The driver who hit me only had $20,000 in insurance, now what?

September 22, 2015

What do you do when the driver who causes a car accident only has $20,000 in coverage?

This sadly happens all the time. Remember, most people who are insured (and in some cities like Detroit approximately 50% of drivers have no auto insurance at all) only have the minimum bodily injury policy limits of $20,000 if they cause a motor vehicle accident. That means that if these people have no collectible assets, that's usually all that an attorney can recover for an auto accident victim.

Sure, a lawyer can still file a lawsuit and get a big judgment for someone. But the costs to prove this then come out of the accident victim's total recovery.

I recently received a question from a reader who was injured in a serious car accident, but the driver only had the typical insurance policy limit to cover bodily injury of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident.

Q. I'm learning really fast that the bodily injury coverage isn't for your benefit, it's for the not at fault party. In our case, the person who caused the accident a had only a $20,000/$40,000 policy. It's a real joke considering the pain and hardship the accident - which was their fault - caused in my life.

A. I'm so very sorry to hear about your car accident. Unfortunately, your experience is a great reminder to everyone about why uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) is so important.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage provides a valuable source of legal recovery after a car accident, when someone is injured by another driver who is uninsured or does not have adequate insurance. With UM/UIM, an injured person turns to his or her own auto insurance company to pay what would have been recovered from the at-fault driver, had that person been properly insured with an insurance policy limit to cover their injuries.

People often make the mistake of thinking the bodily injury coverage they purchase for themselves will cover them in case they're injured in an accident. They don't understand that it's really to protect another driver in case you cause an accident. So it's important to remember that the amount of pain and suffering compensation you can receive for your car accident injuries is limited to the insurance policy of the other driver who caused the crash.

To combat this, we recommend in the future that you carry at least $250,000/$500,000, in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, so you don't have to rely on other drivers in case of a crash. UM and UIM is also surprisingly inexpensive. Think of it as the cost of a movie and popcorn to properly protect you and your loved ones if a terrible automobile accident does occur.

The other case you have after a car accident is for your Michigan No Fault benefits, which cover your medical care, lost wages and other important services like house cleaning and in-home nursing care. You can receive No Fault benefits if you're injured in a car accident, regardless of who caused the crash.

When can my child legally sit in the front seat?

September 17, 2015

Our auto accident attorneys always receive important questions regarding Michigan's child car seat law. The latest involves when it's legal and safe to move your child from the back seat to the front:

Q. My son is 7 years old and almost 4' 9". Is it permissible (and safe) for him to sit in the front seat with a booster seat?

A. Great question. Under Michigan's child car seat law, the only children who must be positioned in a car's "rear seat" are those who are "less than 4 years of age" and they must be "properly secure[d]" in "a child restraint system." (MCL 257.710d(1) and (2))

As for age- and height-specific seating information, the law provides that a child who is "less than 8 years of age and who is less than 4 feet 9 inches in height shall be properly secured in a child restraint system in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer's and vehicle manufacturer's instructions and [federal safety] standards ..." (MCL 257.710e(3)(b))

Arguably, that means that if a child is 8 years of age or older or is 4'9" or taller, then he or she need not be secured in a "child restraint system," but, instead, may use a "safety belt" as provided for in Michigan's Seat Belt Law. (MCL 257.710e(3) and (5))

For more information about keeping your kids safe in the car, please take a look at the following helpful blog posts:

Michigan's existing car seat law and police interpretation

When do I switch my child from a car seat to a booster seat?

New wage loss rates for 2015-16

September 10, 2015

Here's the new maximum work loss rate a car accident victim can recover this year under Michigan's No Fault Law

The Michigan No Fault wage loss rates for car accident victims have been updated for 2015-16:

The monthly max for No Fault wage loss will be $5,398, starting October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2016.

The new rate is only a $6 increase from the 2014-15 amount, according to the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS)'s recently released Bulletin 2015-20-INS, entitled "Annual Adjustment of the Maximum Work Loss Benefit Payable under Policies of Personal Protection Insurance."

Understanding No Fault wage loss benefits

Here's how wage loss - also called work loss and lost wages - kicks in if you've been injured in a car or truck accident in Michigan:

  • If a person suffers auto-accident-related injuries that prevent her from returning to work, then Michigan wage loss benefits will pay up to 85% of the income from work the injured person would have earned had it not been for the crash.
  • The accident victim is paid by a person's auto insurance company regardless of who was at-fault in causing the accident that resulted in the injuries.
  • Wage loss benefits are paid for up to three years from the date of the accident, and they're capped at an monthly "maximum" amount (which is stated above at $5,398,) that's adjusted annually.

