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Michigan’s new insurance commissioner is bad choice for consumers, car accident victims

May 21, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Insurance lawyer doubts R. Kevin Clinton will tackle high auto insurance premiums and insurance company abuse

Michigan has a new insurance commissioner, and following my list of the worst insurance companies in Michigan, I don’t see him being the right man for the job. There are two areas where Michigan drivers and consumers still desperately need help:

1) They’re struggling to pay high auto insurance premiums.
Insurance companies make record-breaking profits in Michigan. And Michigan is one of the only states in the nation with an insurance commissioner who does not have the power to regulate the amount of profits insurance companies make. So insurance companies charge more here than they do in other states where excessive profits can be regulated by state insurance commissioners.

2) Michigan consumers have no protection from insurance company abuse and bad faith practices.
Michigan is again one of the only states without bad faith laws, punitive damages, or a consumer protection act that applies to the state’s auto insurance companies. There’s very little deterrence to stop them from mistreating customers and unethically or unlawfully handling insurance claims. And that means that many Michigan residents are treated worse here than in many other states by claims adjusters, because they know there is very little additional punishment other than being forced to pay the claim if the person hires an insurance lawyer.

And don’t expect changes from R. Kevin Clinton, the state’s new insurance commissioner, on either of these fronts. Clinton, a former insurance company CEO, will now be overseeing the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR).

In a press release, Gov. Rick Snyder announced that Clinton’s “first priority is to make sure consumers are protected by making sure financial institutions are sound.”

Well, Governor, not much to worry about there, since the bipartisan, independent Angoff Commission said Michigan’s insurance companies lead the entire nation in profitability. Want to cut auto insurance premiums for Michigan consumers? How about looking into the amount of profits insurance companies make charging for a product – auto No-Fault insurance – that citizens are required by law to purchase?

Gov. Snyder also said that Clinton will “lead our effort to eliminate burdensome regulations that are preventing the industry from growing. More insurance companies doing business in the state means more jobs, more competition among insurance companies and banks, and better rates for consumers.”

Less regulation? For Michigan’s auto insurance companies?

How Michigan auto insurance companies treat car accident victims

I’d like to invite Gov. Snyder or the new OFIR head, R. Kevin Clinton, to spend one week with me in my law offices. Michigan’s insurance companies treat car accident victims terribly, far worse than in most states that have laws that better protect consumers from insurance company bad faith practices.

Here are just a couple of countless examples:

Insurance company dupes victims into signing releases – forfeiting their rights to No-Fault benefits

Insurance company sells coverage is has NO intention of providing

Protecting consumers through regulation is after all, what the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) is supposed to do. That’s why it is called the Office of Insurance Regulation.

It is not the Office of Insurance de-regulation. If Gov. Snyder would like, I can introduce him to dozens of auto accident victims who are sent to notorious insurance medical exam “cut-off” doctors (IMEs) within weeks of a terrible car accident. These IMEs then stop critical medical insurance benefits and wage loss, despite dozens of independent treating doctors saying these insurance benefits are desperately needed. I can show him people who’s insurance claims adjusters just decided one day to stop paying desperately needed No-Fault insurance benefits, forcing these people into desperate financial straits.

Michigan needs more auto insurance regulation – not less

Sorry, governor. When it comes to insurance companies, Michigan needs more regulation, not less. Oh, and “bringing in jobs?” Michigan has one of the most lax and least regulated auto insurance industries in the nation. Anyone see how this lack of regulation has resulted in either job creation or lowering our auto insurance premiums over the last 16 years?

Insurance premiums have gone up, up, up – despite having no punitive damages, no meaningful bad faith laws, no consumer protection act and the most draconian and harshest auto accident injury threshold law in the nation.

There is a major disconnect with how Gov. Snyder campaigned, and his actions so far as governor. This man campaigned as an independent moderate Republican. His actions to date, including appointing Justice Zahra to the Michigan Supreme Court (Zahra’s judicial record is extremely pro-insurance company and anti-consumer and injury victims) and now appointing Kevin Clinton (the president and CEO of East Lansing-based American Physicians Capital, a physicians’ malpractice insurance company) to a job that is supposed to regulate and protect Michigan consumers from insurance company abuse, is disappointing.

Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top No-Fault insurance lawyers handling serious auto accident lawsuits. He writes about insurance company abuse and the insurance laws in Michigan, and is available for comment.

Related information:

Michigan No-Fault law under attack

Three potential cases for Michigan car accidents

Michigan No-Fault Act

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. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our insurance lawyers.

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