Gov. Snyder signs law doubling coverage limit and disqualifying uninsured vehicles
On June 7, 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5362 into law, resulting in two major changes to the Michigan Mini Tort law, which forces negligent drivers to pay for the vehicle damage they cause:
- First, the Mini Tort coverage limit has been increased from $500 to $1,000.
- Second, uninsured vehicles are disqualified from all coverage under the Mini Tort law.
Introduced on February 7, 2012, by Rep. Cindy Denby, and presented to Gov. Snyder for his review on May 29, 2012, House Bill 5362 sped through the Michigan Legislature.
After receiving the Governor’s approval on June 7, HB 5362 was filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office.
It was assigned Public Act number 158 and, thus, will be known as 2012 Public Act 158. Here’s a copy of the amended Mini Tort statute.
According to the amended statute, the changes to Michigan’s Mini Tort law will take effect October 1, 2012.
Michigan’s Mini Tort Law
Under Michigan’s Mini Tort law, an auto accident victim is entitled to recover a maximum of $1,000 from an “at fault” driver to cover vehicle damage repair costs. (MCL 500.3135(3)(e), (4), (5) and (6))
Previously, before passage of House Bill 5362, the Mini Tort coverage maximum was $500.
Consequently, the Mini Tort law has both a remedial and protective nature:
- It allows the auto accident victims to recover up to $1,000 to put towards vehicle damage repair costs; and,
- It allows the “at fault” driver to limit her liability for vehicle damage to $1,000.
Under Michigan’s recently amended Mini Tort law, the owners and registrants of uninsured vehicles would be disqualified from using the Mini Tort law to pay for vehicle damage caused by an “at fault” driver.
House Bill 5362 amended the existing statute to include the following language:
“Damages shall not be assessed if the damaged motor vehicle was being operated at the time of the damage without the security required by Section 3101.”
MCL 500.3101 of the Michigan No Fault law requires all vehicle owners and/or registrants to secure No Fault auto insurance for their vehicles.
Previously, before passage of House Bill 5362, Mini Tort coverage applied regardless of whether the damaged vehicle was covered by a No Fault auto insurance policy.
The Mini Tort law’s existing comparative fault rule does not change with the passage of House Bill 5362.
Accordingly, Mini Tort coverage will continue to be reduced by a driver’s percentage of fault.
For instance, if a driver is 25 percent at fault and the damage to her vehicle is $100, then the most she can recover under the Mini Tort law is $75.
However, if the driver is “more than 50 percent at fault,” then she will be disqualified from all Mini Tort coverage. (MCL 500.3135(4)(a))
– Steve Gursten is an insurance lawyer handling auto accident lawsuits. He is head of Michigan Auto Law and president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve frequently writes and speaks about Michigan No-Fault “reform” and auto insurance, and is available for comment.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Uriel 1998
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