Here's more information about applying for wage loss benefits and how they're calculated.

For anything beyond three years of wage loss, an accident victim would have to sue for excess economic benefits, also called a pain and suffering lawsuit.

If someone else is at fault in an accident and they have insurance - but I don't - can I sue?

August 27, 2015

This past week I was interviewed by a reporter from the Al Jazeera cable news network about the insurance crisis in Detroit, where more than 50% of drivers are uninsured because they cannot afford to pay for their premiums, which are among the highest in the nation.

Then I received this question from a woman who was in a car accident with an insured driver, but did not have Michigan No Fault insurance for herself. I hope my answer helps explain just how dangerous it is to drive without auto insurance, as well as the extreme risks involved.

Q. Someone ran a red light and hit my car as I was driving on a green light. She has insurance but I don't. My car is in my name.

A. Thank you for your question. I'm sorry to hear about your accident and I hope you're not seriously injured.

The bad news is that your question is an example of how dangerous it is to drive without auto insurance in Michigan. Even if you're in a car accident caused by another negligent driver, you basically have no legal rights due to the way the auto law is written in Michigan.

Let's start with first party, also known as No Fault Personal Injury Protection, benefits. If you are the owner and operator (you have to be both) of the car involved in the crash, you cannot receive No Fault benefits (which include reimbursement of medical care, lost wages and help around the house).

What surprises most people is that if you are uninsured, even if you are completely innocent and very seriously injured, you also can't sue the driver who caused your motor vehicle accident for your injuries and pain and suffering under Michigan law.

And because you do not have Michigan No Fault auto insurance, you cannot even get any money for your car damage, or bring a mini tort claim against the at-fault driver or his insurance company.

Adding insult to injury, you will be responsible for reimbursing the other person's insurance company if any No Fault benefits are paid to the other driver - even though he caused the crash!

For more information, here's a blog post I wrote on the 9 risks of driving uninsured.

Please, protect yourself now by purchasing a No Fault insurance policy for yourself. If you're shopping for insurance and not sure what type and limits to buy, check out our resource center on buying car insurance. If anything, please make sure you purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, so as to protect yourself in a car accident with a driver who does not have car insurance or adequate policy limits.

Thank you for reaching out and please be safe.

What is an umbrella policy when buying auto insurance?

August 20, 2015

Learn what umbrella insurance covers, and why uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage must be included

Shopping for car insurance in Michigan can be tricky. It's an area that trips up many attorneys as well, who maybe had a question on No Fault on the bar exam, and nothing since.

First, there's the auto insurance that's required under our No Fault Law, commonly referred to as "PIP" or personal injury protection, and which generally refers to your No Fault coverage. Then there is "BI" or bodily injury coverage, that's meant to pay compensation to someone you injure in an automobile accident.

And then there's everything else. What many people fail to realize is that there are also several optional coverages that you may or may not need, depending on the age, make and model of your vehicle, as well as where you drive it.

For example, in Detroit, which has approximately 50% of all drivers uninsured, I tell people you have to be crazy to drive there without uninsured motorist coverage to protect you if you're involved in a wreck with an uninsured driver.

And then there is the umbrella policy. Many of our clients wonder what umbrella insurance offers. We hope this answer helps:

Umbrella policies are excess liability policies that pay injured auto accident victims over and above what your regular auto, homeowners, business, etc. policies pay. This is an optional coverage.

If you purchase an umbrella policy either through your current auto insurance company or through an umbrella insurer, you must make sure that it includes Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured (UIM) Motorist coverages. UM and UIM is insurance that protects you in case of a crash with a driver who does not have No Fault insurance or has inadequate amounts.

You will be required to carry a minimum level of UM and UIM on your regular auto, homeowners, business policies, etc., before they will give you the umbrella coverage.
If your Declaration Page for the umbrella policy does not include UM and/or UIM coverages, that means you do not have them. Umbrella coverage is usually fairly inexpensive. You can buy it generally in increments of $1 million.

What's the penalty for driving with no proof of insurance in Michigan?

