So how much does Michigan auto insurance really cost?

April 22, 2014

The issue of No Fault insurance is a confusing one right now in Michigan. We have three proposals to "reform" our current system, which has protected crash victims remarkably well for 40 years.

The insurance industry will tell you that the reason for the proposed changes is to save auto insurance consumers money on their policies. In reality, all of these proposals would take away important, life-saving no fault insurance benefits and insurance protections for Michigan drivers and people injured in serious car accidents, while saving the auto insurance industry a lot of money - all without lowering the price of insurance.

Which brings me to my next point. How much does car insurance in Michigan really cost?

What are the rates compared to other states?

I recently received an e-mail inquiry from one of our blog readers:

Q. "I'm confused about No Fault insurance costs in Michigan. One report says it's going through the roof. Others say it's not that bad compared to other states. What's the real story?"

A. Unfortunately, it depends on who you ask. As I said above, Michigan drivers hear a lot from politicians and insurance industry organizations about how "high" Michigan auto insurance prices are or how they're rapidly increasing.

However, a review of the data on auto insurance rates quickly reveals those claims to be false. Michigan auto insurance rates are lower now than they were in 2004, according to data from the Insurance Institute of Michigan and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Additionally, depending on what auto insurance entity is consulted, Michigan rates range from $983 to $2,520 or even $4,490. (Insurance Information Institute,,

But the average cost for one year of Michigan No Fault auto insurance is $1,110, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

For more information, check out our blog post, "The truth about Michigan auto insurance rates."

How the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility covers uninsured people hurt in car accidents

April 8, 2014

The Michigan No Fault law requires all drivers and car owners to carry No Fault auto insurance to protect themselves and their family members in case of an accident.

The consequences for not having No Fault insurance are extremely harsh. For more information, read our blog post on the Top 9 risks of driving uninsured in Michigan.

But what about someone who does not own a motor vehicle and is hurt in a car accident while riding as a passenger in a friend's vehicle?

Or a pedestrian who isn't a car owner and does not live with a family member who has No Fault insurance and is struck in a hit and run?

If people in either of these two scenarios were to be injured in a car accident, then the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF) would step in and cover No Fault insurance benefits. No Fault benefits include medical expense reimbursement, lost wages and even help with chores and in-home nursing services.

The Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility is intended for an uninsured individual who does not already have an existing auto insurance policy. The MAIPC is considered the insurance company of last resort, which means there is no other automobile insurance company that would have higher priority under Michigan's No Fault laws.

You can receive an application from the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF) for No Fault benefits by clicking here.

10 questions to ask an agent when shopping for auto insurance

March 26, 2014

Price is usually the only question that most people have when they're shopping for auto insurance.

But there's so much more to consider. As an insurance attorney, I see what happens after the crash, when people are hurt and need help. And normally the difference between protecting yourself and your family with the right insurance and being dangerously uninsured could be prevented by just asking a few more questions of your insurance agent.

People ask more questions shopping for a toaster than they do shopping for car insurance, although a lot of this is based upon most people not truly understanding what insurance can do and the risks they may face if they're seriously injured in a bad car accident. You can always find the cheapest car insurance, but it won't do you any good if your insurance company doesn't protect you and cover your losses when you need it most.

Here are some important questions you can print out and ask your insurance agent. These questions will help ensure you have the best auto insurance coverage:

1. What car insurance coverage is already mandatory by law in my state, and what doesn't it cover?

2. What are extra available coverages that can fill in these holes? For example, in Michigan we have mandatory No Fault insurance laws, but they only require people to have a minimum $20,000 in bodily injury coverage if they cause a car accident and injure someone. A great extra available coverage is called Underinsured Motorist Coverage, which can plug this hole and give you more protection. And it is very inexpensive.

3. What are the consequences if I choose not to buy the mandatory insurance? In some cities in Michigan, such as Detroit, the number of uninsured drivers on the road are over 50%. These drivers are taking a big risk. You can read about the consequences to driving uninsured here.

4. Does my insurance cover vehicle damage and rental car expenses?

5. How high can I set my automobile insurance limits (per person and per accident), and what would the cost be? Note: It is usually very inexpensive to add several hundred thousand dollars of additional protection. For the price of a popcorn and a movie ticket, you can make sure your family is properly protected if they are terribly injured by another driver.

6. Ask about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage! This is the coverage that will protect you in a crash with a driver who does not have any car insurance, or who does not have an adequate amount of car insurance.

