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Readers sound off: Farm Bureau, State Farm requiring people in motorized wheelchairs to have auto insurance

August 6, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

“It defies human decency. So blatantly appalling.”

State Farm, Delay, Deny, Defend

In a Macomb County lawsuit, State Farm has denied No Fault benefits to a paralyzed, elderly man named George Veness who was struck by a car as he crossed the street in his motorized wheelchair — because he did not have No Fault insurance for his wheelchair! Farm Bureau has joined State Farm in its position that Mr. Veness should be barred from receiving No Fault (PIP) benefits, but Farm Bureau has added that George Veness should be barred from receiving any legal compensation whatsoever from the at-fault driver who hit him to boot.

In doing so, State Farm and Farm Bureau have taken the startling new position that the elderly, the disabled and the injured who don’t have Michigan No Fault auto insurance for their motorized wheelchairs (never mind that it doesn’t seem to even exist, as best I can tell) should be treated as “uninsured motorists” under Michigan law. For more information on the serious implications this could have on people who use motorized wheelchairs, take a look at my blog post, “Are all elderly and disabled people in Michigan who use motorized wheelchairs ‘uninsured motorists’?”

Reader feedback to the blogs I’ve written about this case has been passionate – and we’ve received a multitude of comments. Today, I want to share some of the comments we’ve received from our Michigan Auto Law Facebook post in regards to the State Farm and Farm Bureau injustice:

Terry Johnston:As a licensed P&C agent in Michigan, I have never wrote for a company that even carried wheel chair insurance. It doesn’t exist. You may be able to add the chair to your home policy like a bicycle but there is nothing with liability or PIP coverage for a wheel chair. These companies make good agents like me look bad.”

Marti Riggins: “A wheelchair is modified ambulation, therefore he Is a pedestrian. You don’t need special insurance to walk across the road!”

Shannon Dawn: “Appalling. ..isn’t he a pedestrian still? Isn’t that discrimination?”

Seán Murphy: “Like a good neighbor my [email protected]@.”

Scott Shappee: “Let’s all pray for a common sense decision on this.”

Peggy Purcell: “Insurance companies spend more money fighting to get out of paying claims than….paying claims. Ridiculous.”

Chrissy Foster Call: “Another day and another State Farm horror story. Unbelievable!”

Tom Constand: “It defies human decency. So blatantly appalling.”

In addition, I was interviewed as an attorney expert last week in Bloomberg Business News on this case, “Insurers Claim Granny Scooters Must Be Covered – Just Like Cars.”

The reader comments in Bloomberg echoed the comments above. Here are a few:

c.g.: “Just another way the insurance companies try to get out of paying for claims…..ridiculous, but if it goes to the Supreme Court….they will probably win….those judges lean so far towards big corporations it is surprising they can even stand up straight. This country has always been overshadowed by corporations, but now they have the Supreme Court in their pocket so any restraints they showed in the past are over.”

Originalmouse: “They’re pedestrians. is Stephen Hawking an operator of a motor vehicle? He can only move his eyes, for crying out loud! They have to be classed as pedestrians. the scooters are designed to be used where people walk. if drivers aren’t seeing them, we need those drivers off the road anyway. Duh.”

Evan Rosenberg:The big problem is that the insurance companies are just on the hook for their policy limits and for large claims have no incentive to honor their contracts, rather, they clog the courts with cases as a deliberate delaying tactic, oftentimes “settling on the courthouse steps” after obtaining years of delay in paying the claim. In my travels I met a young man who worked for what he described as “one of the big three” insurers and let me know that they have a database of jurisdictions where the courts and the rules governing trials in those jurisdictions give them preferential treatment. Have an accident in one of those jurisdictions and they won’t offer you a reasonable settlement, have an accident in a jurisdiction where the victim will get a fair trial, they’ll settle with you quickly.”

Related information:

State Farm’s treatment of wheelchair-bound man so outrageously “unbelievable” it couldn’t be made up

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