August 4, 2015

I was recently interviewed by The Associated Press for a story on Detroit's car insurance crisis. Specifically, why the rates are among the highest in the nation.

One of the questions the reporter asked me was, "What's the penalty for driving with no proof of auto insurance in Michigan?" I also get this question often from my loved ones and the people I help as an auto accident attorney, so I thought I would share the answer today.

To start, according to the 36th District Court's website, the fine for driving with "No Proof of Insurance" is $186 within 21 days and $226 after 21 days. That goes for Detroit residents.

Similar to the Detroit rule, there's a state statute that addresses failure to provide proof of insurance. It says that failure to provide proof of insurance is a "civil infraction" and can result (if proof of insurance is not eventually provided) in having to surrender one's driver's license and in suspension of one's driver's license by the Secretary of State. MCL 257.328(1) and (4).

But the difference between driving without proof of insurance and driving without insurance is stark. For more information on all of the serious dangers of driving without Michigan No Fault insurance, take a look at my recent blog post, "Top 9 risks of driving uninsured in Michigan."

Here's a teaser: Michigan law states that a person convicted of a misdemeanor for driving uninsured in Michigan "shall be fined not less than $200.00 nor more than $500.00, imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both." (MCL 500.3102(2))

4 things Detroit drivers must know about Mayor Duggan's D-Insurance No Fault plan for Detroit

July 30, 2015

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is trying to make car insurance less expensive for Detroiters with his "D-Insurance" plan. This is an admirable and worthy goal, in a city where an estimated 50% of Detroiters are uninsured.

The problem is, Duggan's plan is awful. What he's proposing to do would also make Detroit residents extremely vulnerable if a car accident does occur. Detroiters would lack critical medical care - and they would still be paying more than drivers in the rest of the state of Michigan.

That's the definition of a bad deal for Detroit. And it's an unfortunate example of a politician who wants to say he did something about a problem, rather than actually fixing it.

Currently in Michigan, if you get hurt in a car accident, you get unlimited auto accident-related medical coverage under Michigan's No Fault laws.

Duggan wants to take these legal protections away, and cap the medical coverage needed for accident victims to $25,000 for all No Fault expenses, including medical care.

I've been receiving a lot of comments from readers on Duggan's insurance plan. Today, I wanted to respond to one naysayer, who says D-Insurance is the right idea, because the proposed medical care caps are better than nothing. Below are four things Detroit drivers must know about the plan:

1. $25,000 No Fault benefits and medical care cap: D-Insurance Plan's proposal recklessly and irresponsibly limits Michigan auto accident victims to an unrealistic $25,000 cap on all of their non-"critical" or "post-stabilization" medical-care expenses, wage loss and replacement services. This includes, but is not limited to doctor visits, diagnostic testing, surgeries, injections, physical and occupational therapy, attendant care, home- and vehicle-modifications and lost wages.

2. $250,000 ER medical cap: D-Insurance proposes a $250,000 cap at the ER or the trauma center BEFORE the auto accident victim has been "stabilized" and can, thus, be "safely ... discharged or transferred to another acute care hospital or trauma center or to a rehabilitation or other facility ..."

Once an auto accident victim has been "stabilized," the $250,000 in "critical care" coverage terminates, leaving the victim with only $25,000 to cover all of the No Fault benefits he or she will need in the days, months and years to come.

3. Your choice of doctor can be denied: Not only must an auto accident victim contend with the limited coverage for his or her medical care expenses, but he or she may also be denied choice of doctor. To add insult to injury, through a "written preauthorization" requirement, under the D-Insurance Plan, auto insurance companies would get to play doctor by denying medical services for auto accident victims based on the auto insurers' determination of what is a "medical necessity."

4. Not enough savings: The savings consumers may receive from the D-Insurance Plan would be relatively little - and, in most cases, woefully inadequate in light of the benefits and protections consumers would be forced to sacrifice under the D-Insurance Plan. As I noted in my recent blog post, "Why Mayor Duggan's D-Insurance plan will further drive Detroiters out of the Motor City":

"In his written testimony before the Senate Insurance Committee on May 26, 2015, Mayor Duggan stated that the 'average Detroiter's annual car insurance is $3,400' and the 'average for surrounding communities is $1,700.' This means that even if D-Insurance could generate Duggan's anticipated '$1,000 savings for many Detroiters,' they'd still be paying $2,400 for car insurance. That is still $700 more than the 'surrounding communities.'"

