Fighting for the rights of all motorcyclists since 1976

By the time you are reading this, we will be in dangerous times and I am not talking about Covid-19.  For those who may be unaware, effective July 1, 2020, the portion of Senate Bill 1 which requires motorcyclist to ride at the risk of financial ruin took effect.  For those of you who are aware, you know exactly what I am talking about. 

As a brief refresher, as of July 1, 2020, persons applying for or renewing their auto insurance will for the first time be given a choice to opt out or cap their medical expense coverage under no fault.  Those choices will include opting out of medical expense coverage completely (if the person has Medicare and any spouse or relative in the household have health insurance which covers accidents, Medicare or is covered under another auto policy); capping at $50,000.00 (if the person has Medicaid); $250,000.00; $500,000.00; or to keep unlimited benefits as the “old” no fault law provided for. 

HERE IS THE POTENTIALLY CRIPPLING EFFECT THIS HAS ON MOTORCYCLISTS:  When a motorcyclist is involved in an accident with a motor vehicle, it is the insurer of the owner, registrant or operator of the involved automobile that is first in priority to pay the motorcyclists no fault benefits.  Under the new law, a motorcyclist is bound by the cap that the motorist chose for himself/herself on his/her own auto policy!  For example, if the motorist chose a $50,000.00 cap for himself on his auto insurance policy and he is involved in an accident with a motorcycle, the motorcyclist’s no-fault benefits are capped at $50,000.00!  Thus, while motorists will have a direct choice on the amount of no-fault benefits available in the event they are injured in an accident, motorcyclists have no such choice.  There are limited exceptions where a motorcyclist may bypass the auto policy and look to the next policy in order of priority to pay, but even with the exception, once you reach an insurance policy in proper priority to pay, the motorcyclist is bound by the applicable cap on the policy.

Discrimination against motorcyclists becomes legal as of July 1, 2020, as motorcyclists are the only class of motorists who do not claim directly from their own auto insurance first, and are instead handcuffed by the policy limits chosen by another person.  Indeed, persons injured in an auto accident while they were operating a car, truck, bus, off road vehicle and even those injured as pedestrians all claim their no fault benefits from their own auto insurance policies.  Every day that goes by, more and more persons will be renewing their auto insurance, meaning every day that goes by the pool of drivers with new caps on their medical benefits grows.  This means that every day the chance of you being involved in an accident with a driver to whose cap on medical benefits you will be bound by grows.  Projecting it forward, by July 1, 2021 all drivers on the road will have auto insurance polices for which a cap on medical benefits was chosen.  The only questions will be, was the cap chosen by the driver that hit you sufficient to cover your medical expenses? 

Starting July 1, 2020, Michigan motorcyclists are now gambling when they ride facing the risk of being involved in an accident with a motor vehicle whose owner/driver chose to cap HIS/HER medical benefits in an amount less than what the INJURED MOTORCILSIT actually incurs in medical expenses.  With the alleged “savings” that go along with capping your auto insurance medical coverage, together with the incentive the insurance companies have to recommend customers purchase a low cap (to save the insurance company possible exposure), it is anticipated that the great majority of drivers will opt for a low cap.    

As I have discussed in previous articles,   in June of 2019 I drafted a proposed senate bill (SB 528) which was introduced into the Senate on September 17, 2019, that would remove the motorcyclist from being held hostage and capped by the auto insurance policy of the involved motorist, and instead would allow the motorcyclist to claim his/her no fault benefits from his/her own auto policy, just as every other category of injured persons in an accident is allowed to do under the law.  This way, whatever “cap” the motorcyclist chooses on his/her auto policy after July 1, 2020, he/she can rest assured that same “cap” will apply if he/she is involved in an accident with a motor vehicle on his/her motorcycle. SB 528 is currently pending before the Senate Insurance committee awaiting a hearing date.

Since that time, myself and various members of ABATE’s leadership have met feverishly with legislators, in an effort to educate them about the danger of SB 1 and urging them to support SB 528 to fix this situation.  While there seems to be a general feeling from the legislators we have talked to that they support SB 528, it is clear that the insurance committee chairs are in no hurry to do anything about it.  For those who may not know, the insurance committee chair has sole discretion as to whether to move a bill into committee hearings.  If the chair decides not to do so, the bill simply never gets heard. 

Myself and members of ABATE’s leadership have also sat down in meetings and more recently due to the pandemic have had teleconferences with the insurance industry leaders to discuss the situation.  While they have intimated they were open to working with us to explore if there is any common ground to reach a solution, they have explicitly told us that they are not able to do so anytime soon as they are too busy getting the various insurance companies ready to deal with and implement the other changes that SB 1 calls for effective July 1, 2020.

We are in dangerous times my friends.  With the Stay at Home Order lifted and many of our favorite bike shops, restaurants and watering holes slowly reopening their doors, there is more reason than ever to crush our cabin fever, saddle up and ride.  A motorcyclist should not have to ponder whether it is worth riding anymore given that any given ride could be their last before they have file bankruptcy due to medical bills over and above the limits that the other driver carried. 