7. If I get additional collision insurance, which would be best for me, broad, standard or limited?

8. What is being left out if I choose to purchase coordinated coverage (versus buying uncoordinated insurance)?

9. Present your financial needs and a quick summary of your assets and net worth, then ask your insurance agent what coverage will properly protect you from an excess verdict against your personal assets. Regarding your immediate needs, consider what your vehicle is worth, how much it would cost to replace it, and how much you can afford to spend for insurance.

10. How can I get a great price without sacrificing coverage?
I'll answer this one with my No. 1 tip for people buying auto insurance: Make sure you also get a quote from an independent agent who can quote many different companies. If you are only shopping with a "captive" agent for one insurance company, they will often leave out or avoid answering questions that would cause them to lose a sale.

For more information about specific types of car insurance coverage and how they can protect you, order our free books:

What Auto Insurance is Right for Me?

The Attorneys' Guide to the Best Auto Insurance Companies.

Related information:

Tips for choosing the best auto insurance company in Michigan

Two new insurance "reform" proposals surface in Michigan in 2014

March 19, 2014

There are two new proposals to change the Michigan No Fault auto insurance system.

The two plans are Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's (R-Marshall) "Substitute for HB 4612" and Senate Bill 818, introduced by Sen. John Pappageorge (R-13th District). For those of you who are unfamiliar, HB 4612 was last year's No Fault auto insurance "reform" bill that was introduced by Rep. Pete Lund and that was strongly backed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

It's important that Michigan drivers thoroughly understand these two proposals, as drivers, people who have been seriously injured in car crashes, and the entire medical community that treats auto accident-related injuries all stand to lose much more than they will gain if either of these two new bills become law.

Sen. John Pappageorge's SB 818 No Fault Insurance Reform Bill

Here's a summary of what's in Sen. Pappageorge's SB 818:

  • A new definition of what constitutes a "reasonable" charge for "allowable expenses" purposes.
  • A fee schedule for medical providers who treat car accident victims.
  • Restrictions on in-home, family- or household member-provided attendant care services (nursing care).
  • Ongoing assessments from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA).
  • New annual "Catastrophic Claims Fee" charged to and paid by auto insurance consumers.
  • New annual $21 million assessment to fund the Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority and the Automobile Theft Prevention Authority.

For a more detailed look, take a look at my recent blog post, "So, what's really in Sen. John Pappageorge's Senate Bill 818 on No Fault Law Reform?"

House Speaker Jase Bolger's "Substitute for HB 4612" No Fault insurance "reform" plan

Here's a summary of what's currently being called "Substitute for HB 4612":

  • A two-year 10% auto insurance premium reduction.
  • A "new a subset of the MCCA [Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association]." (Per MLive's Jonathan Oosting)
  • A medical-provider "fee schedule" that would restrict doctors' and hospitals' charges for treating auto accident victims to 125% of the rates charged to injured workers (per the workers compensation fee schedule).
  • A $10 million cap on No Fault medical benefits, replacing the existing guarantee of reasonably necessary and reasonably priced lifetime No Fault medical benefits.
  • A low-cost No Fault auto insurance option, with a $50,000 cap on No Fault medical benefits, for individuals who earn up to 133% of the federal poverty level, e.g., approximately $15,000 per year.

To help Michigan auto insurance consumers and crash victims get a clear picture of the devastating effects of this plan, I wrote an in-depth series examining it, called: "Top 6 reasons to say "NO" to House Speaker's new No Fault reform plan."

I'm on Medicare/Medicaid and injured in a Michigan auto accident, who pays my medical bills?

March 11, 2014

Important: Why Medicare and Medicaid should NOT pay for your accident-related medical care

When people have multiple sources of insurance - like Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance - who pays for medical care can be quite a confusing issue. Compound that with medical care after an auto accident, which involves Michigan No Fault insurance, and things can get more complicated.

Compound that again with the tendency of many doctors and medical billers to just send the bill to Medicare or Medicaid because they want to get paid quickly (even though medical reimbursement is lower than under No Fault) and things can get downright hairy.

Recently, I received a common question from a senior citizen on Medicare who was hurt in a car accident and unsure about which insurer should cover all of her medical bills. I've included her question and my answer below:

Q. I am a retired senior citizen in Michigan. I pay for Medicare insurance, but as you know, it does not cover all medical expenses, so I have to buy additional insurance to cover all expenses and pay for a prescription plan. Then the state requires anybody over 65 to pay an additional $125 in medical coverage for No Fault insurance, in case we are hurt in an automobile accident. So who pays for my medical care after my car accident?
A. This is a common issue, and becomes a problem with many doctor offices that incorrectly bill Medicare so they can receive quicker payment. Also, medical billers often get confused on the interplay between Medicare, Medicaid and No Fault medical expense reimbursement for an auto accident victim in Michigan.