For more, take a look at my blog post on "8 reasons Duggan's D-Insurance plan is D-angerous for Detroit."

How old does my child have to be before she can sit in the front seat in Michigan?

July 23, 2015

As an auto accident attorney, I've been getting more and more questions about the right age, weight and height children must be to abide by Michigan's car seat law. The latest has to do with children sitting in the front seat:

Q. My daughter will be 8 years old in 6 months. She is tiny, only about 4 feet tall and 44 pounds. Even being this small, she won't have to use a booster and she can sit in the front seat, correct?

A. Thank you for the great question. Unfortunately, Michigan's child car seat law does not specifically address the use of rear-facing and forward-facing car seats or the use of booster seats. Instead, the law talks in terms of using a "child restraint system." But the Motor Vehicle Code does not specifically define what constitutes a "child restraint system."

The good news is, Michigan's child car seat law does provide guidance for the situation you describe. According to MCL 257.710e(3)(b):

"A child who is 4 years of age or older but less than 8 years of age and who is less than 4 feet 9 inches in height shall be properly secured in a child restraint system in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer's and vehicle manufacturer's instructions and the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213.

Significantly, given your daughter's situation, the law requires a child to be in a "child restraint system" when she is "less than 8 years of age" <strong>AND "is less than 4 feet 9 inches in height." Arguably, that could be interpreted to mean that once a child is either 8 years of age or older OR taller than 4'9," she is no longer required to be in the booster seat you're using.

That interpretation appears to be consistent with how the Michigan State Police's Office of Highway Safety Planning has interpreted the law as well. For more information, take a look at my Michigan Auto Law blog post, "Police interpretation of Michigan's existing car seat law."

Finally, in light of the above interpretation, it appears that once your daughter turns 8 (unless she experiences a sizeable growth spurt that puts her above 4'9" on or before her birthday), the following portion of the Child Car Seat Law would apply in the event your daughter is positioned in the front seat:

"[E]ach operator of a motor vehicle transporting a child 4 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age in a motor vehicle shall secure the child in a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt and seated as required under this section." (MCL 257.710(e)(5))

Car seat safety tip: To keep your kids safe and secure in their car seats, you can make sure the seats are properly installed. Michigan Auto Law offers free inspections by our own certified car seat safety technician. Just call us at (800) 968-1001 or e-mail info@michiganautolaw.com to schedule your appointment. For more information, check out our "Free Car Seat Inspection and Installation" web page.

How does Michigan motorcycle insurance work with PLPD?

July 15, 2015

I recently wrote a blog post about PLPD insurance and I received an interesting question from a motorcycle owner in response:

Q. How does Michigan motorcycle insurance come into play with PLPD? I have a car with "standard cheapest insurance" and am going to buy a bike [motorcycle], how does this play into my insurance?

A. It's important to remember that insurance for motorcycles is very different from the insurance that's required under the Michigan No Fault law for cars. This is because motorcycles are not considered "motor vehicles" under the No Fault law in Michigan.

Before we go further, it's also important to define terms and remind people what PLPD really means. Here are a few things you need to know about PLPD, which stands for "Public Liability and Property Damage":

  • PLPD primarily implies that there is NO collision coverage on your motor vehicle. It does not imply any particular policy limit, because you can have an older car that is not worth carrying collision on, but still have high bodily injury policy limits (i.e. $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident, $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident, etc.). PLPD is inexpensive because collision coverage is usually one of the largest portions of the total cost of an insurance policy.
  • In Michigan, a "PLPD" policy would on a motor vehicle (not a motorcycle) have mandatory No Fault PIP as well as $1 million in property protection insurance and $10,000 of Property Damage, the latter of which would only apply in an out-of-state accident. It does nothing to protect you or your family if you are injured because someone else is at fault.
  • There are other non-mandatory coverages that protect you and your family from other wrongdoers and are optional, but highly recommended. These include limited property damage (mini tort coverage), uninsured and underinsured Motorist coverages, etc (our attorneys discuss these further below).
  • As to how PLPD fits in with motorcycles? The required $20,000 in PIP medical coverage for motorcycles will only apply when a motorcyclist is riding without a helmet and is in an accident that does not involve a motor vehicle, as defined by the Michigan No Fault Act (i.e. car, truck, etc.).

