When must the insurer of a hotel’s airport shuttle van pay for an injured passenger’s No Fault benefits? As with so much in the law, it depends on the circumstances.
Drive to Metro Airport outside Detroit from anywhere in Southeastern Michigan, and you will see airport shuttle vans. Lots of them. With very little in the way of public transportation, these vans are everywhere. And inevitably, car accidents have occurred injuring the people riding in these hotel airport shuttle vans.
That leads to an interesting observation on this auto law blog about how No Fault insurance benefits work when people injured in these van accidents must make a claim.
Normally, after a person has been injured in a Michigan car accident, it’s always the person’s No Fault auto insurer (or that of her spouse or a resident relative) that pays insurance benefits.
But in the case of a passenger who has been injured in an accident involving a hotel’s airport shuttle van, it’s different. In this scenario the airport shuttle van’s insurer will pay for the injured passenger’s No Fault benefits, as long as the van was being “operated in the business of transporting passengers” at the time of the accident. (MCL 500.3114(2))
Just exactly what the phrase “operated in the business of transporting passengers” means was addressed by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a recent ruling in Schiller v. Home-Owners Insurance Company, et al.
In Schiller, the court clarified that a hotel’s airport shuttle van is “operated in the business of transporting passengers,” thereby triggering the van’s insurer’s liability to pay No Fault benefits, if the following criteria are met:
- The operation of the hotel’s airport shuttle van involved in a “commercial” situation.
- The van’s “primary purpose” was to transport passengers (in this case, to and from the airport).
- The shuttle service provided by the van “is a significant part” of the hotel’s “business.”
Van’s insurer must pay
In Schiller, Ginger Schiller injured her neck and back and, thus, had to undergo surgery and rehabilitation as a result of an accident involving a hotel’s airport shuttle van.
The van’s insurer, Home-Owners Insurance Company, denied liability for Ms. Schiller’s No Fault benefits, insisting the van’s transportation of passenger was “merely incidental” the van’s owner’s “primary business of operating a hotel.”
Home-Owners argued that Ms. Schiller’s personal No Fault insurer, Allstate, was liable to pay her No Fault benefits.
The Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that Home-Owners was on the hook. The court noted the “operation of the courtesy van involved a ‘commercial’ situation.”
Additionally, the judges said the “primary purpose, if not the exclusive purpose, of the courtesy van was to transport passengers to and from the airport.”
Finally, the Court of Appeals concluded that this shuttle service was a “significant part” of the van’s owner’s hotel business given the “airport’s close proximity” and that airport shuttle van was advertised as a “significant hotel amenity.”
What if the injured airport shuttle van passenger is from out-of-state?
Generally speaking, non-Michigan residents are disqualified from collecting Michigan No Fault benefits.
However, there are two very important exceptions (see MCL 500.3113(c)):
- If, at the time of the crash, the injured out-of-state resident “was an occupant of a motor vehicle … registered” in Michigan; or,
- If, at the time of the crash, the injured out-of-state resident’s out-of-state auto insurer “has filed a certification in compliance with section 3163.”
If either of these qualifying factors are satisfied, then the out-of-state resident who has been injured in an accident involving a hotel’s airport shuttle van accident is entitled to recover Michigan No Fault benefits and may do so from the van’s insurer.
‘Certification in compliance with section 3163’
In return for being allowed to do business in Michigan, an out-of-state auto insurer files a “certification” with the State of Michigan guaranteeing that, if one of its insureds from “out-of-state” is injured in a Michigan car, truck or bus accident, then the auto insurer will pay for and provide Michigan No Fault benefits to the “out-of-state resident.” (MCL 500.3163(1))
(NOTE: No Fault benefits collected as a result of “3163 certification” will be limited to $500,000 if the “out-of-state resident was not an occupant of a motor vehicle registered in this state.” (MCL 500.3163(4)))