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Who pays No Fault benefits when first responders are involved in accidents on the job?

Police, firefighters and other first responders who are injured in car accidents are entitled to Michigan No Fault insurance benefits

first responders car accident

One area of confusion that often arises when first responders, police officers, or firefighters are involved in an automobile accident is whether these brave men and women who protect the public are entitled to auto No Fault insurance benefits, or whether workers compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for them.

Even many lawyers get this question wrong, so it’s important to first take a step back and understand that all  first-responders injured in any car accident or truck accident have the same No Fault auto insurance legal rights as any other Michigan citizens.  That means they are entitled to Michigan No Fault benefits.

But what about workers comp?  People often get confused and think these tragedies are exclusively covered by our workers compensation law.

If the first responder is injured on the job, then he or she will also have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, but – and here’s the key – workers compensation benefits are not the only source of legal recovery.
It’ also important to keep in mind that Michigan law has made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to fully recover in workers comp cases.  And that makes the No fault insurance rights of police, fire, and ambulance personnel even more important.

It is far more than a wage loss differential between No Fault and Workers Comp, as many attorneys mistakenly believe.

Michigan No Fault insurance benefits include:

  • Medical expenses – Coverage of medical bills.
  • Medical mileage – Reimbursement for the miles traveled to medical appointments.
  • Wage loss – Money to replace what an injured accident victim is not earning while missing work.
  • Replacement services – Help with household chores, services and child care.
  • Attendant care – In-home nursing care.
  • Home modifications – Making the home accessible in case of disabling injury.
  • Vehicle modifications – Making the vehicle accessible in case of a disabling injury.

Other sources of legal recovery for injured first responders, police and firefighters in Michigan

Injured first responders can also make workers compensation claims in Michigan, and indeed workers comp will often be primary to No Fault. A workers comp claim includes medical treatment and continuing wage loss.  It also includes limited attendant care.

Depending on the facts of the accident, work comp benefits can exceed what is paid under No Fault, but often it is less. Wage loss, for example, is almost always less, but a first responder injured in a car accident can then turn to his or her No Fault insurer for a differential payment up to the 85% of wage loss that one can collect under Michigan No Fault, tax free. An experienced attorney can review your individual situation and make sure you’re getting all the benefits under various state laws.

Can a first responder injured in an automobile accident while on the job sue for injuries and pain and suffering?

First responders injured in the line of duty as a result of another person’s negligence may also have a case against the person who caused the crash, and the owner of the vehicle that person was driving if the owner and operator are two different people. This is called an auto negligence third-party lawsuit, also referred to as pain and suffering. It is filed against the wrongdoer driver who causes the crash, and defended and paid by the insurance company that insures the vehicle that person was driving.

In addition, there may be additional claims for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which are provided by the accident victim’s own insurance policy or the insurance company that insures the vehicles that person was driving at the time that he was involved in a motor vehicle accident. These can sometimes add additional millions of dollars in legal recovery if the person who caused the crash has a minimum bodily injury insurance liability limit (in Michigan, the minimum is $20,000, although in many cities, such as Detroit, it is estimated that over 50% of the people are driving with no auto insurance at all).

Therefore, uninsured and underinsurance can provide critical protection to people who otherwise may recover little or nothing at all if the driver who causes the crash is uninsured. These policies are a safety net, and because they are additional contractual coverages that go beyond basic No Fault, they provide benefits in case of a crash with a driver who is not insured or has an inadequate insurance policy. If you have questions about any of these potential benefits, feel free to call us at Michigan Auto Law, and an experienced accident attorney will be happy to help you at no charge.

Our attorneys would like to sincerely thank all of our brave first responders for putting their lives on the line every single day. There have been several recent tragedies of first responders who are killed in the line of duty, such as firefighter Dennis Rodeman, who was hit and killed by a hit-and-run driver while he was collecting charity donations. There was also a  deputy whose patrol car was struck by a drunk driver in Traverse City. And then there’s Michigan State Trooper Chad Wolf, who was killed in the summer when his patrol motorcycle was struck by another car driven by an elderly man in Grand Blanc. We salute and say thank you to all of those who protect us.

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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