Michigan Auto Law insurance lawyer Steve Gursten explains to Macomb County newspaper that Michigan is without bad faith laws to prevent insurance abuse
On Sunday, I was interviewed by Jameson Cook from the Macomb Daily newspaper in a story about a paralyzed Sterling Heights woman who is forced to sue for her No-Fault insurance benefits. It’s an important story and I thank Jamie Cook for the chance to share one of the real problems that I see on a weekly basis.
Michigan has a serious problem. Thousands of seriously hurt people with legitimate No-Fault (PIP) claims are being denied by auto insurance companies on a daily basis.
And why not? As I told Jamie Cook, without bad faith laws, without punitive damages, and without a consumer protection act that can protect consumers against insurance company abuse, there is no deterrent whatsoever to prevent insurance companies from refusing to pay on due and owing claims. And by denying valid claims and forcing people to hire No-Fault insurance lawyers like myself to have to sue for No-Fault benefits that these insurance companies should have paid up front, these insurance companies are at the macro-economic level saving untold millions.
There is no big stick to deter such disgusting bad faith behavior. Therefore, this abuse has become rampant. As Jamie Cook notes, in Macomb County Circuit Court, there are at least 450 pending No-Fault lawsuits involving the five biggest auto insurance companies in Michigan, and thousands more insurance lawsuits that were filed and closed in recent years where the insurance companies settled for less than what they owed.
The Macomb Daily story is also about how commonplace it has become for auto insurers to fight claims, and the lawsuits that follow when auto accident victims must hire an insurance lawyer to sue to receive the No-Fault benefits that are so critical to their recovery and survival.
Here’s the full story: Paralyzed Sterling Heights woman fights for insurance coverage
One question the reporter, Jameson Cook asked me was, “Why is this happening?”
I told him that sadly, “insurance companies have learned it’s easier to fight catastrophic claims than pay them because plaintiffs typically settle for less. That leaves Michigan motorists who suffer severe injuries in crashes to fend for themselves while they fight a legal battle and in the end don’t collect on perhaps the most generous no-fault benefits in the nation.”
The story about the paralyzed Sterling Heights woman serves as a great example. Beverly Duffy, who was paralyzed in an ATV accident, was forced to sue for her vital No-Fault benefits for medical rehab, attendant care (necessary in-home nursing services) and modifications to make her home handicap accessible.
It’s a tragic story, but I applaud the Macomb Daily for giving needed coverage to this very serious problem. This is an issue not only in Macomb County, but everywhere else in Michigan. Incidentally, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, which always makes my list of the worst auto insurance companies in Michigan, topped the list of pending insurance cases in Macomb County, with 217, all filed since 2010.
Like I told the Macomb Daily, until Michigan enacts bad faith laws to protect people from spurious insurance company behavior, this type of abuse of car accident victims will continue to occur. People like Beverly Duffy, who are clearly entitled to receive PIP benefits will be forced to hire insurance lawyers to avoid being pushed onto Medicaid. And the auto insurance companies — who are required by law to cover such services and benefits – will keep laughing all the way to the bank.
– Steve Gursten is one of the nation’s top insurance lawyers handling auto accident lawsuits. He is head of Michigan Auto Law and president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve frequently writes about Michigan No-Fault and insurance company abuse, and is available for comment.
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. Call (800) 777-0028 to speak with one of our Michigan insurance lawyers.