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Real stories about auto No Fault saving lives

October 3, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

How No Fault has saved lives is what House Insurance Committee, Rep. Lana Theis need to hear, not politicians’ half-truths and outright lies on HB 5013

Michigan’s No Fault insurance has helped save thousands of lives. But you wouldn’t know it from the House Insurance Committee hearings this morning. They were conspicuously absent during the hearing this morning before the House Insurance Committee on House Bill 5013, the No Fault reform plan advanced by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt).

Remarkably, not one of the bill’s proponents this morning — neither Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, nor House Insurance Committee Chair Lana Theis (R-Brighton, who is the official sponsor of the bill), nor DIFS Director Patrick McPhalin — spent any time talking about the benefits of No Fault and what it has meant to the people who it has helped.

As a No Fault insurance attorney who has devoted his legal career to helping injured auto accident victims, I have seen how Michigan’s auto No Fault insurance system can change people’s lives. I know the people. They are my clients.  I also practice law in other states outside of Michigan, focusing on catastrophic truck accident injury cases, so I’ve seen how people fare in states that do not have No Fault insurance. I’ve seen how poor the quality of care can be in these states. I’ve know how hard it is to find excellent care for traumatic brain injury or a serious spinal cord injury. I’ve seen how people are warehoused in Medicaid assisted care facilities in states without our insurance laws. I’ve seen good people who cannot receive the medical care they need. Outcomes have changed. Lives have changed.

Below I want to share some of what I’ve heard and that I wish the politicians at the hearing on House Bill 5013 on the Duggan-Theis No Fault reform plan this morning would have had the opportunity to hear.

How would a cap on No Fault car insurance benefits affect car crash victims?

Here is a comment from Angela Essick Dykes in response to our recent Facebook post, “Are you in favor of going from unlimited No Fault medical benefits to a $25,000 cap that encompasses not just medical, but wage loss, replacement services and survivor’s loss benefits, too?”:

“I’d be dead or in a nursing home without coverage since Jan 2008. … I am independent, walking, and working 3-4 hours/week now. Prior to MVA, I ran marathons, owned a thriving private practice business, taught 2 courses at a university, & was on my way to earning a nursing degree to prepare for retirement years by serving in world relief aid. I’ve worked HARD to get to where I am today. This would not have been possible without no-fault benefits. Whoever votes for lower rates is voting for death sentences for many MI citizens … Holding my sleeping 10 month old grandchild uses all of my strength. I am 56 years old. I am grateful for auto no-fault insurance. It allowed me to meet this precious child.”

What effect will car insurance reform’s attendant care restrictions have?

In response to our Facebook post, “Who benefits from capping in-home, family-provided attendant care benefits to 2 days/week for car crash victims whose doctors have prescribed 24/7 care?,” Dawn Reeves and Tracy Goline posted the following reactions:

  • Dawn Reeves: “I’ve provided attendant care for my husband. It could have been catastrophic if he didn’t have it. I pray that none of the people that are fighting to cut it never needs it. They will absolutely have a different opinion if they do.”
  • Tracy Goline: “I have been a caregiver for my husband, with a part time aide, for the last ten years. He’s a survivor of a TBI. I cannot imagine where he would be today had he been forced into a facility. Honestly, he would probably not be with us today.”

What does a former insurance industry insider think of capping No Fault car insurance benefits?

Here’s what Sandra Mabry, a former insurance adjuster for AAA, told Michigan Auto Law in response to our blog post, “Duggan, Leonard No Fault PIP Cap is $25K — not the $250K they promise”:

“In 1973, auto No Fault came into being because AAA pushed it. At that time, there was a max in medical that you could purchase. Back then, around $25,000 max. For a catastrophic injury, that was nothing. The injured party had to sue the at-fault driver to recoup financially. It was a long drawn out battle.

“So, AAA lobbied to have Auto No Fault. They saw what happens to the families who were truly hurt by the policy coverage prior to No Fault and felt it needed to be changed. They lobbied hard and, eventually, it passed.

“Since 1973, No fault has been there to help the injured person get through these horrible injuries with the care, treatment, medical equipment and a 3-year period of wage loss.

“I was there when this all came about, at that time, just as an adjuster. Eventually, I was able to work in their medical management unit, which handled catastrophic cases for the state for AAA. I worked in that unit for 20 years. It was the best education I ever received. You see, I didn’t just sit at a desk and pay bills. I went to the hospitals and met with the families, went to team meetings, went to their homes and built rewarding relationships with most of the families cases I handled. It was distressing to meet with the mother of a woman whose twin daughters were in ICU with head injuries and her 2-month-old died. Those are moments I will never ever forget.

“Fast forward to now. I keep hearing the irresponsible comments from politicians: ‘We have the highest auto insurance rates in the country’! You bet we do, and we have the best auto coverage in the United States. So, when you hear that comment ask yourself: Do you want to have a policy that really truly covers you if you have an injury in an accident or one that might leave you in a financial bind once your $25,000 is gone? Trust me, it won’t take but a bat of an eye to spend that money. Interestingly enough, Mayor Duggan knows how much catastrophic cases cost. After all, he has been in the inside of a hospital and knows the cost.

“Keep in mind folks, when you’re told your Medicare will cover your bills if you’re a senior citizen, ah no it won’t. You see, the Federal government does not cover auto accidents. So, don’t count on that.

“The caps on the attempt to reform No fault will bring us full circle right back to the 1970’s – prior to No Fault. When families will have to sue the at-fault driver for a limited amount of dollars. It appears that the politicians against No Fault don’t want that either. It’s absolutely shameful. Keep in mind, even if you sue the driver at-fault depending on his liability coverage that will be limited.

“There is no guarantee that the insurance company won’t raise rates again if they have their way and dump Auto No Fault. Trust me, they will find a way.

“I have seen No Fault do fantastic things for people. I believe in it and find it disgusting that it is being used as a political football for those who want to advance their careers. No one can sit down with anyone for 10 or 15 minutes and explain Auto No Fault. It is laws, policy [and] rules … I wrote this because I want people to get an idea of what is involved and how it evolved in the first place. I will leave you with this thought: Everyday when you leave the house, you never know what will happen. Pray it will never be you that is in the situation so many people are that are tragically injured from an auto accident.” – Sandra Mabry

It’s important to note that under the Duggan-Leonard No Fault auto insurance reform plan, also known as “Driver’s Choice Insurance Reform,” victims whose medical expenses exceed the $25,000 cap will have no right to sue the at-fault driver for “excess” medical.

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