News and Insights

No-Fault Auto Insurance
& Workers Compensation

What happens when an employee is injured on the job while operating a motor vehicle? This situation merges two areas of law: (1) Michigan Workers Compensation, and (2) Michigan No-Fault Automobile Insurance.

Under workers compensation, injured employees are entitled to “80 % of after-tax average weekly wages” (aprox 66% of the gross wages) at the time of the injury.

Under No-Fault, the injured motorist is entitled to 85% of the income lost during the first three years of disability. Thus, a difference in disability wage loss benefits, with No-Fault paying a higher benefit. Workers compensation is primary and No-Fault Automobile Insurance usually obligated to pay the difference.

Often the injured worker does not know that No-Fault Automobile Insurance is payable in addition to Workers Compensation or that the claim must be filed within
one year of the accident.

Awareness of the interplay of the two areas of law, Workers Compensation and No-Fault Automobile Insurance, is crucial.

If you know of anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident and receiving workers compensation, tell him or her of the added benefits available.

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The Case of the Honest Intoxicated Defendant

Many tragic automobile crashes are caused by a driver’s excessive alcohol consumption. That is a well-known fact and there are criminal statutes that punish the driver who operated a vehicle “under the influence” of alcohol.

When alcohol-induced crashes result in personal injury there are, in many cases, civil lawsuits seeking damages for the injured victim from the intoxicated driver of the vehicle and its owner. Automobile insurance indemnifies the at-fault driver and pays the damages. The insurance company hires attorneys to defend the driver/owner and prepares the driver for testimony during pre-trial depositions and at trial. In many cases, the driver will testify that he or she had “a couple of beers” and was not impaired when the accident occurred.

Many years ago, Ryan & Ryan represented a passenger who was injured when a mini-van left the roadway and crashed into a tree. The passenger and driver had just left a tavern in a small town when the crash occurred. During the pre-trial deposition of the driver, Bill Ryan asked “how many drinks did you have at the tavern?” Ryan expected the driver to admit to “a couple of beers.” However, in remarkably honest testimony the driver paused, considered the question, and responded, “I think I had fifteen Captain Morgan’s and Coke.”

Needless to say, the insurers for both the driver and the tavern agreed to settle the case shortly after that testimony!

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The Case of the
$340,000 Ice Cube

In a fairly recent Kalamazoo County Circuit Court case Ryan & Ryan fought one of the nation’s largest retailers after the client slipped and fell near the cashier station at the front of the store and sustained a knee injury. The store denied that the floor was dangerously slippery and refused to compensate the woman for her pain and physical impairments. In fact, the manager of the store testified that the floor was dry in the area of the fall.

However, in surveillance video obtained from the store a man was seen in the same area carrying a bag of ice from a nearby ice freezer minutes before the fall. The cashier testified at deposition that he had observed an ice cube melting on the floor near his work station. Yet, the store still insisted that the floor was safe and that it owed no duty to clean up or mop the area near the cashier and ice freezer.

One week before a jury trial was scheduled the parties reached a settlement of $340,000. At the time of the mediation, months before the trial, the store had offered only $15,000...before it wisely changed its evaluation.

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Trends in Social Security Disability

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, an integral part of Social Security, provides vital benefits to workers who can no longer support themselves due to a serious and long-lasting medical impairment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers SSDI. Some 8.2 million people receive disabled-worker benefits from Social Security. Payments also go to some of their family members: 104,000 spouses and 1.4 million children. In addition to monthly payments the SSDI program provides Medicare coverage to the disabled.

Full SSDI is available to those persons who have paid into the system Social Security taxes for a significant length of time through payroll deductions. Satisfying the disability criteria and eligibility criteria is not easy, however. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBBP) the rate of successful applications for SSDI varies depending on the age of the applicant, but the overall rate of all ages is less than 40%.

It is important to provide thorough and supportive medical evidence of disabling conditions. Supportive doctors and therapists are crucial to a successful SSDI application. Appealing a denial of SSDI usually involves an administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing.

At the ALJ hearing, an attorney experienced in Social Security Disability is vitally important. Ryan & Ryan Law does not accept all cases to represent claimants at the ALJ hearing. However, we are available to review the facts, the medical evidence, and the age of the claimant to determine if we can be successful at the hearing. Attorney fees are only charged upon successful representation and are approved by the Social Security Administration.

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