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Time to kill Michigan’s No-Fault insurance system?

No-Fault lawyer says with current insurance benefits destroyed, and the coming return of harsh limits on auto accident pain and suffering lawsuits, it may be time to stop Michigan No-Fault


Yesterday I blogged about a series of proposed Michigan senate bills that would rob Michigan drivers of their most important No-Fault protections. The auto insurance companies are pushing these bills under the guise that they’ll make auto insurance “cheaper.”

Want to really slash the costs of insurance coverage in this state? Let’s get rid of Michigan’s No-Fault system entirely.

Why would I say it’s time to kill Michigan’s No-Fault system, after years of fighting for it and the invaluable protections it offers catastrophically injured auto accident victims in this state?

Because if these senate bills become law, the protections that actually make No-Fault so invaluable today become meaningless. And if the most important protections are taken away from us, the real question becomes: Why bother keeping No-Fault in Michigan?

If people want to pay less money for their auto insurance policies, than we should abolish No-Fault all together and become a pure tort state – where a person who causes a car accident is responsible for all the medical bills of the person he or she injures. This would slash the amount of money we pay for No-Fault insurance by more than half.

If our No-Fault insurance will basically be illusory (with the most important protections taken away from us on the insurance benefits side) once these senate bills pass, and if we will have the worst law in the nation for suing someone who causes a car accident (see below), then it’s time to kill No-Fault in Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court: What’s next after McCormick v. Carrier?

On July 31, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned Kreiner v. Fischer, one of the nation’s harshest injury threshold laws. The new case law, McCormick v. Carrier, restored valuable legal rights for thousands of injured drivers who suffered broken bones or underwent surgeries, but whose injuries were not permanent and life-altering, as the cases under Kreiner were increasingly demanding. But, with the historic Republican landslide last November, the Republicans took back the court.

These aren’t ordinary Republicans. These are insurance company Republicans. We can hope for the best, but we should clearly expect the worst. Michigan Supreme Court has two new justices after the November election. Justice Mary Beth Kelly stated when running for the Court, that she felt McCormick was wrongly decided. Justice Zahra was appointed to the court by Governor Snyder. Justice Zahra’s judicial record has always been very anti-consumer and pro-insurance company. He was a very surprising pick from Governor Snyder, who campaigned as a “moderate independent” before he appointed Zahra. And then we have Justice Robert “when you take a shot at the king, you better kill him” Young (actually quote from our sitting highest court member after the election to the media). There is also Justice Markman, who voted for Kreiner, and who signed onto the vehement nasty dissent in McCormick.

These justices are expected to overturn McCormick v. Carrier the first chance they get. In other words, count the votes. The writing on the wall seems crystal clear coming from this court.

If these proposed bills that would dismantle No-Fault benefits become law in the near future, and if Michigan’s auto accident tort law reverts back to the nation’s harshest, thanks to the politicized nature of the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan drivers will be left with nothing.

We all lose the incredibly valuable protections that the Michigan No-Fault Act afforded us when we became a No-Fault state in 1973 — when we were promised very generous first- party No-Fault benefits such as lifetime medical care in exchange for requiring a minimum level of severity in pain and suffering accident claims, to keep out the “frivolous and de minimus” car accident injuries from the courts.

Now, we might have neither. Almost no one will be able to sue for injuries and pain and suffering if Kreiner is reinstated. Instead of a common-sense tort threshold designed to bar frivolous auto accident cases, we will instead have a tort injury threshold that bars recovery for nearly everyone except the most catastrophically injured. And in exchange for all of this, we will allow people to purchase No-Fault insurance with a minimum level of $50,000, that will likely be exhausted almost immediately in any serious auto accident case, and certainly any serious traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or orthopedic injury.

And what about the severely brain injured and the those with catastrophic spinal cord injuries? Who are the real victims when our No-Fault law changes ?

It should not only be catastrophically injured auto accident victims and consumer groups in Michigan who are alarmed by this right now. It should be everyone. Unfortunately, the power of the insurance companies in this state far outweighs groups like the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, MADD, AARP and medical groups who recognize that Michiganders are truly getting a raw deal under this new law.

This is a power play, pure and simple. It is a bunch of elected politicians granting already hyper-profitable insurance companies their holiday wish list, and taking it away from all of us. It is also part of a larger campaign by a certain element of the Republican party to de-fund the Democratic party for a generation, by attacking traditional constituencies like trial and consumer lawyers, labor unions, teachers unions etc.

Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top No-Fault lawyers handling serious auto accident lawsuits. He routinely writes about insurance company abuse and the No-Fault laws in Michigan, and is available for comment.

Related information:

Your auto insurance benefitsin Michigan

Michigan’s No-Fault law under attack

Michigan Supreme Court blogs

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our No-Fault insurance lawyers.

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