    Additionally, motorcyclists must have their bikes insured with at least $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident of bodily injury liability and $10,000 of property damage -- or they will be disqualified from auto PIP if they're in any type of accident or crash involving a motor vehicle.

    If they are in any other type of motorcycle accident (i.e. motorcycle on motorcycle, single motorcycle, motorcycle and pedestrian, etc.) the motorcycle PIP will pay the medical expenses up to the Motorcycle PIP limit they chose on their policy.

    In addition, motorcyclists need to carry collision coverage if they're involved with a motor vehicle and want their bike to be fixed, unless the motorcycle is parked property when it's damaged by a motor vehicle.

    Here's a list of insurance coverages our attorneys recommend for motorcyclists in Michigan:

    Optional Personal Injury Protection (PIP) for motorcyclists: A motorcycle owner can still purchase additional optional contractual insurances, such as optional No Fault PIP, which includes medical benefits and lost in the event of a serious crash. There are few motorcycle owners who purchase this coverage in Michigan. Keep in mind, this is not the same coverage as provided by regular auto No Fault PIP insurance.

    Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for motorcyclists:
    A motorcycle owner can also purchase other insurance, such as uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM and UIM). These coverages provide a valuable source of legal recovery when someone is injured by another driver who is uninsured or does not have adequate insurance. Without a UM or UIM policy, a driver or passengers injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist will have no source of legal recovery, other than filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for his personal assets.

What is Michigan's car seat law when there's no back seat?

June 16, 2015

Our auto accident attorneys frequently receive questions from concerned parents about how to keep their children safe in their car seats. We want to help. So much so, that we have our own certified car seat safety technician on hand to inspect and install car seats at our Farmington Hills law office location.

Today I'd like to share the latest question, regarding what's the right thing to do under Michigan's car seat law - when the vehicle doesn't have a back seat.

Q. My truck doesn't have a back seat. Where do I place my child's car seat?

A. Thanks for the question. Here is what Michigan's existing child car seat law currently requires for children under 4 years of age:

  1. "[E]ach driver transporting a child less than 4 years of age in a motor vehicle shall properly secure that child in a child restraint system ...";
  2. "A driver transporting a child [less than 4 years of age] ... shall position the child in the child restraint system in a rear seat, if the vehicle is equipped with a rear seat";
  3. If no rear seat, then presumably "a child less than 4 years of age may be positioned in the child restraint system in the front seat" - just as "[i]f all available rear seats are occupied by children less than 4 years of age ...";
  4. "A child in a rear-facing child restraint system may be placed in the front seat only if the front passenger air bag is deactivated." (See MCL 257.710d(1) and (2))

So in short, you can place your child in the front seat, only if all available rear seats are occupied by children under 4 years old, and if the front airbag is turned off.

For more information, take a look at my recent blog post on Michigan's car seat law and police interpretation. This post includes a chart that explains current child age and height requirements for car seats, and child car seat safety requirements. It also has police guidance and suggestions from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning on best practices for parents and anyone entrusted with the responsibility of transporting children in cars.

I'm buying auto insurance, what is an umbrella policy?

June 11, 2015

Learn what umbrella insurance covers, and why uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage must be included in your umbrella policy

Shopping for car insurance in Michigan can often be tricky. There's "PIP," which stands for personal injury protection, and refers to your own No Fault insurance coverage. There is bodily injury protection, which protects someone else if you cause a car accident.

And then there are also several optional coverages that you may or may not need, depending on the age, make and model of your vehicle, as well as where and how often you're driving it. Collision coverage is a good example.

Today I'd like to review the umbrella policy:

Umbrella Policies are excess liability policies that pay injured auto accident victims over and above what your regular auto, homeowners, business, etc. policies pay. This is an optional coverage.

If you purchase an umbrella policy either through your current auto insurance company or through an umbrella insurer, you must make sure that it includes Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured (UIM) Motorist coverages. UM and UIM is insurance that protects you in case of a crash with a driver who does not have No Fault insurance or has inadequate amounts.

You will be required to carry a minimum level of UM and UIM on your regular auto, homeowners, business policies, etc., before they will give you the umbrella coverage.

If your Declaration Page for the umbrella policy does not include UM and/or UIM coverages, that means you do not have them. Umbrella coverage is usually fairly inexpensive. You can buy it generally in increments of $1 million.

