Changes In Michigan Car Accident Injury Law: Devillers V. Auto Club Ins. Association, 473 Mich. 562 (2005)
UPDATE: The judicial travesty of the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling in Devillers v. Auto Club Insurance Association has been corrected under the new Michigan No-Fault law, which took effect on May 30, 2019. The one-year-back rule returns to its traditional interpretation, that a claim “is tolled from the date the person claiming the benefits makes a specific claim for the benefits until the date the insurer formally denies the claim.”
One year to file for benefits after a car accident – no exceptions and no tolling
Here is the official Michigan Supreme Court opinion for Devillers v. Auto Club.
Devillers v. Auto Club was a devastating opinion for people injured in car accidents in Michigan and medical providers who provide medical treatment for victims of auto accidents. Its effect has caused Michigan attorneys handling car accident injury cases to file lawsuits unnecessarily to protect the one year back statute.
Overturning nearly 20 years of Michigan car accident injury law, Devillers held that the one-year-back statute of limitations that prohibits recovery of Michigan PIP benefits for any portion of a loss incurred more than one year before commencement of a lawsuit filed by a Michigan attorney is not subject to judicial tolling, overruling Lewis v. DAIIE, 426 Mich. 93, 393 N.W.2d 167 (1986).
Insurance Company Defendant paid Victim Plaintiff for Michigan attendant care services from October 20, 2000 through February 14, 2001. AAA (Defendant) then received a medical opinion that the auto accident victim was no longer in need of attendant care benefits and could function without close attendant care supervision. On October 7, 2002 (20 months after stopping payments), Defendant sent a formal letter notifying Plaintiff that payments were denied as of February 15, 2001. Plaintiff then filed a complaint on November 12, 2002, asking for payment for services she rendered since February, 2001.
The Michigan Supreme Court stated simply that there is no “sound policy basis for the adoption of a tolling mechanism with respect to the one-year-back rule.” The Court reasoned that Plaintiff was put on notice that attendant care payments were denied as soon as they stopped in February, 2001; thus, she was responsible for inquiring as to the reason for stopped the attendant care payments and if necessary, the re-application for continued Michigan No-Fault benefits. Tolling is an equitable principle, but should be applied cautiously on a case-by-case basis.
Justice Cavanagh concluded: “The best that can be said of today’s majority opinion is that it does indeed create a crystal-clear directive to Michigan’s insureds: if your claim has not been paid or formally denied within one year of your request, sue.”