The Drunk Driver's Relief Act
The No Fault act makes an at-fault driver responsible for any "serious" injuries he causes. For many years, the meaning of this threshold requirement was simple: jurors had to consider the facts of the injury and damages and decide whether it was "serious" in normal parlance. As most people now know, in the Kreiner case the conservative majority of the Supreme Court re-intrepreted "serious" to require that the injured person's injuries have a "life-altering" impact. They also stated that the life-altering impact cannot be based on pain and can only be based upon physician limitations and restrictions.
There have been many notorious and senseless pro-insurance and anti-victim decisions since Kreiner. A teen-aged girl's closed head injury that necessitated missing a full year of school was deemed "not serious". A neck injury that caused a herniated disc, dangerous surgery, several months of missed work and nagging permanent pain "was not a serious impairment". Several victims with serious limb or facial fractures, torn knee ligaments, ruptured discs, and other colloquially "serious" injuries have been denied compensation, despite permanent restrictions on work activities and hours (even to the extent of being limited to working 24 hours per week), total loss of recreational activities, and doctor-confirmed lifetime pain problems.
The latest of these extreme decisions releasing a careless driver's insurance from paying compensation , involved a man who suffered a torn rotator cuff and other injuries in a high-speed collision when the at-fault blew a red light at an intersection. The victim, Herbert Jurnikian, made a fairly prompt recovery form injuries to his knees, hands, and neck, but his torn rotator cuff turned out to be intractable.
His family doctor wouldn't approve the recommended surgical repair because of his age and pre-existing emphysema, so Mr. Jurnikian was forced to live with chronic, severe pain in the shoulder. He had attended literally dozens of physical therapy sessions over more than a year. The therapists recorded that he could not do any pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying or heavy work involving his shoulder. He could not even shoot pool without experiencing pain, and often required help with dressing and bathing.
Despite the fact that he endured severe pain with virtually all activities that was so severe his doctors would have liked to operate to give him some relief, two judges of the Court of Appeals ruled that "reasonable minds could not conclude" that he had suffered "a serious impairment of bodily function." These two judges thought the issue was so clear that they did not even allow Mr. Jernukian's attorneys to participate in Oral Argument on appeal. One would think that with the threshold for liability claims raised this high, all Michigan residents should have seen a significant reduction in our no fault insurance premiums: has your insurance gone down in the past few years?