Michigan Court of Appeals Addresses Liability During Vehicle Maintenance

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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.

Michigan Law

Here, the Michigan Court of Appeals had to decide whether the parked car exception applied, which would trigger no payments by the insurance company. It also had to determine whether both the parked car exception and law requiring insurers to pay for injuries that occur during maintenance of the car can coexist, or whether one overrules the other. The court here found that both exceptions can exist harmoniously and that they do not cancel each other out. Therefore, the vehicle maintenance exception stands and whether this set of facts qualifies under the exception should be a question for the jury. The court also held that even if only the parked car exception applied, the case should still move forward, as whether the car was actually “parked” even though the engine was running is also a question for the jury.

Contact an Experienced Michigan Personal Injury Attorney Today!

If you are injured in an accident, you should contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Neumann Law Group can help to represent you and help you get the damages you deserve for your injuries. Neumann Law Group works with clients in Western Michigan, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Southfield, and Traverse City. Call 800-525-6386 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free consultation today.

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