Substance Added To Plaintiffs’ "Hollow Rights"

The 2010 Michigan Supreme Court has released another decision that champions the right of recovery for injured parties. The Court overruled a 2006 Michigan Supreme Court opinion that restricted the damages a party could recover under the No Fault Automobile Insurance Act. With the new decision, the Court aims to give substance to plaintiffs' previously "hollow rights."

The No Fault Automobile Insurance Act's one-year-back rule states that lawsuits seeking personal protection insurance benefits may not be filed more than a year after the date of the accident. It also prevents recovery for any losses incurred more than one year before the date on which the lawsuit was filed.

However, minors, people who are mentally incompetent and state entities are addressed in other sections of the Act, where special provisions grant them more time to file a lawsuit. To some extent, these tolling provisions preserve a claim brought by a minor, mentally incompetent person or state entity, even if the claim would otherwise be barred by the one-year-back rule.

The 2006 opinion stated that while those special categories of plaintiffs-minors, mentally incompetent people and state entities-may have more time to file a lawsuit, the damages they may recover are still limited by the one-year-back rule to those that occurred in the year before the action was filed. The 2006 opinion even barred claims that were more than a year old if the injured person was unable to pursue his claims because he or she was in a coma, or otherwise incapacitated, from the accident.

The 2010 Supreme Court found that, under the 2006 Court's logic, the tolling provision allowing more time to file a lawsuit was really a hollow right since the plaintiff's recovery was still limited to expenses incurred in the year before filing. Indeed, it is pointless to allow more time to file a lawsuit if taking that extra time prevents plaintiffs from recovering their damages.

Accordingly, the 2010 Supreme Court overruled the 2006 opinion. Now the one-year-back limitation on recovery does not apply to those special categories of plaintiffs who are allowed more time to file a lawsuit under the No Fault Automobile Insurance Act. This decision benefits the people of Michigan by restoring rights that were deteriorated by the 2006 Court.

If you have been injured in an auto accident, it is important to promptly contact a personal injury attorney in your area. While this decision allows some parties more time to file a lawsuit, strict time limitations may still apply in your case.