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Compensation for injuries suffered in a Michigan car accident: the Kreiner standard

Much has been discussed about the so-called Engler Majority's "Kreiner" standard for suing an at-fault driver if a person is hurt in a car accident.  Kreiner is the name of a plaintiff victim who sued several years ago, alleging that he had suffered a "serious impairment of bodily function" in a car wreck.  Since 1973, the Michigan no fault act has allowed an innocent victim to sue the at-fault driver after an accident, only if he or she suffered a "threshold injury": death, permanent serious disfigurement or serious impairment of a particular bodily function. 

A bare 4-3 majority composed of Engler appointees to the Michigan appellate courts re-interpreted the "serious impairment" requirement to allow suit only if the injured person could demonstrate a life-altering impact of his or her injuries. Under this standard, literally dozens of seriously injured people were denied any insurance compensation, whatsoever, despite the fact that they were now limited to part-time work, endured constant and unrelenting pain, could not engage in the normal activities of life or had endured dangerous surgeries and months of painful rehabilitation. 

By the Kreiner standard, a girl who had missed a year of school after a head injury hadn't suffered a serious injury, nor had a previously disabled man now limited to the use of a wheelchair.  Several victims who had required spinal surgery or open reduction and internal fixation of fractured bones, and who had not achieved a total recovery were told they were not "seriously" hurt. 

Justice Clifford Taylor, insurance captive and perceived architect of the Kreiner standard, was defeated and replaced by a more consumer-oriented Justice this January.  It is widely anticipated that the replacement of Taylor by Justice Diane Hathaway will restore some sanity to the interpretation of the "serious impairment" threshold.  In the interim, we have been advising clients who could be imperiled by the Kreiner standard--or who would feel undue pressure to compromise a valid claim--to delay filing their claim against the at-fault driver.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262