To start, Medicare is not supposed to cover auto accident-related injuries. This is because by law, Medicare and Medicaid are payers of last resort.

If you have any other type of insurance coverage for your car accident injuries, such as Michigan No Fault insurance, your No Fault insurance would cover your medical expenses first. By law, Michigan drivers are required to carry Michigan No-Fault auto insurance.

If you only pay for coordinated (secondary) coverage on your No Fault auto insurance policy, which is less expensive, then your auto insurer will ultimately be paying your medical expenses on a primary priority basis.

Because you did not pay the higher premium for the primary auto coverage, your auto insurance company may charge you a penalty medical deductible. Some have been known to charge as much as $2,500, although generally, it's an additional $300-$500. This penalty charge will most likely be more than the increased amount to have the correct coverage.

Yes, this can be costly. But there's an immense upside than most people never realize. In fact, I often say to people that no one wants to be hurt in a car accident, but if you have been, you want it to be in Michigan. This is because people in this state have legal rights and protections under No Fault that people in other states do not. Having both Michigan No Fault and Medicare, you are and will be comprehensively covered.

The Michigan No Fault insurance coverage that you have means that all of your auto accident-related medical expenses are covered. You can see any medical specialist and have any type of diagnostic test that your doctors think is reasonably necessary for your recovery. As of now, Michigan No Fault covers your medical care and if necessary, attendant care (in-home nursing services) after an auto accident for the entire duration of your injury, even when people are catastrophically injured and require lifetime attendant care and medical care.

And the biggest benefit? You do not face the possibility of financial ruin, the loss of a lifetime of savings, and a dramatic drop in the quality of medical care so you can make a good recovery. These are real problems for catastrophic car accident injury victims in many other states. These people have very limited choices on traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury rehabilitation centers where the state either doesn't have No Fault insurance, or has very minimum limits, and the medical facilities must only recover from Medicare and Medicaid. It can dramatically alter the treatment that people receive.

Questions about your collision coverage insurance?

February 18, 2014

Insurance attorney answers frequently asked questions about the importance and function of the collision coverage portion of your car insurance

It might not be the most exciting talk at cocktail parties, but when people find out I've been an insurance lawyer for nearly two decades, they always ask me about what insurance they should have to best protect them. And then the crazy fact patterns and questions begin.

Today - minus the crazy fact patterns - I'd like to answer a question I get a lot about collision coverage insurance: What exactly is collision coverage, and how does it cover your accident-related vehicle damage:

Q. Why is collision coverage important?

A. Collision coverage insurance pays to repair your vehicle if it was damaged in an auto accident. In Michigan, where I practice law, without collision coverage, there's nearly no other way of paying for the vehicle damage repair costs, except for the first $1,000 of vehicle damage which is paid by the mini tort law.
Michigan is unlike many pure tort states where an auto accident victim can sue for all of his or her losses, including the costs for all vehicle damage. In Michigan, if you have no collision coverage, you cannot seek reimbursement from the wrongdoer driver who caused the automobile accident.

It sounds unfair at first, until you remember that Michigan is a No Fault state. The owner of a damaged vehicle is prohibited from suing the driver who caused the motor vehicle accident for the full amount of the repair costs, because Michigan's No-Fault law has essentially "abolished" the at fault driver's responsibility for damages to a motor vehicle, according to MCL 500.3135(3)(e)).

But keep in mind, when an at-fault driver is driving without Michigan No Fault insurance, then that driver can be sued and held personally liable for the full amount of vehicle damage. In some cities, such as Detroit, over half of all drivers are now driving uninsured.

Q. Is collision coverage required as part of my car insurance policy?

A. No. Unlike Michigan No-Fault auto insurance, collision coverage insurance is optional coverage, which means it is not required. (See MCL 500.3101 and 500.3037) However, for the reasons discussed above, our attorneys strongly recommend that you purchase collision coverage. Without it, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for most (if not all) of the vehicle repair costs.

Q. What about the different types of collision coverage?

A. There are four types of collision coverage insurance available to Michigan drivers:

  • Broad form collision coverage: Pays for vehicle damage resulting from an auto accident "regardless of fault," i.e., whether the operator or driver was at fault in causing the accident. With this coverage, the deductible is "waived" and therefore, no deductible must be paid when the operator or driver of the covered vehicle was 50% or less at fault.

