Third-Party claims cover many areas. Most Third-Party claims will be one of these:

Evaluating Claims

In general, there are three things to look at for a successful Third-Party claim:

Each of these must be evaluated to determine the value of the non-economic losses the injured person is trying to recover. Click on the links above for detail.

  1. 1. Liability. To have a successful third-party claim, you must be able to prove that someone else caused the accident.  In other words, the plaintiff (injured person) has to show that the defendant was at fault in the collision. One example is if a drunk driver crosses the centerline of a highway and causes a head-on collision. The drunk driver (defendant) is clearly at fault. However, liability can be merely running a red light, failing to yield to a pedestrian, causing a rear-end collision, or other situation. 
  2. Comparative Negligence: In some cases, the defendant may claim that there was “comparative negligence” on the part of the plaintiff.  This means that the defendant will try to prove that the injured party is also partially to blame for the collision. If the plaintiff is shown to be even partially at fault, then the amount of money the plaintiff can get will be lowered For example, if the defendant made a left turn but did not have a right of way, but oncoming traffic (the plaintiff) was speeding, then the plaintiff may be found to be partially at fault for the accident.

  1. 2. Damages - Many times damages are clear. For example, if a person fractures (breaks) a femur (leg bone) in an accident and has an operation to fix the fractured bone, that is an identifiable injury. Other injuries may include traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, fractures, or loss of the use of body parts.
  2. To collect “damages” as part of the third-party claim, the injury has to be something that can be evaluated by objective testing. Examples of objective tests include: x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and neuro-psychological examinations.

    Many times, the medical treatment the injured person receives as a result of the accident will help define the damages.  Here is a list of some common injuries under third-party claim:

    • Death
    • Traumatic brain injury/closed head injury
    • Fractures
    • Spinal injuries, such as bulging disc or herniated disc
    • Knee injuries
    • Shoulder injuries
  • 3. Insurance Coverage/Collectability - In addition to showing liability and damages, it is important to know if the at-fault driver has automobile insurance coverage. In Michigan, when a person renews license plate tabs, he or she must show proof of insurance. Michigan law requires an individual driver to have minimum liability insurance in the amount of $20,000.
  • If you want to know how much coverage the defendant has, it will be on the declaration sheet provided by their insurance company. Click here through it exemplar declaration sheet.

    If the collision is with a commercial vehicle, such as an 18-wheel truck, there may be as much as $1 million in coverage, depending on what the law requires. For further discussion of insurance coverages click here to contact us.

    Hiring an Attorney to Help You Collect Money on Your Claim

    If you feel you have a third-party claim, it is a good idea to consult an attorney. You may be wondering how you will pay the attorney’s fees. Attorneys are usually hired on a one-third contingency fee basis to represent injured persons in recovering their third-party claims.  This means that the attorney takes one-third of the net recovery (or dollar amount awarded) after costs.  If you are injured, hiring an attorney on a contingency fee basis has two large benefits:

    1.   The law office will finance the case. This means the injured person does not have to pay out-of-pocket for court filing fees, medical records, depositions, expert testimony and any other costs paid by the attorney’s office related to the claim. If there is no award, the injured person pays nothing. The fees mentioned here will be paid out of the award money.

    2.   The attorney acts in the best interest of the injured person and will work to get the greatest monetary award possible. The greater the recovery on behalf of the injured individual, the greater the recovery will be for the attorney.

    Automobile Accidents

    This section focuses on claims related to automobile accidents. Much of this information may also apply to other types of claims, such as wrongful death, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, dog bites and workers compensation.

    To bring a successful 3rd party claim for conscious pain and suffering (non-economic losses), you must be able to show three things: liability, damages and insurance coverage.  Please see the section on Evaluating Claims for a detailed explanation.  

    Sometimes it is difficult to assess whether you have a 3rd party claim.  Here are three factors to consider :

    • Was the other driver at fault? Did the other driver receive a ticket?
    • Were you injured? Does your injury show up on an x-ray or MRI? Have you had surgery?
    • Did the at-fault driver have automobile insurance?  If no, did you carry uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy of automobile insurance? See the section on Insurance Coverage - Protecting Yourself

    Here are some examples of 3rd party and No-Fault claims.

    1. - A person with severe injuries as a result of an automobile accident, losing the use of their legs for example, will always have a No-Fault claim.  The person will only have a 3rd party claim if the other driver was negligent or at-fault.
    1. - A passenger in an automobile accident usually has a 3rd party claim because the person at fault was either the driver of the vehicle they were in or the driver of another vehicle.

     

    1. - Pedestrians and bicyclists have 3rd party claims if they are struck by an automobile that is at-fault for the collision. In addition they may have a No-Fault claim.

    For a more detailed discussion of 3rd party automobile negligence law, please click here.

    Wrongful Death

    If someone dies from the collision, the family may have two separate claims. 

    • The third-party claim for non-economic losses. This claim would be for the conscious pain and suffering prior to death. In addition, a person that was employed would have an excess economic claim beyond the 3-year No-Fault benefits.

    • The No-Fault claim for No-Fault benefits. The same benefits apply as a No-Fault claim - wage loss and household services, however they are called survivor loss benefits.

