ABATE of Michigan Inc.
P.O. Box 99
Constantine, Mi. 49042
Phone: 269 435-2058
ABATE of Michigan
Fighting for the rights of all motorcyclists since 1976
In most parts of our state, we have been having some unseasonably warm weather and motorcyclists are taking to the streets to enjoy some freedom. Spring is right around the corner and sooner than later the opening of riding season will be in full swing. It also means that motorcyclists will be sharing the roads with motor vehicles who since July 1, 2020 have had the opportunity to renew/purchase auto insurance which will have come complete with the choice of no-fault medical caps to which the motorcyclist is handcuffed to thanks to SB 1.
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.
Ever since SB 1 was passed, ABATE’s leadership and myself have been travelling to Lansing to fight this discriminatory bill. Our efforts were initially manifested in the introduction of SB 528 which I drafted and which was introduced by Senator Lucido. Despite our best efforts, we were completely stalled by Senator Lana Theis who would not allow the bill to heard by the Senate insurance committee.
The fight continues, as we have continued to travel to Lansing to educate legislators on the inequity of this law and are hopeful that very soon we will find a champion in the House of Representatives to introduce a bill echoing the language of SB 528, only this time as a House bill.
As part of our continued efforts, I did some research and found some interesting data. In reviewing the 2018 Year End Traffic Crash Statistics issued by the Michigan Department of State Police, the following is indicated:
Motor vehicles 100,012 fatal/injury crashes involving a motor vehicle
Pedestrian 1,867 fatal/injury crashes involving a motor vehicle
Bicycle 1,145 fatal/injury crashes involving a motor vehicle
Motorcycle 1,019 fatal/injury crashes involving a motor vehicle
ORV 63 fatal/injury crashes involving a motor vehicle
Snowmobile 13 fatal/injury crashes involving a motor vehicle
As each of the above referenced crashes involved a motor vehicle, the persons injured as an occupant of a motor vehicle; as a pedestrian; as a bicyclist; as a motorcyclist; as an ORV operator/passenger; and on a snowmobile would all be entitled to assert a claim for no fault benefits based on their injuries. As is demonstrated, more crashes triggering potential no fault claims involve motor vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, than those involving motorcycles.
Despite triggering more no-fault claims than motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists are not required to purchase no fault benefits for being a pedestrian or to purchase a “bicycle insurance policy” carrying no fault benefits on it. Instead, pedestrians and bicyclists injured in a motor vehicle accident simply claim no fault benefits from their own auto insurers.
While motorcyclists are 4th on the list behind motor vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists regarding the number of fatal/injury crashes so as to trigger a claim for no fault benefits, motorcyclists are the only classification on the list that does not look to his/her own auto insurance to pay for his/her no fault benefits, but is instead subject to the mercy of the insurance cap choice made by the owner, registrant or operator of the involved motor vehicle.
Further, despite the fact that a motorcyclist is only entitled to claim no fault benefits if a motor vehicle is involved in the accident, every motorcyclist in Michigan pays the annual assessment issued by the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA), which is used to reimburse no fault insurers who pay out over $580,000.00 in medical costs on any given no fault claim. Per the MCCA website, the annual assessment was $170.00 per vehicle from January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018 and $192.00 per vehicle from July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. [Tab 3] Unlike any accident involving a motor vehicle, which will always trigger a potential no fault claim since a motor vehicle is involved, if a motorcycle accident does not involve a motor vehicle, the motorcyclist does not qualify to make a no-fault claim, and by definition, the MCCA would never apply to such a motorcycle accident. Per the Michigan Department of Transportation, there were 246,342 registered motorcycles in Michigan in 2018. Per the above statistics from the Michigan Department of State Police, only 1,019 motorcycles were involved in accidents that triggered a potential no fault claim. Assuming those 1,019 motorcycles were registered in Michigan, this means that 245,323 registered motorcyclists paid approximately $44,403,463.00 to the MCCA to reimburse no fault insurers for claims that by definition they did not even qualify to make. This in stark contrast to pedestrians and bicyclists, who despite triggering more no-fault claims than motorcyclists, pay $0 to the MCCA.
There exists no rational basis behind the law as it currently stands pursuant to SB 1 now codified at Michigan Compiled Laws 500.3101 et al., to disallow motorcyclists their own choice regarding the no fault cap, while everyone else is afforded such a choice, and instead bind a motorcyclist’s claim for no fault benefits to the cap that the owner, registrant or operator of the involved motor vehicle chose for himself/herself on his/her auto policy.
The effects this law is having on motorcyclists whose medical expense exceed the cap that another person’s auto policy holds them hostage to is crippling and will force many motorcyclists into bankruptcy or force them to applying for governmental assistance such as Medicare or Medicaid which would increase the ever-growing strain on these entities.
Now more than ever, efforts need to be made to contact and educate your legislators so we can get our new bill introduced and passed to fix this discriminatory and dangerous situation that motorcyclists find themselves in. There is a perception with many legislators that if they don’t hear from citizens in their district about a problem, then the problem must not exist. I can tell you, speaking for the numbers of tragically injured motorcyclists that I represent, this is a very real and life-changing problem that needs a very real solution.
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 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!
Dondi Vesprini firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 248 569-4646