In 1973, the Michigan Legislature adopted the No-Fault Insurance Act (“Act”). The Act created a compulsory motor vehicle insurance program under which insureds may recover directly from their insurers, without regard to fault, for qualifying economic losses arising from motor vehicle incidents. See No-Fault Benefits. In exchange for ensuring certain and prompt recovery for economic loss, the act also limited recovery for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Under the Act, liability for non-economic loss arising out of a car accident was limited to if the injured person suffered death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement. The threshold requirement that is normally at issue is whether plaintiff has suffered serious impairment of body function.
In 1995, however, the Legislature intervened. It amended the Act to define a “serious impairment of body function” as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.” The Legislature also expressly provided that whether a serious impairment of body function has occurred is a “question of law” for the court to decide unless there is a factual dispute regarding the nature and extent of injury and the dispute is relevant to deciding whether the standard is met. Michigan Law Changed in 2010 and the Supreme Court has lessened the burden on Plaintiff's bringing claimas based on a serious impairment of body function. It is essential to have an attorney that can navigate you through these complex legal concepts that are discussed more fully below.“Serious Impairment of Body Function”
On its face, the statutory language provides three prongs that are necessary to establish a “serious impairment of body function”:
- an objectively manifested impairment(observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions)
- of an important body function (abody function of value, significance, or consequence to the injured person) that
- affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life. (influences some of the plaintiff’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living).
The third prong is an inherently subjective inquiry that must be decided on a case by-case basis, because what may seem to be a trivial body function for most people may be subjectively important to some, depending on the relationship of that function to the person’s life. The Legislature indicated that this requires a subjective, person- and fact-specific inquiry that must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Determining the effect or influence that the impairment has had on a plaintiff’s ability to lead a normal life necessarily requires a comparison of the plaintiff’s life before and after the incident.McCormick v. Carrier
In 2010 the Michigan Courts released an opinion that lessened the burden on Plaintiff’s with cases involving serious impairment of body function.
First, the Court held the Act merely requires that a person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life has been affected, not destroyed. Thus, courts should consider not only whether the impairment has led the person to completely cease a pre-incident activity or lifestyle element, but also whether, although a person is able to lead his or her normal life after the accident, the person’s general ability to do so was nonetheless affected.
Second, the Court held the Act only requires that some of the person’s ability to live in his or her normal manner of living has been affected, not that some of the person’s normal manner of living has itself been affected. Thus, while 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 minimum as to the percentage of a person’s normal manner of living that must be affected.
Third, and finally, the Court held the Act does not create a time requirement as to how long an impairment must last in order to have an effect on “the person’s general ability to live his or her normal life.”