the damages that the injured plaintiff was entitled to.

The Insurance Policy

In 2006, the husband of the plaintiff purchased a no-fault insurance policy for their family cars. The plaintiff used one of the vehicles for one half-day a week to deliver mail. The insurance policy asked if any of the vehicles were used for business. The agent answered no, even though the plaintiff’s husband testified that he told the insurance agent about the plaintiff’s part-time delivery job. The policy automatically renewed. In 2012, the plaintiff got a new car and her husband got coverage for that car as well. He testified that he once again told the insurance agent that his wife used the car to deliver mail.

Owners of property have a duty of reasonable care to keep visitors safe. It doesn’t matter whether the property is owned by a friend, business, or the government. While nothing can ever be 100% safe, the definition of what a “reasonable” amount of safety entails will depend on the circumstances. For example, a grocery store will be held to a different standard than a construction site. This principle is called premises liability. If you have been injured on the property of another you need to contact a knowledgeable Michigan premises liability attorney to help you decide if the property owner should be held accountable.

Premises Liability

Part of what determines the standard of reasonable care is the status of the injured person. In other words, whether you are trespassing on someone’s property or were specifically invited on to the property will make a difference in determining liability. In a case recently heard by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the injured person was an “invitee.” An invitee is someone who is on the property for the purpose of business, such as when you go to the store. In most cases, business owners owe invitees the greatest duty of care.

If you are injured on someone else’s property, including businesses and government property, you may want to hold the property owner responsible for the damages incurred due to your injuries. However, in order to recover you will need to prove certain specific things, discussed in more detail below. While cases like the one described here can illustrate some of the important points of Michigan personal injury law, only a knowledgeable Western Michigan personal injury attorney can tell you how your case is likely to play out in court.

Michigan Premises Liability

In order for the property owner to be liable for your injuries, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent. Negligence is defined as when one party owes another party a duty and they breach the duty, causing injury. Generally, business owners have a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe for customers. Of course, what is “reasonable” depends greatly on the facts and circumstances of the case. For example, this case revolves around a slip and fall in a gas station parking lot. What is reasonably safe in these circumstances is different than what may be considered reasonable in a junkyard or a restaurant.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Michigan accident, there are many potential damages that you may be able to recover. Some of the potential categories of damages include lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and other costs or lost income related to the accident. This case revolves around one of those kinds of damages, specifically attendant care benefits. Attendant care benefits may be paid in situations where the injured person needs support that cannot be given by their family or caretakers. Attendants are people that come in anywhere from 24 hours a day/seven days a week to an hour or less a week to assist the injured person with their daily care.

The Accident and Injuries

In 2001, a five year old girl was injured in a car accident. Her mother was killed in the accident. As they did not have insurance, the claim was assigned through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan. The state plan then assigned the claim to State Farm Insurance. In the time since the accident, the insurance carrier paid out only a little over $5,000 in attendant care benefits.

After a car accident in which two people were killed and one was seriously injured, the plaintiffs (including the estates of the deceased parties) brought suit against the Eaton County Road Commission. They alleged that the Road Commission was negligent in its maintenance of the roads. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to negligent maintenance of road conditions, you should contact a skilled Michigan car accident attorney as soon as possible. As this case illustrates, the time frames and requirements for bringing suit against a government agency are very specific. In order to make sure you do not lose the ability to bring your claim forward, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.Governmental Immunity 

The government is generally immune from suit, but some statutes give individuals the right to bring claims against the government in certain circumstances. One of these statutes is the governmental tort liability act (GTLA). The GTLA requires that notice of suit be given to the county road commissioner’s chairperson within 60 days of the injury. However, there had been some confusion in the past about the applicable time period. This confusion was cleared up once and for all when a case called Streng came down in 2016.

Now, the court in this case needed to determine whether Streng would apply retroactively. In other words, did the 60-day time period apply to this case? If so, the case would be dismissed for noncompliance of notice, since the notice was given more than 60 days after the accident.