  • Standard collision coverage: The main difference between standard and broad is the deductible. With standard, the deductible must still be paid even if the damaged vehicle's operator or driver was not at fault. Benefits are payable regardless of fault (just as with broad form collision coverage).

  • Limited collision coverage without a deductible: Pays for vehicle damage resulting from an auto accident. No deductible must be paid when the operator or driver of the covered vehicle was 50% or less at fault, in causing the accident. However, if the operator or driver was more than 50% at fault in causing the accident, then this coverage provides no benefits or coverage; and the vehicle's owner will be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the majority (or all) repair costs for vehicle damage.

  • Limited collision coverage with a deductible: Limited collision coverage provides no benefits or coverage; and the vehicle's owner will be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the majority (or all) of the repair costs for his or her accident-related vehicle damage.

  • For more information, you can order our free guide, "What auto insurance is right for me?"

Can a passenger sue for a car accident?

February 11, 2014

Today, I received a question from a woman who was terribly injured in a car accident. She was a passenger, and was hit by a car that was literally going the wrong way on I-94 three weeks ago.

It reminds me that I often get questions from people who have been in car accidents as passengers. I also get similar related questions from other parents who ask about their children riding as passengers in other peoples' cars.

Here's a good example of what happens in a lawsuit involving the passengers after a car accident.

Q. If "Driver A" causes a car accident and "Driver B" accepts the insurance settlement, can "Driver B's" passengers still sue?

A. Yes, an injured passenger of a motor vehicle that was involved in a car accident or truck accident caused by another driver may sue the at-fault driver and the owner of the at-fault vehicle.

And in Michigan, the passenger as an auto accident victim is also entitled to Michigan No Fault insurance benefits, which include medical expense reimbursement, lost wages, attendant care (in-home nursing care) and replacement services (help with child care and household chores).

The order of priorities under our No Fault law for an insurance company to provide PIP (personal injury protection no fault insurance benefits) would be as follows:

  1. Insurer of a resident relative.
  2. Insurer of a spouse.
  3. Insurer of the owner or registrant of the vehicle occupied at the time of the crash.
  4. Insurer of the driver of the vehicle occupied at the time of the crash.
  5. Michigan Assigned Claims Facility (ACF). The ACF ensures that auto accident victims receive No-Fault benefits by assigning the case to a participating No-Fault insurance company. This fund was created by the state for accidents involving uninsured drivers.

There will be additional important issues you will want to investigate, including:

  • Whether you as a passenger have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy;
  • Whether the owner/driver of the car you were in has it, and whether that covers you as a passenger;
  • And how the tort settlement will be divided if there is more than one person injured.

As an attorney, I realize much of this may be confusing to most people who don't read
insurance contracts or practice No Fault insurance litigation for a living. Insurance issues involving passengers of car accidents can sometimes be complicated and somewhat confusing.

If you have questions, feel free to call Michigan Auto Law at (800) 777-0028 for free advice.

Related information:

Car insurance coverage issues: What are your rights?

After a car accident, can the at-fault driver, or car owner be sued? Or can both be sued?

February 6, 2014

When someone causes a car accident, it's not always cut and dry as to who is liable -- especially in situations where the driver who caused the crash does not own the car.

Here's a question I often receive:

Q. Suppose a person is really badly injured a car crash, but the driver who caused the wreck doesn't own the car. Who can be sued? Would it be the at-fault driver, the owner of the car, or both?

A. The short answer is both the at-fault driver and the owner of the car can be sued. Under Michigan law - where I practice law and where almost all of my cases are auto accident or truck accident injuries - if a driver's negligence causes an innocent person to be injured, then the injured person may sue the wrongdoer who is responsible for the negligent act (the driver) and the car's owner as well.

That last part strikes some people as unfair. However, a vehicle's "owner is not liable unless the motor vehicle is being driven with his or her express or implied consent or knowledge." This is often referred to as Michigan's "owner liability law." In the context of a car accident in Michigan or in another state with an owner's liability law, a motor vehicle's owner can also be sued. In Michigan, it is MCL 257.401(1) provides that "[t]he owner of a motor vehicle is liable for an injury caused by the negligent operation of the motor vehicle whether the negligence consists of a violation of a statute of this state or the ordinary care standard required by common law."

