How to get even with my damages?
October 2, 2008 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I was rear ended in Michigan (a no-fault state) last week but I still wasn't guilty. Although I don't have collision coverage with my insurance, I have neck pains and my car has been totaled. What are my options here?

My accident seems very simple. I stopped behind 3-4 cars that were waiting for the other lane to clear so they can turn left, but the second I stopped I got rear ended by a SUV!!! I don't understand how they didn't see me stop since I own a tiny sedan, the road was flat and this was during daylight so the 3-4 cars in front of my were definitely visible.

At first I honestly didn't feel the crash that badly, because my car didn't move much because I rear ended the car in front of me but I couldn't believe how much it was damaged when I got out. You can see one picture here.
One of the back doors also won't close, and now I posses a hole in my trunk which obviously also won't close. I did an estimation of the damage today and they tell me that the damage is well over $3400 and the value of the car itself, and it is then when I freaked out - I guess I didn't understand the scope of the damage here, but this is ridiculous. I still have neck pains, and this has happened a week ago.

The cherry on the top came from the insurance company (State Farm) of the person who rear ended me, and they are offering to pay me $500 with the mini-tort treatment to pay for my damages.

Is $500 all I can get? I am ready to fight on this one.
posted by GrooveStix to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get a lawyer. Michigan has very strange auto laws.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:46 PM on October 2, 2008

Response by poster: A lawyer is my last option, because I don't think I can pay for anything at the moment. Even for a doctor's examination...
posted by GrooveStix at 4:01 PM on October 2, 2008

A very similar thing happened to my then-girlfriend a few years ago (rear-ended at low speed). We had to go into a protacted settlement negotiation. Here is what I learned:

1) Everything is negotiable. Do not take their initial refusal to pay for something as the final word. In my GF's case, they wound up paying for physicians, physical therapy, and a chiropractor.

2) Do not settle prematurely. Do not take the $500. Insurance companies try to settle as quickly as possible, by offering a lump sum and getting you to forgo future damages. Wait until you have a good idea of actual damages.

3) Do not underestimate the damage that has been done, or the time it takes for you to heal. In a rear-end collision, even a low-speed one, there is the possibility that injuries will take weeks to become evident. My GF was hit by a driver who was only going about 20 MPG, but still had a bad case of whiplash and pain and back problems that lingered for months, led to missed days of work, and required several forms of therapy. We waited for moths before settling, precisely to get a good idea of the total expenses.

4) Document everything. This includes all medical expenses, as well as specific details of your pain (you can keep a "pain diary" to indicate the specifics of what you are experiencing). Documenting things indicates the seriousness of your claim, and strengthens your position.

5) If this develops into a significant amount of money, you might consider seeing a lawyer before negotiating a settlement, to get advice on how to approach the negotiation. I paid a lawyer $100 for an hour's worth of advice on how to present my case and what to expect, and it was well worth it.

6) Contact your own insurance company, who may act on your behalf in negotiations.

Good luck.
posted by googly at 4:34 PM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

IAAML but I am not, etc. This is a general sketch.

1. Your own carrier pays for your medical bills, without limit, and for wage loss up to 3 years. Your policy converts to a Michigan policy (in most cases).
2. You have the right to sue for non-economic damages - pain and suffering, etc. - only if your injury meets the threshold of serious impairment of body function.
3. A lawyer will cost you nothing for consultation, or for representation if he takes your case, since it would be taken on contingency. Most lawyers would want to wait for a few months to see how you do to see if the criterion mentioned in #2 above is met.
4. The $500 is all you can get for the damage to your car.
posted by megatherium at 4:52 PM on October 2, 2008

Oh, and your own insurance company will NOT act on your behalf in negotiations on these issues.
posted by megatherium at 4:52 PM on October 2, 2008

Megatherium, a question: is $500 a flat damage limit designed to pay for your deductible, with your insurance (assuming you have collision) covering the rest, or is that the actual value of the particular car/year, or what? These no-fault laws confuse me.
posted by davejay at 5:13 PM on October 2, 2008

Response by poster: Here's a brief explanation of Michigan's no-fault law.

Sorry it's a pdf.
posted by GrooveStix at 5:16 PM on October 2, 2008

I believe that under Michigan law, if you were rear-ended, the other driver is at fault -- period.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:04 PM on October 2, 2008

Definitely involve YOUR insurance company. Get them to work for you with State Farm. The State Farm people are trying to hose you.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:05 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

@davejay: The $500 mini-tort is intended to cover any economic expenses not covered by otherwise applicable insurance. If you have collision coverage, then it would cover your deductible, whatever it is. If you - like the OP - do not, then it is the maximum that can be recovered, for the value of the damage to the vehicle.
posted by megatherium at 8:26 PM on October 2, 2008

The way no-fault insurance works is that you pay for the insurance on your car. This protects people from losses caused by uninsured drivers.

If you weren't carrying full coverage on your car, so that your insurance company won't pay for repairs, you are probably SOL. Because that's the way the law works in Michigan. You decide whether it's worth paying the higher premium to carry collision coverage on your car; usually people drop collision coverage when their car's value drops so low that the premiums are a bad investment compared to the possible damages they might get in an accident.

The other party's insurance liability is limited to $500. So, yes, that's all you will get from their insurance company for damage to your car.

I am not a lawyer, but I have been both the rear-ended and the rear-endee here in Michigan, and that's how it works.
posted by not that girl at 8:29 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

First - most lawyers will talk to you (at least once) for free...who handle these sorta cases. They'll want to handle this for a contingency; probably 1/3 on a case.

Meanwhile, yes, call your insurance company and sign nothing.
posted by filmgeek at 9:04 PM on October 2, 2008

Best answer: Having been in an accident in which I was not at fault (I was technically parked at the time, luckily), the people above are painfully right. You can minitort for up to $500 for anything not covered by insurance, but your medical expenses should be handled by your own insurance. Even if you were a passenger in another person's car, your medical would come from your own insurance first. I didn't realize auto insurance laws can be so messed up, and it'll now be something I consider before I move to another state.
posted by Schismatic at 9:31 PM on October 2, 2008

Seconding others' advice. Having moved to Michigan in July, the change in the auto insurance regime was the biggest and horriblest shock. My strict liability policy in another state, covering two drivers and two cars, was $200 per half-year. In Michigan, no-fault with bare-bones, high-deductible collision to cover the case in which another driver is at fault jumped to $800 per half-year.

To what do I owe the pleasure of this inane policy? The desire to reduce lawsuits.

posted by adoarns at 9:53 PM on October 2, 2008

Did you file a police report?
posted by qvtqht at 4:43 PM on October 6, 2008

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