Understanding Michigan's No-Fault Law - Serious Impairment of Body Function
The Landmark Michigan Supreme Court Case"Kreiner v. Fischer" is the landmark 2004 Michigan Supreme Court case interpreting the definition of "serious impairment of body function" as defined by the Michigan Legislature, which applies to all automobile negligence injury cases. In a sharply divided 4-3 decision, Kreiner dramatically changed the way Michigan personal injury lawyers handle auto accident cases, as well as the rights of car accident and truck accident victims. The 64-page decision establishes the precondition plaintiffs must meet before they can sue for non-economic damages in such a way that many people who suffered serious injuries and who missed months from work, have virtually zero rights. When reading this lengthy decision, it's easy to lose sight of the exact requirements car accident victims must meet in order to have a "good" auto accident case in Michigan.
Serious Impairment of Body Function 101There are three requirements that anyone who has been injured in a car accident in Michigan must meet to make a case. These requirements in the definition of serious impairment of body function are defined by the Michigan Legislature in MCL 500.3135(7). The definition of a serious impairment of body function is: "... an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person's general ability to lead his or her normal life." Keep in mind that Kreiner focuses on lifestyle impairment, or "whether plaintiff's impairments affect their general ability to lead their normal lives." Auto accident lawyers in Michigan must therefore be able to prove the following three separate requirements in order to receive non-economic pain and suffering damages:
Objective ManifestationObjective manifestation - An impairment must be objectively manifested. The standard jury instruction for Michigan auto negligence cases incorporates the Michigan Supreme Court's 1986 definition of objectively manifested impairment found in the DiFranco decision. It states: In order for an impairment to be objectively manifested, there must be a medically identifiable injury or condition that has a physical basis.
Body Function and Lifestyle ImpactImportant body function: The body function impaired by the car accident must be an "important body function." Michigan standard jury instructions include an explanatory instruction on what is or is not an "important body function." Many Michigan cases have already held as a matter of law that the ability to walk, use one's hands, neck, back and breathe as important body functions. A broken pinkie finger may or may not be important, depending on if you are a lawyer or a professional violinist. The finding of an important body function is based upon the injured person.
Lifestyle impact - The car accident victim must be able to show a lifestyle impact, meaning an injury suffered in a car accident needs to affect a person's general ability to lead his or her normal life. Lifestyle impact is the most litigated and controversial requirement to meet serious impairment of body function under Kreiner.