Automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental injury in this country. Each year, thousands of people are killed in motor vehicle crashes and millions are injured. These crashes are frequently caused by the negligence of other drivers, often leading to their own death or injury as well as the death or injury of innocent victims. While motor vehicle accidents can have many causes, they can usually be divided into negligence, intentional misconduct, or product liability.
Before defining these three causes, we should point out that, with regard to automobile accidents, Michigan is a No-Fault State. This means that your own Michigan car accident insurance company pays most of the economic losses you suffer in an automobile accident, regardless of who was at fault. These economic benefits are called First-Party Benefits.
The Michigan law defining First-Party Benefits states:
First-party benefits are payable to anyone who suffers an injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.
There are other, related benefits known as Third-Party Benefits. These usually cover non-economic losses, including damages for pain and suffering, scarring or disfigurement, death, and wage loss in excess of 3 years.
In Michigan, a Third-Party legal claim is filed against the at-fault driver in the motor vehicle accident. With the exception of excess wage loss, the damages sought in a Third-Party case are non-economic in nature.
To prevail in a claim against a careless driver for non-economic damages in Michigan, the injured auto accident victim must show that he or she suffered a "threshold injury." Michigan law defines this as:
A serious impairment of an important body function, serious disfigurement or scarring, or death.
Negligence is one of the primary causes of automobile accidents. Negligent acts occur when a driver causing an accident does not exercise reasonable care. For example, he was driving too fast or too slowly for road conditions. Perhaps he allowed himself to be distracted. Perhaps he carelessly ignored traffic signals or other visible signs. In other words, negligence is a failure to act carefully rather than an act intended to cause harm. A person who is distracted and rear-ends another vehicle at a red light is negligent.
Intentional misconduct, on the other hand, is an action committed when the person knew that his actions could cause harm and he did not care, or he actively desired to harm others. Someone who drives at a high rate of speed, cutting in and out of traffic, may be intentionally putting himself and others at risk.
The law of strict liability could apply in some circumstances, and neither negligence nor intent would need to be shown in order to seek damages.
Another cause of auto accidents is product failure. The Firestone tire litigation is a prime example of product failure. In that case, a defect in the tire caused accidents beyond the control of drivers. The defects were not intentional, but according to law the manufacturer was responsible. A similar situation could exist if a repair to the car was done improperly and resulted in a crash. In some states, in the case of auto accidents caused by drunk drivers, the business or host who supplied the alcohol and allowed the driver to drive in an intoxicated condition could be found to have a liability, in addition to the drunk driver.