    The No-Fault carrier may also be responsible for funeral expenses.  Usually the funeral expenses are capped at $5,000.00.

    Practical Note: A probate estate must be opened in order to pursue either a 3rd party wrongful death claim or a No-Fault claim. The personal representative of the estate will be appointed by the probate court and is responsible for handling all matters an behalf of deceased's estate 

    Trucking Accidents

    Most of the same principals of auto accidents apply to trucking accidents. There are, however, some significant distinctions.

    Injuries - Getting hit by a 20,000 lb., 18-wheel truck will likely cause much more significant injuries than getting struck by a much smaller automobile. 

    Federal Regulations - Commercial truck drivers are subject to federal regulations that are designed to make travel safer for all motorists. For example, truck drivers may not drive for more than 11 cumulative hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.

    Insurance/Coverage – Over-the-road commercial vehicles are required to carry $1,000,000 in liability coverage. 
      
    Umbrellas/Corporate Policies - Most over-the-road trucks are commercial vehicles owned by a corporation. The corporation may have a much greater liability policy than $1,000,000, or the corporation may have an umbrella policy that provides additional insurance coverage.

    Motorcycle Accidents

    A person injured while riding a motorcycle can have a 3rd party claim for conscious pain and suffering.  Significant injuries are much more likely because the motorcycle rider does not have the same physical protection as someone riding in a car.

    3rd party motorcycle claims are similar to 3rd party automobile negligence claims.  The main difference is that a side impact collision between two automobiles might not injure any of the people involved.  A side impact of an automobile to a person riding a motorcycle could easily leave the motorcycle driver with a fractured femur requiring surgery to repair.

    Practice note: Most motorcycle insurance policies do not include No-fault coverage.  (See No-fault claims.) Rather than look to the rider’s own motorcycle insurance policy for No-Fault coverage, a motorcycle operator must look to the other vehicle involved in the collision. 

    If the injury happens when there is not another driver involved, for example the motorcycle driver loses control and goes off the road, there is no No-Fault claim.

    Third-Party Automobile Negligence – The Current Law

    Because third-party claims can be brought for so-called non-economic losses (click here for definition), these losses can include the injured person’s conscious pain and suffering. Often it is difficult to put a price tag on this. This is another reason to hire an attorney who can help determine a fair amount

    To be successful in a third-party claim, the injured person must prove that he or she has a threshold injury as defined by the Michigan Supreme Court in the case McCormick v Carrier.

    Below is a brief explanation of the McCormick case holding. For a more complete summary of the holding in McCormick, please click here.

    According to the law MCL 500.3135(7), a serious impairment of body function is defined as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the plaintiff’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”

    Based on the above, the McCormick ruling lays out a three-part test for determining a threshold injury:

    • Objectively manifested
    • Impairs an important body function
    • Affects the person’s ability to lead a normal life
    1. “Objectively manifested” means that the injury or impairment caused by the injury “is evidenced by actual symptoms or conditions that someone other than the injured person would observe or perceive as impairing a body function.”  McCormick v Carrier, 487 Mich 180; 795 NW2d 517 (2010). In other words, the impairment has actual symptoms or conditions.
    2. Whether or not a body function is important is subjective (based on opinion, rather than fact), and must be decided on a case-by-case basis. What may seem to be a trivial or unimportant body function for most people may be subjectively important to some, depending on the relationship of that function to the person’s life.
    3. An injured person must show that the “objectively manifested impairment” of the important body function affects his or her general ability to lead a normal life.  Another way to say this is that the impairment influences some of the person’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living. Id.

    The court determines the effect or influence that the impairment has had on a plaintiff’s ability to lead a normal life. This means there will be a person- and fact-specific inquiry and comparison of the plaintiff’s life before and after the incident. The law only says that in a third-party claim, a person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life has been impacted; it does not need to be destroyed to make the claim. Here is the exact language from the law:

    [W]hile the extent to which a person’s general ability to live his or her normal life is affected by an impairment is undoubtedly related to what the person’s normal manner of living is, there is no quantitative minimum as to the percentage of a person’s normal manner of living that must be affected. [Id.]

    The law does not say how long the impairment must last to impact the person’s general ability to live his or her normal life. Id. The threshold is only that the injured person must demonstrate that the injuries have caused an effect on the person’s ability to lead their normal daily life.

    An extreme example is if a person that was a healthy and working was in an automobile accident and suddenly was in a coma for six weeks.  Obviously, this person’s life has been turned upside down and they can no longer lead their normal life by working, interacting with family members as well as socializing.

    Another example would be if a person, who works in an office, suffers a broken wrist in an automobile accident. What if the person is right-handed and the left wrist is broken? The insurance company may determine that the injury has only minimal affect on that person’s ability to lead a normal life. If the person is a musician, their life will be much more affected and they may be entitled to a larger monetary award.

    Pedestrians and bicyclists

    A pedestrian or bicyclist struck by an automobile can have a 3rd party claim, The pedestrian/bicyclist usually suffers. Significant injuries when stuck by an automobile. In addition three there may be a No-fault claim, you should consult an attorney to determine the proper No-fault carrier under the order of priorities.