For more tips and information, take a look at our guide to buying auto insurance in Michigan.

SB 248: "This new bill will cause my father to not be able to live at home and instead he will live in a facility"

June 1, 2015

Readers speak out against No Fault reform bill SB 248

On April 23, the Michigan House Insurance Committee passed a revised version of the latest No Fault reform proposal, Senate Bill 248. Our readers, many who are Michigan auto accident victims, are making it very clear that they do not support the bill.

Here are some key highlights of the bill, which is awaiting a vote before the full House.

  1. New, unprecedented and permanent restrictions on in-home attendant care.
  2. Price controls on what doctors and hospitals can charge for treating Michigan car accident victims.
  3. A one-time savings of $100 on auto insurance

As an accident attorney who closely follows this issue and writes and lectures frequently on the topic of Michigan No Fault insurance, I oppose SB 248. I believe SB 248 would take No Fault insurance benefits, such as medical care and attendant care, away from the people and automobile accident victims who need it most, all in the name of boosting insurance company profits.

Today I'd like to share some comments I've received from readers, expressing their strong feelings on this bill:

Barb: "In 1978, I was in a high speed head on collision as a rear seat rider, now at age 52, i am on major surgery #20. My spinal fusion of 3/4 of my spine failed and now has to be done 2 years later and fusion is going up higher.. ..HOW can anyone with a normal I.Q. think this bill is nothing but trouble ?? PLEASE pass this article on all social media and tell everyone you can, it is BAD NEWS..It will cause patients to not get proper health care and cause bankrupt families. This is serious and can and will touch you in some way..If not for this law, I'd be bed ridden and in a nursing home many years ago because of not being able to afford necessary medical treatment to keep me walking..."

Paul Bonis: "Thousands of severly injured Michiganders with lifetime disabilities who rely on this fund and dtheir family will have no where to turn for help. This is not just a political play by the auto insurance lobby it is cruel and unjust and will in some cases cost lives and in many more it will certainly detrimentally harm the quality of life and financial stability of the families of those severly injured in car accidents. This bill is irresponsible, thoughtless and downright cruel."

JustSayNo: "Many are against this but can't speak out fast enough (since Lansing lawmakers are generously shoving it all through like a shot-gun wedding
because they know it's a bogus deal.... ). Please post whom the public can call or contact to speak out against this egregious, money grab they're trying to pass as "reform". The proposed no-fault legislation is a very dangerous bill that will hurt millions of Michiganders. They're keeping the public ignorant of the full scope of the negative impact for a reason. And it isn't about "lowering rates" -- what a joke. No, this bill is constructed *solely* for the benefit of the wealthy, greedy billionaire auto insurance carriers themselves and their bought and paid for politicians. People are being intentionally distracted from the real issues and severe negative impact of this new proposed legislation -- Gursten is on target and you will thank him later should you ever find out what really happens to families in Michigan going through a catastrophe (even under the current law it's an egregious process but the new reforms are truly unethical and unspeakable). ----"

CPA48412: "Every single elected official that passed this bill but never had a family member injured in an auto accident needs to be ousted. Period."

Robert Young: "The author is correct. The insurance company ruined my family's lives by admittedly neglecting to pay for necessary care of father my after his TBI. This new bill will cause my father to not be able to live at home and instead he will live in a facility. Not only does the bill not provide any savings to consumers, in our case, it will cost more for care in the facility than for him to live at home. I suspect the insurance companies will make up for cases like ours by using their hand-picked doctors to deny people the care they need and paid for."

What you can do: If you want to speak out against SB 248, contact the House representative in your district and urge him or her to vote "NO." You can locate your representative here.

How will attendant care benefits be affected by No Fault reform Senate Bill 248?

May 19, 2015

I've received many e-mails in the past few weeks from very concerned auto accident victims who rely on attendant care nursing benefits. They want to know:

If SB 248 passes and becomes law, will the changes to attendant care be grandfathered in for those currently receiving attendant care the current law, or will it change under the new law?

An updated version of SB 248 (called "Substitute for SB 248) was recently pushed out of the House Insurance Committee and would limit home care reimbursements for family and household members who provide attendant care to the catastrophically injured. These changes include a new $15 an hour attendant care rate maximum, for 24 hours per day -- regardless of the experience or skills of the person performing the in-home nursing care and the complexity of the care involved.