Many other states have very similar owners liability laws.

For more our owner's liability law, check out this Michigan Auto Law blog post: What happens if someone is driving my vehicle and they're in a car accident?

What happens if I lend someone my car and they get in a crash?

January 29, 2014

Insurance lawyer Steve Gursten answers this common question about what happens with a car accident in a borrowed car

Today I'd like to share another common question I receive from people who call my law office. They've been in a car accident -- BUT the car accident occurs in a car they've borrowed from a friend or family member.

Everyone is panicking. They want to know who will be responsible, and what they will have to pay. So here is the question:

Q. If I allow someone to borrow my car and they become involved in a car accident, what happens?

A. Since I practice law in Michigan, I am answering this as a Michigan attorney. If you live in another state, you should talk to a licensed attorney in that state experienced with traffic accidents. In any civil lawsuit filed for injuries and pain and suffering damages resulting from the crash that the driver who borrowed your car causes, both of you can be sued.

Even though you are being sued as the owner of the vehicle and your name will be on the complaint, understand that this is really more of a legal fiction (in most cases). This is because if you have insurance, your own insurance company will hire a lawyer, defend the lawsuit, pay all legal costs and expenses, and ultimately (in most cases) pay a settlement within your insurance policy limits.

You are being added to the lawsuit because Michigan has an owner's liability statute. The public policy of this law is to also hold vehicle owner's responsible for who they let use and drive their car.

The reason your name and not the insurance company appears on the complaint is because in Michigan, as in all other states, we do not allow a jury to know that there is insurance that will be paying the verdict. So juries are not told there is insurance available or about the policy limits.

In addition, the driver of the borrowed car will also be a party in the lawsuit and face the same exposure.

So the issue becomes, is the driver who borrowed the car insured or not?

If the driver of your vehicle has No Fault insurance, then just like with you as the owner, the matter will be turned over to the driver's car insurance company and the claim will be defended the same way. If the driver does not have insurance, then the driver risks his or her own personal exposure and his or her assets, just as it would if you as the owner of the car are not insured.

There are two other areas of Michigan law where someone who is injured by the driver of your car is entitled to help: the Michigan mini tort, and our first party No-Fault law. I've summarized our third-party pain and suffering law above in this answer.

What's the best car insurance for a teenage driver?

January 22, 2014

Insurance lawyer answers frequently asked questions for parents with new teen drivers

As the father of two, I know the worry and restlessness that comes with being a parent can be tough - especially when your kids are old enough to get behind the wheel. And as an insurance lawyer, I often get questions from other concerned parents on the price of auto insurance and what insurance coverage is best for teen drivers.

Of course, it's never in that order. The first question is usually, "What's the best car insurance coverage to keep my teen driver safe?"

And then I wait for the second question that usually follows:, "How can I save money on my teenage driver's car insurance?"

I understand that the cost of insuring a teen driver is expensive, especially because auto insurance is one of the few areas where it's actually legal to discriminate on the basis of age. And let's face it, young people are, statistically, absolute terrible drivers who cause the highest number of car accidents.

But many parents are making huge mistakes -- that can put their teen drivers in jeopardy -- by trying to save a few bucks.

The biggest and most dangerous mistake I see as an insurance lawyer is that parents are not listing their teen drivers as a "named insured" on their auto insurance policy - even when that teenager is now the primary driver of that car. If your teen then causes a wreck or is injured in a serious auto accident when driving a car that he or she normally drives, but is not listed on the policy as a "named insured" or "named driver," there can be disastrous consequences. In Michigan, where I primarily practice law, these consequences include your teenager's medical bills not being covered by your own auto insurance company under Michigan's No Fault insurance, and your teen being completely barred from suing an at-fault driver who may cause life-altering injuries, even though your son or daughter is completely innocent and the other driver is completely at fault.

Take a look at my answers to some frequently asked questions below, for help choosing the right car insurance coverage for your teen drivers:

Q. What changes do I need to make to my auto insurance policy to make sure my teen driver is protected?
A. As a parent, you must inform your insurance company that there's a new licensed driver in the home. You're also supposed to list the primary driver of each vehicle (named-drivers). If parents purposely avoid listing their teen drivers, either as living in the house or as named-drivers, this could be considered insurance fraud, and coverage can be canceled by your insurance company and insurance coverage can be taken away after the fact if the insurance company discovers this after an accident has occurred.

