ABATE of Michigan
Fighting for the rights of all motorcyclists since 1976
Dondi Vesprini firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 248 569-4646
ABATE of Michigan Inc.
P.O. Box 99
Constantine, Mi. 49042
Call: 269 435-2058
In November of last year, I wrote about the then most recent attempt by the insurance industry to pass legislation in Lansing to cut benefits owed to injured person under Michigan’s No-Fault Act. It was House Bill 5013, announced by Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan, and House Speaker Tom Leonard and introduced by Insurance Committee Chair Lana Theis. As you are likely aware, under Michigan’s current no fault law, persons injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle are entitled to payment of no-fault benefits which includes unlimited medical expenses, medical mileage, and payment for assistance rendered to the injured person for personal care (attendant care) and also three years worth of wage loss and payment for assistance with tending to the person’s household chores while injured. Under House Bill 5013, among other damaging provisions, the insurance industry was calling for a cap on attendant care and a choice of caps on medical expenses which would have bound a motorcyclist to the cap choice made by the motorist who injured the motorcyclist! Fortunately, on the bill was defeated in the House of Representatives by a tally of 63 votes against the bill versus 45 votes for the bill.
In that article, I warned for folks to keep on eye on things in Lansing because the trend over the past several years has been for the insurance industry to continue to periodically introduce bills aimed at cutting away or significantly limiting an injured person’s entitlement to no fault benefits after being injured in an accident. Well, it didn’t take long for the insurance industry to introduce a new package of bills after the defeat of House Bill 5013.
On February 6, 2018, House Bills 5517 – 5523 were introduced in Lansing. These bills go much further than calling for caps or limitations on benefits available under the no fault law as they have done in the past. These bills essentially call for a complete repeal of no fault benefits altogether! I have gone over the bills and wanted to point out some of the major damaging points of the bills.
1. After December 31, 2019, a motor vehicle insurer shall not issue or renew an auto insurance policy that provides for payment of no fault benefits.
Under Michigan’s No-Fault law, a person involved in an accident with a motor vehicle is entitled to unlimited lifetime medical expenses, attendant care benefits and medical mileage reimbursement and 3 years maximum of wage loss and household services. These benefits are owed to the injured person regardless of who was at fault for the accident. More times than not, these benefits are paid without issue by the insurance company and it provides the injured person with timely income and source to pay their medical bills while they are dealing with the injuries from the accident. Further, if an injured person required wage loss and/or household services beyond the 3 year cap, these excess economic benefits could be claimed against the at fault driver. THESE NO FAULT BENEFITS, INCLUDING ANY EXCESS ECONOMIC CLAIM, WILL ESSENTIALLY BE REPEALED FOR THOSE INJURED PERSONS INVOLVED IN ACCIDENTS WHERE THE INVOLVED MOTOR VEHICLE HAD AN INSURANCE POLICY THAT WAS ISSUED OR RENEWED AFTER 12-31-19. This will leave everyone to their own financial resources regarding paying medical bills and obtaining necessary attendant care and/or replacement services. It can be expected that if the bill passes, health insurance premiums will skyrocket and many injured persons will be forced to apply for Medicaid/Medicare. Also, without any wage loss benefits, injured persons who are out of work for a significant period without the financial capabilities to go without an income for an extended period will be forced to file for bankruptcy.
2. The Catastrophic Claims Association has no liability for accidents occurring under insurance policies issued or renewed after December 31, 2019.
Under Michigan’s No-Fault law, when someone is involved in an accident that involves a motor vehicle, the injured person is entitled to payment of his/her no-fault benefits as explained above. Once the auto insurer has paid over $555,000.00 in medical expenses on a person’s claim, the insurance company is reimbursed by the MCCA for any medical payments it makes over and above that amount. In HB 5517, as it calls for an essential repeal of no fault benefits where the involved insurance policy was issued or renewed after 12-31-19, it follows that the Catastrophic Claims Association will likewise have no liability for benefits in this situation.
3. As of December 31, 2019, auto insurers of out of state residents are no longer required to provide No Fault benefits to their insured’s who are injured in an accident in Michigan.
Under Michigan’s No-Fault law, an insurance company that does business in Michigan is required to file a certificate that it will provide Michigan No Fault benefits to an insured who resides out of state if they are involved in an auto accident in Michigan. For example, let’s suppose an Ohio resident is involved in an auto accident in Michigan. If the Ohio resident is insured by an auto insurer who does business in Michigan, he/she can claim Michigan’s No-Fault benefits. In HB 5517, as of December 31, 2019, such insurers are no longer required to provide Michigan no fault benefits to an out of state resident involved in a Michigan accident.
4. Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law is modified so as to eliminate the requirement that an operator or passenger carry $20,000.00 worth of medical coverage on his/her motorcycle insurance in order to ride legally without a helmet.
Under the current version of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law, one may legally ride without a helmet if you are 21 or older; and have had a motorcycle endorsement on his/her license for at least 2 years or have passed a motorcycle safety course; and have medical benefits on your motorcycle insurance of at least $20,000.00. HB 5518 would eliminate the requirement to carry the aforementioned medical coverage on your motorcycle insurance. It would appear that this doesn’t do much to significantly alter anything because the insurance requirement appears to be the most difficult for law enforcement to enforce given that unless you have your insurance policy in full view on your motorcycle, an officer would not have any probable cause to pull you over for an alleged violation of the insurance provision. Conversely, if HB 5517 passes and the no fault law is repealed, it would appear more important for motorcyclists to carry medical coverage on their motorcycle insurance since the person will no longer have medical benefits under the no fault law.
Interestingly enough, while the insurance industry will likely claim that eliminating the no fault system will decrease auto insurance premiums in our state, I didn’t see any language in the package of bills which guarantees such a reduction. Also, if injured persons were no longer entitled to medical payments from the auto insurers, then health insurance would become more and more important so injured persons have a source to get their extensive medical bills paid after an accident. Thus, assuming there would be some lowering of the auto insurance premium if the bills were to pass, it would appear that any money saved would just get spent on the foreseeable skyrocketing premium that health insurers would charge given the inevitable higher demand for health insurance.
I don’t know about you, but if given the choice between 1) Continuing to pay current rates for auto insurance in exchange for a lifetime of medical bills and attendant care and 3 years worth of wage loss and household services and 2) Continuing to pay an auto insurance premium and a much higher health insurance premium in exchange for having health insurance (that I hope covers motorcycle accidents), being left to reach into my own pocket for attendant care and household chores and wondering where any income is going to come from while I am unable to work, I think the choice is clear.
If House Bills 5517 – 5523 pass, choice number 2 above will become Michigan’s new reality.
As always, if anyone has any questions or if I can be of legal assistance to you or anyone you know dealing with this issue or who has been injured in a motorcycle accident, please don’t hesitate to contact me as I deal with these types of claims on a daily basis on behalf of injured motorcyclists statewide.
Further, if you would like to have me come out to your Region to speak or give a presentation on the legal rights of an injured motorcyclist or on any specific topic that your region may be curious about, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at (248-569-4646) or shoot me an e-mail at Dondi@buckfirelaw.com. I give presentations to Regions state-wide and there is never a charge associated with having me out. I enjoy having the opportunity to come out and meet motorcycle enthusiasts from all parts of our State!