The latest question that I received on the Michigan Auto Law blog is from Rrider:

"The legislation still provides 24/7 (attendant) care of individuals injured in auto accidents. It would limit non-skilled family attendant care to $15 an hour, totaling up to $131,000 annually. Non-skilled. There is a reason that companies have packed up and left the state of Michigan, it is hard for new companies to come into Michigan and be profitable. Bottom line, an insurance company must be profitable, as does any business, in order to continue to be able to provide their product."

I've been an outspoken critic against these proposed changes to our No Fault law. I know there are a lot of people who desperately need attendant care and family members who provide it that are waiting for clarification. Below is my answer:

"Respectfully, RRrider, you are mistaken. First, there's a difference between the House and Senate bills. The $15 hourly maximum for in-home attendant care reimbursement under the Senate's No Fault plan, Senate Bill 248, differs slightly between the Senate-passed version of SB 248 and the House Insurance Committee's "House Substitute for Senate Bill No. 248" as ONLY under the House Insurance Committee's version does the $15/hour cap NOT apply to skilled (i.e., licensed) family/household members who are providing in-home attendant care.

For instance, under the Senate-passed version, the $15 hourly cap applies to all family and household members who are providing in-home attendant care "regardless of whether the family or household member [who is providing the attendant care] is licensed or otherwise authorized to render the attendant care under ... the public health code ... or is employed by, under contract with, or in any way connected with an individual or agency who is licensed or authorized to render the care."

On the other hand, under the House Insurance Committee's version of SB 248, the $15 hourly cap does NOT apply if "the family or household member [who is providing the in-home attendant care] is licensed or otherwise authorized to render the attendant care under ... the Public Health Code, or is employed by, under contract with, or in any way connected with an individual or agency who is licensed or authorized to render the care." As to whether $15 is fair or not, someone who requires a very high level of attendant care, such as for wound care, there is no professional agency that will ever come in and provide professional care at a $15 rate, which means you pay as a taxpayer after these people are financially ruined and bankrupt and the cost of care is transferred to Medicaid."

As to the question on whether attendant care will continue for auto accident victims currently receiving the No Fault benefit under SB 248, take a look at my recent blog post, "Will SB 248 make No Fault attendant care retroactive?"

What is attendant care?

Attendant care is a benefit provided by Michigan No Fault insurance that entitles injured accident victims to have nursing care while they're at home recovering from injuries.

Attendant care benefits are also referred to as nursing services, and are defined by attorneys as "activities of daily living," such as monitoring and supervision for safety reasons, administering medication, bathing, dressing, walking, styling/combing of hair, other grooming, help using the toilet, driving the patient, fetching things for the patient, carrying and lifting things for the patient and wound care.

Many people with catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, rely on attendant care 24 hours a day.

Can a college student with his permit drive a relative's car to practice?

May 12, 2015

Many questions about teens and their driving permits are rolling in now that spring is upon us. These questions seem to be focused on the circumstances that new drivers are allowed to drive under Michigan's teen driving law, which is a graduated driving law that has restrictions on when a new driver can get behind the wheel, what times and with how many passengers in the vehicle.

Here is the latest: What if a teen driver wants to drive a relative's car?

Q. My nephew is a college student and has his student driving permit. Can he drive my vehicle to practice?

A. Thank you for your question. Interestingly, I recently wrote a blog post about an issue that's similar to the one you raise. Specifically, I was asked if a parent needs to have Michigan No Fault auto insurance for their teen driver who is driving on a Michigan drivers-training permit.

My conclusion, which coincided with that of several insurance professionals, was that No Fault coverage was not needed. Here's a link to the blog post: "Does a teen driver with a permit need Michigan No Fault insurance?"

Now, of course, your situation is slightly different. Accordingly, to be on the safe side, I advise that you take the following two steps:

  1. Review your auto insurance policy for any possible, relevant coverage exclusions, and
  2. Talk to your auto insurance agent for his assessment and advice on how you auto insurance company may view the situation you have described.
Michigan's teen driving law

As a refresher, here are the restrictions set under Michigan's teen driving law for all teens driving on a "Level 2″ license:

  • A new passenger restriction prevents teens from having more than one passenger under the age of 21 in the car -- unless the individual is a member of the driver's immediate family, or the driver is traveling to or from school or a school-sanctioned event.
  • Driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. is prohibited -- unless driving to or from employment, or with a parent, legal guardian, or licensed adult over 21 years old.

