Back in 1995, the Michigan Legislature passed our current “No-Fault” law. We’ve had “no-fault” insurance in the state since 1973,The goal of the law was to reduce the number of law suits from car accidents. On the surface, it appeared to be a good compromise. Insurance companies would pay for the medical bills of the drivers that they insured. You wouldn’t have to sue someone else to recover for your losses.
When they drafted the law, however, they recognized that there are some injuries that are bad enough that suing should be an option. That’s why they included a separate option where you were allowed to sue the other side if the accident resulted in “death, permanent disfigurement, or serious impairment.” The idea was that if the injury would cause a substantial change in your life, you should be entitled to more. They went so far as to define a serious impairment as an “impairment of a bodily function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”
Interpreting this law, however, led to some problems. Six years ago, the Michigan Supreme Court held that in order for an injury to be considered a “serious impairment” it had to last for a long time. This has led to many injured plaintiffs being unable to be compensated for their injuries simply because they didn’t suffer long enough.
Early this month, though, the Supreme Court took another look at its decision and decided that it wasn’t right. The new holding recognizes that there is nothing in the law that says that the impairment has to last for years and years.
So what does this mean for Michigan motorists? It means that people who suffer, and suffer badly, for shorter periods of time will no longer be barred from recovering for their suffering. It means that there is no longer a bright line rule that courts can use to throw out legitimate cases.
It means that the Michigan Supreme Court is back in the business of interpreting law instead of writing new laws.
I, for one, applaud them.