Third-Party No-Fault Claims
A third-party no-fault action, or vehicle negligence claim, is an action based on general negligence principles against the at-fault driver in the accident. Third-party claims seek to recover for injuries and related damages arising out of the defendant’s use, operation, or maintenance of a motor vehicle. These damages include noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of consortium as well as excess economic damages.
A third-party claim is based in tort law rather than contract law. A third-party no-fault claim, however, is subject to certain statutory rules and restrictions that are not present in other general tort cases.
One important statutory requirement in third-party no-fault claims is that the plaintiff must plead a threshold injury of either death, serious impairment of a body function, or serious permanent disfigurement to recover any noneconomic damages. “Serious impairment of body function” is defined by statute as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function, or serious disfigurement.” MCL § 500.3135(7). Under MCL § 500.3135(2), as amended, whether an injured party meets the no-fault threshold is frequently a question of law for the court to decide.
The elements of a third-party no-fault claim are:
- Conduct arising from the defendant’s use, operation, or maintenance of a motor vehicle caused the injuries
- The defendant was negligent in using, operating, or maintaining the vehicle
- Proximate causation between the negligence and the damages
- A threshold injury occurred
- Damages were sustained
The statute of limitations for a third-party no-fault claim is three years, pursuant to MCL § 600.5805(10).
If the plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault for an accident, he or she is completely barred from recovery of noneconomic damages. Additionally, a plaintiff who is operating an uninsured motor vehicle that was required to have no-fault insurance is barred from recovering any third-party noneconomic damages. If a plaintiff was 50 percent or more the cause of the accident, it is an absolute defense that the plaintiff had impaired abilities due to the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.