Michigan’s law on van modifications
There’s an important new case on van modifications. For car accident lawyers and insurance lawyers helping people in litigation over van modifications or the purchase of handicapped accessible vans; and for lawyers with clients who have suffered spinal cord injuries and now require wheelchairs, this new No-Fault insurance case should have an immediate impact in settlement negotiations.
In the case, a Michigan car accident victim who suffered serious personal injury (including needing a wheelchair), is entitled to the full purchase price of a replacement van from his No-Fault insurance company. Under the Michigan No-Fault Act, the auto insurance company of the personal injury victim is required to purchase the entire vehicle, rather than only the cost of modifying a motor vehicle that was previously owned.
Transportation expense, including the purchase of a van under Michigan’s No-Fault Act still good law
Under Michigan’s No-Fault law, the cost of a modified van is considered an allowable expense for someone who has suffered serious personal injury and requires it. This has been the law in Michigan since Davis v. Citizens Ins Co, 195 Mich App 323 (1992).
A recent Michigan Court of Appeals case, Admire v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., digs up this issue in a different way.
The main issue in Admire v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co. was how the transportation expense requirement has been changed by Griffith v State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co, 472 Mich 521; (2005). In Admire, Auto Owners made the following argument based upon Griffith: because the plaintiff drove a motor vehicle before his car accident and the serious injuries that required the purchase of a modified van, that van is not a compensable benefit. In other words, if the plaintiff would have used a van before his car accident, then Auto Owners is not required to purchase or modify a van for him after the crash, because he drove before.
This silly argument – if a person would or could have used something before being seriously injured – would essentially negate any insurance company’s responsibility to pay for anything under the Michigan No-Fault Act. It ignores that now, after a car accident, a van has become required for a person’s care, recovery or rehabilitation. That’s the critical inquiry insurance lawyers must make to recover benefits.
Why Begin v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co. is an important No-Fault case
Also, this argument had been previously rejected in a prior No-Fault insurance case dealing with allowable expenses, called Begin v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co, 284 Mich App 581, (2009). Begin also ruled that Davis has not overruled by Griffith.
Begin stated that, in certain instances: ‘the product, service, or accommodation used by the injured person before an accident is so blended with another product, service, or accommodation that the whole cost is an allowable expense if it satisfies the statutory criteria of being sufficiently related to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident and if it is a reasonable charge and reasonably necessary for the injured person’s care, recovery, or rehabilitation under MCL 500.3107(1)(a).’ …
Michigan courts reject insurance companies’ efforts to avoid payment of vehicle modification
Admire v. Auto Owners is an extremely important No-Fault case. The Auto Owners argument, if adopted, would have blown a huge gaping hole in the Michigan No-Fault Act, the nation’s best insurance law. If the Auto Owners rationale had been accepted, an auto insurance company would be able to exclude paying for nearly anything that a severely injured person would need or require if it could show that a person used or could have used that product or service before his or her car accident.
To Auto Owners, it didn’t matter that the car accident victim was now in a wheelchair from his car accident, and required a modified transportation van to get to doctors appointments. Fortunately for everyone, and especially those who have suffered catastrophic injury and require attendant care, transportation, and home modifications, the courts in Admire and Begin have rejected this attempt to avoid payment.
As stated: “here plaintiff claimed, and presented evidence, that his transportation needs were different from those of an uninjured person and that the modified van for which he sought reimbursement was related to care necessitated by his injuries arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle.”
– Steven Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top insurance lawyers handling serious auto accident lawsuits. He writes about insurance company abuse and the Michigan No-Fault laws, and is available for comment.
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 (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our No-Fault insurance lawyers.