Q. What's the best car insurance coverage for my teenage driver?

A. Assuming the teen has her own separate auto insurance coverage as a named insured on her vehicle, the minimum policies she should carry should be $250,000/$500,000 for bodily injury (personal injury if she causes an auto accident) and $250,000/$500,000 in Unininsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) in case of a crash with a driver who does not have auto insurance. If the teen is on her parents' policy, her coverage would be the same.

Every person should purchase UM/UIM. 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 this coverage, 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.

Q. How can I as a parent minimize the costs and premiums of their auto insurance policies for my teen driver's coverage while still being fully protected?
A. Once the proper car insurance coverage has been determined for your teen, call an independent insurance agent that represents several auto insurance companies, to determine which insurer will give the best rate. Like everything else in life, shopping around pays off.

Q. How should my family's car insurance policy be structured if my teen drives my car (the parent's) versus having her own car?
A. A teenager should be listed as a named-driver or named-insured on the policy, so the auto insurance company can never say that it was not unaware there were teens in the house or that the teens drove the car. If the teenager owns the car, then she should be a named-insured or co-named-insured.

Q. If a teenager is driving her car and the passengers are injured in an accident, how are the passengers covered by the Michigan No-Fault law?

A. The order of auto insurers that would cover No Fault benefits would be the same as any car accident:

  1. The passenger would receive No-Fault benefits through his own insurance.

  2. If the passenger does not have auto insurance, then he would receive No-Fault benefits from a resident-relative.

  3. If that relative is not covered, then the passenger would seek benefits from owner of the car.

  4. If the car owner is uninsured then the passenger would receive benefits from the driver of the car.

  5. If all else fails, the passenger would look to the Michigan Assigned Claims Facility for No-Fault benefits.

Q. What can I do as a parent to make sure my teenage driver is protected while riding as a passenger in a friend's car?
A. As long as the teenager or resident-relative has insurance, your teen is protected by the Michigan No-Fault law and can receive all of the No-Fault benefits if she's injured in a serious crash. As long as the teenager isn't operating an uninsured vehicle that she could be considered an owner of because she frequently uses the car (this is legally called constructive ownership), she can receive No-Fault insurance benefits (see answer to previous question for the order of priority in which the teen could receive No Fault benefits).

Related information:

6 safety tips that can save the life of a teen driver

Who pays for my medical bills if I was hit by an uninsured driver?

January 14, 2014

Today I'd like to share another very common question I receive from people who call Michigan Auto Law for free advice after car accidents. It has to do with uninsured drivers and who pays when such drivers cause injuries in crashes. In states such as Michigan, where I practice law and where in some cities (like Detroit) up to half of the people are driving uninsured, it is both a common and very serious problem:

Q. What's a person supposed to do about paying for medical bills after a car accident in if the driver who ran the light and caused the crash was driving without auto insurance?

A. There's good news and some potential bad news.

In Michigan, the good news is that the at-fault driver being uninsured will not affect your own ability to recover and pay for your medical bills and wage loss. These are paid by your No Fault auto insurance company. If you do not have insurance, then it follows an order of priority for No Fault benefits under Michigan law. Assuming you were not the owner and driver of an uninsured vehicle yourself, the next insurer to have priority would be the insurance company your spouse or a resident relative in the household, again assuming you are covered by Michigan No Fault insurance. As Michigan is a No Fault state, your No Fault insurer pays for all accident-related medical expenses, regardless of whether you or another driver was at-fault in causing the car accident.

Here's more information about Michigan No Fault medical (and other) benefits:

The bad news is that an uninsured driver will not have insurance if he caused a serious injury.

And as many uninsured drivers are also uncollectable, or can have a big monetary judgment dismissed by declaring bankruptcy if they have caused a serious automobile accident, the only way to properly protect yourself is to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The consequences for you, if you are the uninsured driver, are dire.

Here are some legal blogs I wrote on what happens if you choose to drive without auto insurance, and cause a serious car accident.

Top 9 risks of driving uninsured in Michigan

What are the risks for driving without car insurance in Michigan?

You need to buy uninsured motorist coverage NOW

What it really a hit and run accident? And what are my rights?

January 8, 2014

Today I'd like to post another common question I receive from my clients and friends about hit and run car accidents. In Michigan, where I practice law, hit and run car accidents have become commonplace, and in some cities like Detroit, almost epidemic because of the numbers of people driving without car insurance. With hit and run car accidents, the entire nature of the case changes. The most important first-step for any attorney is to review the insurance policy of the person you are helping to see what the policy states. For any accident attorneys, hit and run car accident cases become contract cases, not personal injury cases. The insurance policy will control any legal recovery and compensation available to your client.