There are some sports that are known to have a significant risk of injury, such as skiing or rock climbing. Under the tort law theory of inherent risk, people who voluntarily engage in these sports cannot hold anyone else accountable for injuries caused by the sport itself unless the negligence rises to a certain level. In other words, if you go skiing and break your leg, unless the owners of the ski resort were extremely negligent, you will probably not be able to sue them for damages. Without this heightened negligence standard for inherent risk, no ski resorts could operate because the costs would be prohibitive.Facts of This Case

The Michigan Supreme Court heard a Michigan personal injury case related to inherent risk. In this case, two men were golfing. One was driving the golf cart when it collided with the other man. Their stories differ about whether the cart suddenly struck the injured man or whether the injured man jumped in front of the cart. For the purposes of this appeal, it was irrelevant which scenario was correct. Here, the court looked at whether being hit by a golf cart is an inherent risk of golfing, as the driver of the cart argued. Conversely, they could have found that being hit by the cart is not an inherent risk of golfing. Whether the risk is inherent or not is relevant because it determines the standard of negligence that needs to be applied. These cases are always extremely fact-specific, which is why it is so important to contact a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury.

Negligence Standards and Inherent Risk

In a procedurally complicated opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals attempted to clarify whether the “parked vehicle exception” applied to injury during maintenance of the vehicle. In order to collect damages from an automobile insurer, the vehicle must be involved in the injury. This may seem straightforward and obvious, but as often happens with the law, it is not. Michigan law appears to hold that auto insurers do not have to pay for injuries when the vehicle is parked. However, the law also seems to say that insurance will cover injuries that occur during vehicle maintenance. This case looks at these potentially contradictory aspects of the law and discusses how the law should be applied in the instant case and cases with similar facts. While a case may seem simple at first, that is not always the reality. That is why if you are injured in any kind of accident, you should consult an experienced Michigan personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They can help frame and guide your case in a way that leads to the best results.

Facts of the Case

Both parties agreed on the basic facts of the case. A woman was using the vehicle provided by her employer. She stopped at a self-serve carwash to wash it, and as she was washing it she slipped and fell on ice. No one knows whether the ice was created by the water she was using to wash the vehicle, or if it was already on the ground. She attempted to recover damages from the insurer her employer used. It refused to pay for the injuries. The insurance company argued that the case should be dismissed because the injury just happened to occur near the employer’s car and the law excepts insurers from being responsible for accidents when the car is parked. Conversely, the injured party argued that since her injuries occurred during the maintenance of the car, under statutory and case law she is still entitled to payment from the insurance company. The insurance company moved for summary judgment, which would dismiss the case. The court found for the plaintiff and allowed the case to continue for the reasons explained below.

The Michigan Supreme Court recently clarified the standards for product liability. The Supreme Court overturned a case from the Michigan Court of Appeals that used the wrong standard to decide whether a case should go forward on a motion for summary judgment. In this case, the court held that a manufacturer is only liable for harm from misuse in a products liability case if the misuse was reasonably foreseeable. If you are injured by a product or machine, you should contact a knowledgeable Michigan product liability attorney to help you get any damages that you are entitled to from a defective product.

Current Case

Here, a man was injured while using a press machine manufactured by Dieffenbacher North America, Inc. He climbed partially inside the 500-ton machine without setting it on manual mode when he became trapped after the machine started its automatic cycle. He was seriously injured and sustained fractures in his back, as well as severe burns. He sued Dieffenbacher under a theory of product liability.

The Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion earlier this year applying the “open and obvious doctrine” to resolve a lawsuit brought by an injured employee. Contractors were working on installing a fire protection system in an Ann Arbor building and had left some of the cables on the floor during the installation process. A security guard was patrolling the area and slipped and fell on the cables. He was injured and brought suit, alleging negligence and premises liability. The lower court did not allow the claim to go forward by granting the summary judgment motion of the defendants. The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court and affirmed the summary judgment ruling for the defendant.  If you are injured on someone else’s property, whether at work or not, you should contact an experienced Michigan premises liability attorney.

Standards of Proof

This case comes from a motion for summary judgment. This is a motion that a party can make at the beginning of a case. In order to win a motion for summary judgment, one party needs to prove to the judge that both sides agree on the general facts. Furthermore, they need to prove that the party who moved for summary judgment deserves to win as a matter of law.

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