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How to Preserve Your Attendant Care Rights in Michigan

November 24, 2009 by Steven M. Gursten

One thing that makes attendant care cases so difficult is that there is not a readily accessible definition of what exactly attendant care (AC) is. Many people have never even heard of this no-fault benefit. To put it simply, our car accident attorneys say attendant care benefits (also referred to as nursing services) are “activities of daily living.”

Adding to the misunderstanding of attendant care, many Michigan insurance companies are not exactly forthcoming about telling people who have been injured in auto accidents that they’re entitled to it. Some insurance companies just completely lie and deny attendant care exists — even when asked directly by their own severely injured customer, or the injured person’s caregiver.

The most important thing you can do following a car accident or truck accident is consult with an experienced attendant care attorney to preserve your rights to this vital benefit.

As an attorney who handles attendant care cases, I have seen countless lawyers and judges differ on what exactly constitutes the need for attendant care. This especially happens in cases of traumatic brain injury and psychiatric injuries, where the need for attendant care is less obvious than in the case of someone who has suffered catastrophic physical injuries and needs wound or bowel and bladder care, for example.

Pursuant to the Michigan no-fault act, attendant care benefits are recoverable in the event of serious personal injury from an auto accident.

Definition of Attendant Care

I just read the recently released decision Villafor v. State Farm. Villaflor is a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case, released in August 2009 after it was appealed from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in Detroit. In Villafor, the Court adopts the definition of attendant care given at trial by Dr. Gerald Shiener, a respected psychiatrist who treated Villaflor and who, the Court notes, has lectured on the subject of attendant care issues and frontal lobe brain injuries. Dr. Shiener testified as to what is commonly meant by the term “attendant care.” This definition of attendant care, especially for people who have suffered brain injury or psychiatric injury, is very helpful.

Dr. Shiener testified:

[A]ttendant care is the use of an assisted individual to help someone who has a disability resume a more normal life and continue to function in the community. So it’s someone who is available to an injured person who can help them do the things they can’t do because of their injury and in terms of psychiatric issues or emotional issues who can provide supervision, reminders or cuing, limit setting, and advise and behavioral control and behavioral management for people who have impairments[.] . . . The goal of attendant care is to allow someone to lead as normal a life as possible with whatever limitations their injury has caused.

For instance, attendant care can include monitoring and supervision for safety reasons, administering medication, bathing, dressing, grooming, help using the bathroom, driving the patient, carrying and lifting things and wound care. Attendant care can be preformed by nurses, as well as family members or legal guardians who perform nursing services. Family members or legal guardians who perform the attendant care services are entitled to compensation.

Talk with an Attendant Care Attorney ASAP

Villaflor also serves as an example of why, sadly, it’s very important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after an automobile accident.

In Villaflor, the plaintiff was insured under a no-fault auto insurance policy issued by State Farm. State Farm paid attendant care benefits to Villaflor due to the injuries he suffered, but at other times, State Farm would just stop paying insurance benefits, including attendant care.

This is a big problem for accident victims in Michigan, and something that I have written about frequently, because Michigan has no bad faith law or punitive damages to protect people when an insurance company just decides for no good reason to stop paying. In this case, Villaflor had already been forced to file three previous lawsuits against State Farm to recover overdue attendant care benefits. In each prior lawsuit, State Farm ended up paying Villaflor’s accrued attendant care benefits.

At other times, State Farm stopped paying benefits, requiring Villaflor file a lawsuit so payments would resume.

Again, people seriously injured in a car accident or truck accident and who qualify under the above definition, are entitled to attendant care in Michigan. You should consult with your attorney, or if your attorney is not familiar with AC, than talk with a Michigan lawyer who specializes in attendant care as soon as possible. Call Michigan Auto Law at (248) 353-7575 for a free case evaluation.

Keep in mind, courts require attendant care to be documented in specific ways, and there is a strict one-year statute of limitations for services that have already been rendered.

Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top attorneys handling serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest reported jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information:

17 Mistakes That Can Kill Your Auto Accident Case

Attendant Care Blogs

Attorney Video: Attendant Care Benefits Part II

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you.

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One Reply to “How to Preserve Your Attendant Care Rights in Michigan”

  1. The Community Choice Act of 2009 is the current version of a legislative effort by disabled people and their allies as well as Senate and House co-sponsors to ensure that people eligible for care in a nursing home are also able to receive attendant care in their own home, under a movement known as community-assisted living, or independent living, in which people with disabilities or the elderly live in their own homes with community “supports”.

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