• The Impact of Kreiner v. Fischer on Michigan Auto Accident and Personal Injury Law
  • June 16, 2010 | Author: Steven M. Gursten
  • Law Firm: Michigan Auto Law - Farmington Hills Office
  • Kreiner v. Fischer [71 Mich 109; 683 NW2d 611] is the landmark 2004 Michigan Supreme Court case interpreting the definition of “serious impairment of body function” as defined by the Michigan Legislature in 1995 PA 222, 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. Kreiner includes many footnotes and judicially created requirements for accident victims that are not in the statute, as well as a stinging dissent accusing the four-justice majority of judicial extremism and overreaching.

    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 101

    In other words, there 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 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.

    Important 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.

    Kreiner’s Devastating Impact Upon Michigan Car Accident Lawyers and Accident Victims

    To illustrate how Kreiner has impacted auto accident victims, Michigan Lawyers Weekly recently reported that in 140 of the first 165 unpublished Michigan Court of Appeals decisions that followed Kreiner, plaintiffs had their car accident injury cases dismissed.  These were people who, in many cases, suffered very serious injuries, including fractures and broken bones. Some of these people also missed weeks and even months from work.

    As a Michigan attorney, understanding this decision and how it impacts an auto accident injury claim is vital in providing successful representation for your personal injury client.  For further information on Kreiner v. Fischer, visit Michigan Auto Law’s website to read our Guide for Michigan Lawyers: Pursuing Auto Accident Injury Claims in Michigan and 13 Ways to Meet Serious Impairment and Increase the Value of Auto Accident Cases. 

    Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases in Michigan.  Visit http://www.michiganautolaw.com to learn more about Michigan no fault auto law.

    Steve Gursten is one of the nation’s top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, and the largest Michigan car accident settlement in 2009.