Here's a recent example of a question I received:

Q. I was recently in an accident where the other driver made an illegal left turn across my lane, coming directly toward me. I veered around him to prevent a head-on collision, but I ran over a curb and through some street signs. The estimate for the vehicle damage is $2,400. I have a $1,000 deductible and my car insurance company says I have to pay the deductible because the other driver left the scene. However, the Michigan State Police officer wrote it up that I was not at fault and that the other driver caused the crash. I didn't even receive a ticket. I have comprehensive and broad collision but not uninsured motorist coverage. The only reason my insurance adjuster can give is that the other driver left the scene (and we didn't actually collide), so I get stuck with the $1,000 bill. Since the police report states I wasn't at fault and the other driver caused the crash and fled the scene, is this the right way for the insurance company to handle my claim? Would it make a difference if the police report was written up as a hit and run?

A. Based on the facts you provided, it sounds like the accident which led to your vehicle damage was a collision and, thus, your broadened collision coverage should be the coverage that kicks in. The terms of your broadened collision coverage policy is what will dictate how your situation plays out. If, after reviewing your insurance policy, you still believe that you're entitled to have the deductible waived, then you can file a lawsuit in small claims court for the deductible amount. But keep in mind, if you file a lawsuit in small claims court, your auto insurance company will likely ask to have the case moved to the district court so that the insurer's lawyer can appear (Lawyers aren't allowed to appear for litigants in small claims court). Given that the amount in controversy is $1,000, it's unfortunately likely that you would spend considerably more than that in attorney's fees.

Regarding your hit and run question, your accident isn't classified as a hit and run. But if you were involved in a hit and run collision and the other driver drives away without leaving information to identify the vehicle driver and/or owner, you would only be able to collect No Fault insurance benefits and pain and suffering damages if you have uninsured motorist coverage (UM).

Uninsured 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 coverage, 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.

Because the law treats an unidentified at-fault hit and run driver effectively as an "uninsured motorist," a UM policy (subject to its policy limit) would see to it that the hit and run victim receives the pain and suffering compensation and No Fault benefits that the hit and run driver would have been obligated to pay had he or she been apprehended and identified.

Related information:

7 facts about hit and run accidents

Hit and runs account for nearly 50% car accident fatalities in Detroit

What does No Fault insurance pay for my wage loss?

December 13, 2013

When people are injured in auto accidents, many don't realize that under the Michigan No Fault Law, they're entitled to many insurance benefits that will help them recover and heal, such as medical expense reimbursement, attendant care (also known as in-home nursing services) -- and even reimbursement for a large portion of the lost wages that they when they cannot return to work or when they are unable to work from serious injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident.

This last benefit is commonly referred to as "wage loss" and our own insurance attorneys frequently receive questions on how much an accident victim is entitled to for lost wages under No Fault:

"I get it that No Fault insurance pays people for "wages" they're missing out on because they're too injured to work. But how much exactly does a person get and for how long?"

First of all, if you're not familiar with No Fault benefits, click here to for more information about each of your potential No Fault benefits and what they provide.

As for Michigan No Fault wage loss benefits, an accident victim can receive up to 85% of his or her lost income for up to the first three years following the crash. This is to account for the loss of income the injured person would have performed during that time, but now cannot due to car accident injuries.

However, it should be noted that's a monthly maximum amount for wage loss benefits. The statutory maximum for Michigan wage loss is $5,189 per month from October 2012 to October 2013.

Related information:

Michigan wage loss rates revised

When should I choose primary medical PIP benefits?

December 3, 2013

Insurance attorney gives 5 tips to why primary medical No-Fault can protect drivers

As an insurance lawyer, I read auto insurance policies every day (yes, I do realize reading insurance contracts is not the most glamorous part about being a lawyer).
But this does give me a unique insight and I often see situations where it's better for people to use medical benefits from their auto insurance after a car accident.

Another way of saying this is "primary medical PIP (personal injury protection) benefits" for people in No Fault insurance states like Michigan. Even though this type of insurance coverage may be a little bit more expensive, the positives outweigh the slightly higher costs. Especially after a car accident when people need to use primary medical PIP benefits most.

Here are 5 examples where most drivers will be better off with primary medical PIP benefits:

1. Auto accident exclusions.

If you have any type of auto accident exclusion in your health insurance policy, it's best to elect primary medical on your auto No Fault insurance. To find out whether you have an auto exclusion, contact your health insurer and request a copy of the "summary plan description" or a copy of the plan itself. Review this with your insurance agent as well.