As your attorney for ABATE of Michigan and a trial attorney who represents injured motorcyclists on a daily basis, I can assure you I will do my part to continue to work towards righting this wrong that the insurance industry and our legislature have perpetrated on the motorcyclists of this great state. 

It is critical, now more than ever that you contact your legislators and express your outrage over the impact SB 1 has on all motorcyclists since July 1, 2020 and equally as important your outrage over the fact that the insurance committee chair will not even allow her colleagues the opportunity to hear the bill and fix this situation!  Please do your part and contact everyone you know to educate them about the gamble that they are taking with their financial security by riding a motorcycle after July 1, 2020, and urge them to contact their legislators regarding this issue as well.  We need to let Lansing know that we don’t appreciate this blatant discriminatory law and the fact that there is no urgency in Lansing to fix it!

I am again including below the “talking points” to use with your legislator in urging them to support SB 528.  You can also let your legislators know that the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) and the Michigan Harley-Davidson Dealers Association have come out in public support of SB 528 as well.

TALKING POINTS IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL 528

1.            UNDER SENATE BILL 1, BEGINNING JULY 1, 2020, MOTORISTS OBTAINING OR RENEWING THEIR AUTO INSURANCE WILL BE GIVEN THE OPTION TO CAP THE MEDICAL PORTION OF THEIR NO FAULT BENEFITS AT $50,000.00, $250,000.00 OR $500,000.00. 

2.            UNDER SENATE BILL 1, THE INSURER OF THE OWNER OR OPERATOR OF THE INVOLVED MOTOR VEHICLE IS FIRST IN PRIORITY TO PAY AN INJURED MOTORCYCLISTS NO FAULT BENEFITS AND THE MOTORCYCLISTS CLAIM FOR MEDICAL EXPENSES IS BOUND BY THE CAP CHOSEN BY THE MOTORIST ON THE MOTORIST’S AUTO POLICY.   

3.            MANY INJURED MOTORCYCLISTS INCUR MEDICAL EXPENSES IN EXCESS OF $500,000.00, LET ALONE THE LESSER CAPS OF $50,000,00 AND $250,000.00 THAT MOTORISTS WILL BE GIVEN THE OPTION TO CHOOSE FROM.

4.            IN BINDING THE INJURED MOTORCYCLIST TO THE CAP THE MOTORIST SELECTS FOR HIMSELF/HERSELF ON HIS/HER AUTO INSURANCE WILL CAUSE THE MANY MOTORCYCLISTS AT RISK OF EXCEEDING THE CAP TO FILE BANKRUPTCY OR FILE FOR MEDICARE OR MEDICAID, PUTTING ADDITIONAL BURDEN ON THESE ALREADY STRAINED ENTITIES.               

5.            MOTORISTS AND PEDESTRIANS INVOLVED IN AN AUTO ACCIDENT CLAIM NO FAULT BENEFITS FROM THEIR OWN AUTO INSURANCE POLICIES.  IT IS DISCRIMINATORY TO ALLOW MOTORISTS AND PEDESTRIANS TO CHOOSE A CAP FOR HIMSELF/HERSELF WHILE MOTORCYCLISTS ARE BOUND BY THE CHOICE MADE BY THE MOTORIST. 

6.            SENATE BILL 528 FIXES THIS SITUATION BY PLACING THE MOTORCYCLIST’S OWN AUTO INSURANCE FIRST IN PRIORITY TO PAY THE INJURED MOTORCYCLISTS NO FAULT BENEFITS.  THIS WAY, MOTORCYCLISTS LIKE MOTORISTS AND PEDESTRIANS, ARE PROVIDED A CHOICE REGARDING THEIR NO FAULT BENEFITS.

               If you need assistance in identifying and locating your legislator, go online to http://www.legislature.mi.gov/   Click on the legislator’s link on the left side of the page and it will bring up each legislator.  You can then click on the legislator for your district and will be provided his/her contact information.

It is critical that if you are involved in a motorcycle accident that you reach out to me to share your situation so I can help navigate you through these new waters we are swimming in and potentially use your story to share with legislators as real life example of the harm this law is doing.

I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE ALL REGIONS TO HAVE ME OUT TO A REGIONAL MEETING TO DISCUSS THE RAMIFICATIONS OF RIDING UNDER THIS NEW LAW AND MY SUGGESTIONS AS TO HOW A MOTORCYCLIST CAN BEST PROTECT HIMSELF/HERSELF IN THIS NEW SITUATION WE ALL FIND OURSELVES IN.

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!  

shifting gears

Dondi Vesprini dondi@buckfirelaw.com

Phone: 248 569-4646

ABATE of Michigan Inc.
P.O. Box 99
​Constantine, Mi. 49042

​Phone: 269 435-2058