No-Fault insurance lawyer explains the two major changes to the Mini Tort and how to get your car damage repaired
Starting today, there are two major changes to Michigan’s Mini Tort law which all drivers must know about:
- First, the Mini Tort coverage limit is now $1,000, up from $500.
- Second, uninsured vehicles are disqualified from all coverage under the Mini Tort law.
Michigan’s Mini Tort law allows auto accident victims to recover money damages from the “at fault” driver to cover the victim’s vehicle damage repair costs.
The Mini Tort changes, which began as House Bill 5362, were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on June 7, 2012, as Public Act 158 of 2012. According to both the Public Act and the Michigan Supreme Court, the effective date of the Mini Tort changes is 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) and (4))
Previously, the Mini Tort coverage maximum was $500.
As an insurance lawyer that gets asked about the mini tort on almost a daily basis, I can say with absolute certainly that no one really likes it. People who have more than $1,000 in damage but who don’t have collision coverage think it is terribly unfair that a person who caused the car accident that, in turn caused this big repair bill, aren’t responsible for full amount of repairs and vehicle damage.
Unfortunately, the problem gets compounded because many insurance agents out there do a terrible job of explaining to people why buying additional collision coverage – which is an optional coverage but only costs a few dollars more – is so important so people don’t get trapped like this.
Although it hasn’t necessarily turned out this way, when the Mini Tort law was enacted, it was meant to be both remedial and protective nature:
- It allows the auto accident victims to recover up to $1,000 of incidental costs toward vehicle damage repair costs; and,
- It allows the “at fault” driver to limit her liability for vehicle damage.
Uninsured vehicles and the Mini Tort
Under Michigan’s recently amended Mini Tort law, the owners and registrants of uninsured vehicles will be disqualified from using the Mini Tort law to pay for vehicle damage caused by an “at fault” driver.
House Bill 5362 and Public Act 158 amended the Mini Tort statute, MCL 500.3135(4), by adding subsection (e):
“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.
Effective date of Mini Tort changes
According to both Public Act 158 and the Michigan Supreme Court, today is the day that the recently enacted Mini Tort changes take effect:
- Public Act 158 stated: “This amendatory act takes effect October 1, 2012. h
- In its July 30, 2012, ruling in Johnson v. Recca, the Michigan Supreme Court stated that “on June 7, 2012, the Governor signed 2012 PA 158, which, effective October, 1, 2012, amends MCL 500.3135 to increase the amount of motor vehicle damage not covered by insurance for which a person may sue the responsible party.”
The majority opinion in Johnson, in which the above statement appeared, was signed by Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. and Justices Stephen J. Markman, Mary Beth Kelly and Brian K. Zahra.
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% 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% at fault,” then she will be disqualified from all Mini Tort coverage. (MCL 500.3135(4)(a))