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How Rep. Cotter’s golf cart bills WILL help wheelchair users get No Fault benefits

House Insurance Committee amended House Bill 5636 to exclude ‘motorized wheelchairs’ from No Fault law’s definition of ‘motor vehicle’

Golf cart driving on street

Hats off to Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-99th District) and the House Insurance Committee for taking the brave step to protect motorized wheelchair users and their ability to collect No Fault benefits in the event of a crash with a car or truck.

Recently, I wrote about how Rep. Cotter’s House Bill 5636 “can” help motorized wheelchairs get No Fault benefits if its exclusion for golf carts from the No Fault Law’s definition of “motor vehicle” was extended to include “motorized wheelchairs.” To learn more, take a look at our blog post, “How Rep. Cotter’s golf cart bills can help motorized wheelchair users get No Fault benefits.”

Well, lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.

When we tweeted out a link to our blog post on Friday, September 26, 2014, Rep. Cotter kindly replied via Twitter to let us know the good news:

“HB 5636 was amended this week to address the concern you outlined.”

I immediately went to check out the status of HB 5636 and, sure enough, Rep. Cotter was right.

The Michigan House of Representatives Insurance Committee of which Rep. Cotter is a member unanimously voted to amend HB 5636 to exclude “motorized wheelchairs” from the Michigan No Fault Law’s definition of “motor vehicle.”

Specifically, the “H1” or “Substitute For House Bill No . 5636” that was passed out of Committee provided the following changes to Michigan’s No Fault Law:

“Motor vehicle does not include … a motorized wheelchair, scooter, or other similar device designed to assist in the personal mobility of an individual and not for operation on a public highway.”

The House Insurance Committee’s version of HB 5636 also provided that the proposed changes “shall be applied retroactively.”

However, HB 5636 is tie-barred to Rep. Cotter’s related legislation, House Bill 5045, which means that both or neither of the bills must be enacted.

The House Insurance Committee’s decision to exclude motorized wheelchairs, scooters or “other similar device[s] designed to assist in the personal mobility of an individual” is a very significant development for the elderly, the disabled and the injured who rely on motorized wheelchairs.

It nullifies the specious and absurd arguments of certain auto insurance companies who shamefully insist that a motorized wheelchair is a “motor vehicle” under the No Fault law, so that the auto insurers can deny No Fault benefits and compensation to auto accident victims in wheelchairs.

In a highly publicized Macomb County case, which I’ve written about extensively, State Farm and Farm Bureau want to deny No Fault benefits and compensation to an auto accident victims in a wheelchair on the basis he did not have No Fault auto insurance on his motorized wheelchair at the time he was struck by car.

Paralyzed car accident victim, George Veness, was using his motorized wheelchair to cross the street at the time he was struck by the SUV being driven by Farm Bureau’s insured, an off-duty police officer.

The auto insurers’ contention is that Mr. Veness’s motorized wheelchair is a “motor vehicle” under the No Fault law and, thus, must be covered by a No Fault auto insurance policy. Without the coverage, Mr. Veness’s motorized wheelchair is deemed “uninsured” and, thus, Mr. Veness can and should be denied No Fault benefits and compensation.

For more information, read our blog post, “State Farm’s treatment of wheelchair-bound man so outrageously ‘unbelievable’ it couldn’t be made up.”

Given the auto insurance companies’ callous and asinine attack on Mr. Veness, you can see why the amendment to Rep. Cotter’s HB 5636 to exclude “motorized wheelchairs” from the No Fault Law’s definition of “motor vehicle” is so welcome, so important and so necessary.

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