A "Level 2″ driver is part of Michigan's graduated licensing approach, in which teens gain more driving privileges as they get older and acquire more driving experience. A Level 2 license holder must be at least 16 years old and have successfully completed segment 1 and 2 of a driver's education program approved by the state, as well as passed a driving skills test and presented a skills test certificate. A teen driver cannot have a car accident or violation in the 90 days prior to applying for a Level 2 license.

Concerned reader speaks out against SB 248 and No Fault reform: "Citizens lose needed benefits, corporate profits soar"

May 7, 2015


Proposed bill does significantly reduces medical care for auto accident victims and removes legal protections for a one-time, miniscule savings

Our No Fault law could likely change very soon, and if it does, it will be to the detriment of auto accident victims and Michigan drivers who will lose vital legal protections.

A proposed No Fault insurance "reform" law that's being pushed hard by the auto insurance industry and Republicans in the Michigan Legislature, Senate Bill 248, is currently awaiting a vote from the full Michigan House of Representatives that could come as early as next week.

The three most notable aspects of the bill are:


  • No guarantee of definite, quantifiable and long-terms savings for consumers.

  • Implementation of new, unprecedented and permanent restrictions on in-home nursing attendant care.

  • Imposition of price controls on what doctors and hospitals can charge for treating Michigan car accident victims.

Auto accident victims are speaking out against this potential gutting of our nearly 40-year-old No Fault legal system. Michigan drivers are asking questions.

Our attorneys encourage you to contact your Representative in the Michigan House and let them know how you feel. Here's a link to the "Legislators" page of the Michigan Legislature website, where you can find contact information for your state Representative.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this thoughtful and passionate comment from one of our readers named "Tin" in response to my blog post, "Michigan Senate harms consumers with No Fault "reform" Senate Bill 248."

"It is difficult to accept what our Congressmen and women are doing with our No fault laws. What are they afraid of? Why do this under the cloak of darkness? Why the need to ram this through without debate?

The very premise of needed reform was to reign in and contain fast rising medical bills..... to convince Michiganders that expectations of lifetime medical coverage were unsustainable.....to create the illusion that the MCCA was going bankrupt.

But what if all of this really just an illusion? Could it be that the MCCA is "overfunded"? Could it be that the good citizens of Michigan have been duped by accounting practices that would make Enron/Arthur Anderson proud?

Could it be that many claims have been "over reserved?" Thus creating losses on paper, paid for with citizens real dollars? Creating a crisis where none existed. Standing to profit if the system falls.

Of course, we will never be able to test that theory, will we? You see the MCCA funding is controlled in secrecy by the Insurance Industry itself. Isn't that cozy. They determine the charges we all pay. They keep the data all locked up in "a black box". There was a lawsuit attempting to open the black box. Not sure what happened to it.

For those of us who have been around for a while, we have seen this rodeo before. Back around 2000, the insurance industry claimed the sky was falling on the MCCA . Their arguments were the same. The fund is bankrupt. No one would be able to afford insurance (I love this one...they claim to be advocates for the poor). There is no control of medical costs.

Back then the Insurance Industry created a ballot initiative....we all got to vote on....eliminate unlimited lifetime benefits and they promised to lower rates 20% and (I loved this one) they promised not to raise rates for 6 months.

That initiative went down in flames by a 2-1 margin. Michiganders saw through the deception. The keepers of the keys declared the MCCA was bankrupt to the tune of a billion dollars before the vote.
Two months later ...miraculously.. magically they somehow had a new problem.......the fund was now almost $2 billion overfunded. Amazing.

The industry knew they could not trust the citizens of Michigan to do their bidding, so they spread their money around and sadly have bought off a few legislators this time around. Cleaner, quicker... sing the praises of Citizens United. I'll bet most of the money spent is tax deductible for them as well.

Don't believe me? Just make a list of the sponsors of the bill and see where they are working in a couple of years.

The bottom line.... Michigan Citizens lose. The money really does change hands. Citizens lose needed benefits, corporate profits soar and in a short period of time, citizens end up paying higher premiums for less coverage.

Crony capitalism at its best."

Related information:

Auto insurers strike it rich with No Fault price controls