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Train passengers injured in crash with truck in Jackson, Michigan entitled to No-Fault benefits

Under Michigan’s No-Fault law, No-Fault must pay PIP benefits to Amtrak passengers injured today in train-truck crash

The Amtrak train passengers who were injured this morning in a crash in Jackson, Michigan, are entitled to collect No-Fault benefits, even though they were not in a car or truck.

Under Michigan’s No-Fault law, if a person is injured in an accident that involves a “motor vehicle,” the person is entitled to receive Michigan No-Fault PIP benefits to pay for the person’s accident-related medical expenses, lost wages, replacement services, attendant care services, medical mileage and any home or vehicle modifications.

And this is the key: it does not matter whether the injured person was an occupant of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, a pedestrian or, as in the case of the Amtrak crash in Jackson, Michigan, a passenger on a train.

Instead, what matters is that the vehicle involved in the accident is a “motor vehicle” as defined by Michigan’s No-Fault law.

Here, the tractor-trailer involved in the Amtrak crash is without question a “motor vehicle” for No-Fault insurance purposes.

While many lawyers would make the mistake of assuming a train passenger would never be entitled to No- Fault insurance, an experienced Michigan insurance lawyer should recognize the loophole exception that will still allow injured Amtrak train passengers to qualify for No-Fault PIP benefits. The loophole is explained in more detail below, but suffice to say that the train accident in Jackson qualifies as a “motor vehicle” accident under Michigan’s No-Fault law and, thus, any of the train passengers who were injured as a result of the crash will be eligible to collect No-Fault benefits under the law.

No-Fault and train accidents involving motor vehicles

Michigan’s No-Fault law makes clear that No-Fault benefits are payable only to people who have been injured in “motor vehicle” accidents:

“[A]n insurer is liable to pay benefits for accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle …” (MCL 500.3015(1))

And, Michigan’s No-Fault law defines “motor vehicle” as:

“[A] vehicle, including a trailer, operated or designed for operation upon a public highway by power other than muscular power which has more than 2 wheels.” (MCL 500.3101(2)(e))

Finally, combining both of those definitions, the No-Fault law describes a “motor vehicle accident” as:

“[A] loss involving the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle …” (MCL 500.3101(2)(f))

Who will pay for the injured train passengers’ No-Fault benefits?

Under Michigan law, a Michigan No-Fault auto insurance company will pay for the injured train passengers’ benefits.

And, under Michigan’s No-Fault Law, the “priority” rules will determine which No-Fault insurer will be required to pay for which injured train passenger.

There are six possibilities and the rules for determining which one applies to any injured train passenger are listed below in descending order of priority:

o First priority: If an injured train passenger has a No-Fault insurance policy in which she is the named insured, then the passenger should file a claim for No-Fault PIP benefits with her insurance company. (MCL 500.3114(1))

o Second priority: If an injured train passenger doesn’t have No-Fault insurance, but her spouse has a No- Fault insurance policy in which the spouse is the named insured, then the passenger should file a claim for benefits with her spouse’s insurance company. (MCL 500.3114(1))

o Third priority: If neither the injured train passenger nor her spouse has No-Fault insurance, but a relative of theirs who lives with them has a No-Fault insurance policy in which the relative is the named insured, then the passenger should file a claim for No-Fault benefits with the relative’s insurance company. (MCL 500.3114(1))

o Fourth priority: If neither the injured train passenger nor her spouse nor a relative have No-Fault insurance, then the passenger should file a claim for No Fault benefits with the insurance company for the owner or registrant of the tractor-trailer involved in the accident. (MCL 500.3115(1)(a))

o Fifth priority: If neither the injured train passenger nor her spouse nor a relative nor the owner or the registrant of the tractor-trailer involved in the accident have No-Fault insurance, then the passenger should file a claim for benefits with the insurance company for the tractor-trailer’s operator, i.e., driver. (MCL 500.3115(1)(b))

o Sixth priority: If there is no No-Fault insurance available through any of the above sources, then the injured train passenger should file a claim for No-Fault benefits with the Michigan Assigned Claims Facility. (MCL 500.3172(1))

Our insurance attorneys extend their deep sympathy for everyone involved in this serious train crash.

Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top insurance attorneys handling auto accidents in the country. He is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steven frequently speaks and writes about No-Fault insurance and is available for comment.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Martin Cathrae

Related information to protect yourself:

Michigan No-Fault Insurance Resource Center

Your 3 potential cases after a motor vehicle accident

Finding the best accident lawyer

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 or to speak with one of our Michigan insurance attorneys now.

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