2. If you have an HMO.
There is a reason why HMOs have a terrible reputation. HMOs can be very restrictive and often result in delayed necessary medical care and treatment. By electing primary medical PIP, you are not limited to treat within the HMO system. You can put getting better from your injuries on a faster track. It also gives you a wider choice of doctors and top specialists.

3. Beware of ERISA plans.

Play a word association game with any personal injury lawyer who deals with ERISA plans, and the word association you would most likely hear for ERISA and automobile accidents would be: "Bad!" If your health insurance is a self-funded ERISA plan, it's best to elect primary medical on your No-Fault insurance. The trend in the law is that many self-funded ERISA plans can claim a lien against your pain and suffering settlement after a car crash. To find out whether your health plan is a self-funded ERISA plan, contact your health insurer and request a copy of the "summary plan description" or the actual plan.

4. Warning: Medicare and Medicaid
If you have Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration Benefits or any county health plan, it's best to have primary medical PIP on your No Fault insurance. This helps to avoid the "super liens" that providers of government benefits may otherwise have against your pain and suffering case.

5. Blue Cross Blue Shield.

If you have traditional Blue Cross and full coverage on your No-Fault insurance policy, be aware that there's the possibility of a "double dip." This means... It's best that anyone with Blue Cross Blue Shield have primary No-Fault auto insurance as well.
Most people with No Fault insurance have coordinated/excess medical PIP coverage.

This coordinated policy means your health insurance pays for auto accident-related medical expenses first and before your No Fault insurance.

Many people choose coordinated benefits to save money on their auto No Fault if they already have health insurance. In addition, most insurers today already default to coordinated/excess medical -- but some insurance agents never ask if you already have health insurance.

HOWEVER, if you lose your health insurance for any reason, or you have a situation as noted in the five points above, immediately contact your auto insurer and change to primary medical coverage.

Understanding the interrelationship between many people's auto insurance policies, health insurance and No Fault insurance is extremely important. It's also unfortunately highly technical. It's an area littered with exclusions, liens and conflicting clauses (and in the case of ERISA, conflicting court decisions as well).

If you've been injured in a car accident and have questions about No Fault, health insurance, and your auto insurance policy, feel free to call one of our insurance lawyers at 800-777-0028. We are happy to try to help answer your questions free of charge.

What is Michigan's teen driving law?

November 29, 2013

Michigan's teen driving law has been around since March 2011. But our attorneys still get many questions from parents about the law and what teens can and can't do under Michigan's auto laws.

According to the law, teens driving on a "Level 2″ license have two notable restrictions:

  1. Passenger restriction: Teenage drivers cannot have more than one passenger under the age of 21 in the car -- unless the passenger is a member of his or her immediate family, or the driver is traveling to or from school or a school-sanctioned event.
  2. Night driving restriction: Driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. is prohibited -- unless the teenager is driving to or from employment, or with a parent, legal guardian or licensed adult over 21 years old.
What is a Level 2 driver under Michigan's Teen Driving Law?

A "Level 2″ driver is part of Michigan's graduated licensing approach, where teenagers gain more driving privileges as they get older and acquire more experience behind the wheel. A Level 2 license holder must:

  • Be at least 16 years old;

  • Have successfully completed parts 1 and 2 of a driver's education program approved by the Michigan Department of State;

  • Pass a driving skills test; and

  • Have a skills test certificate.

  • Also, a teenage driver cannot have a car accident or violation in the 90 days prior to applying for a Level 2 license.

For more information about the Michigan teen driving law, take a look at this special website provided by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning: First & 10.

Car accidents involving teen drivers - by the numbers

In my own experience as an attorney helping people injured in automobile accidents, I've sadly seen and been involved in many cases involving teenage drivers. Often I'm helping the people that a teen driver injures. Many of these car accidents are caused by inexperience, poor driving judgment and distracted driving.

The statistics speak for themselves.

According to the 2012 Michigan Traffic Crash Facts:

  • There were 134 fatal car accidents in 2012 involving drivers ages 16-20.
  • There were 12,175 injury crashes involving drivers in this age range.
  • Younger drivers were less likely to be alone in their car at the time of the crash.
  • And younger drivers are more likely to text and otherwise drive distracted.

Related information:

6 safety tips that can save the life of a teen driver

Texing while driving now the No. 1 killer of teen drivers