HB 4279 and 5938 would bar auto insurance premium increases based on a pothole damage claim and HB 5815-17 would allow drivers to recover $5,000 from MDOT
Potholes are the bane of every Michigan driver today. Likely the only thing more difficult for drivers than safely navigating around the crater-size holes on our roads is getting a pothole damage claim paid after a tire, wheel or suspension has been damaged.
The politicians vying to become Michigan’s next governor had a lot to say about “fixing the damn roads,” but for now that’s just talk that won’t turn into action – if it ever truly does – until after the November elections.
Drivers need help now with pothole damage claims.
Thankfully a few lawmakers in the House have introduced several smart and helpful pieces of legislation that propose pothole “fixes” that protect both drivers and their pocketbooks.
Specifically, the combined effect of House Bill 4279 and 5938 and House Bills 5815-17, if enacted, would be to:
- Prevent Michigan No-Fault auto insurance companies from increasing premiums based on an insured’s filing of a claim involving pothole damage to his or her vehicle.
- Make it easier to get pothole-related vehicle damage covered in a pothole damage claim against the Michigan Department of Transportation by increasing the maximum recovery amount from $1,000 to $5,000, by giving the MDOT only 7 days to repair potholes (not the existing 30-day period) and requiring the MDOT to create a pothole database (listing location and discovery date) on its website.
Keeping premiums down even after you’ve filed pothole damage claim
The big question that everyone wants to know when they’re thinking of bringing a pothole damage claim with their insurance company is whether filing a claim will cause their rates to go up.
Unfortunately, our auto accident attorneys’ experiences and our clients’ experiences – not to mention what we’ve heard from our blog’s readers and from commenters on social media – is that most insurance companies will raise premiums for a pothole damage claim. In fact, as an auto accident attorney, I even see insurance companies raise the premiums for my clients who are hit by someone else – even though they did nothing wrong!
But it doesn’t have to be this way – at least for pothole damage insurance claims.
If lawmakers pass House Bill 4279 and or House Bill 5938, pothole-related premium hikes will thankfully be a thing of the past.
These bills propose to stop insurers from financially punishing insureds for incurring vehicle damage caused by potholes that the insureds neither created nor have the power to fix:
- Introduced by Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) on Febraury 28, 2017, House Bill 4279 proposes that: “[A]n automobile insurer shall not establish or maintain a rate, rating classification, premium, or premium surcharge based on a prior claim for damage to the insured automobile caused by a pothole.”
- Introduced on May 8, 2018, by Rep. John Chirkun (D-Roseville) and Rep. Patrick Green (D-Warren) House Bill 5938 proposes that: “[A]n automobile insurer shall not establish or maintain a rate, rating classification, premium, or premium surcharge based on a prior claim in excess of any applicable deductible for damage to the insured automobile caused by a pothole.”
Getting the State of Michigan to pay more, pay more easily on a pothole damage claim
Currently, the Michigan Department of Transportation has a program for paying people’s pothole-related vehicle damage claims when the offending pothole is located on a “state trunkline” (i.e., highways or freeways designated with an “I”, U.S. or M such as I-94, U.S. 23 or M-14).
The program has its limits, however, and the limits are significant:
- The maximum recovery amount is $1,000.
- In order to overcome the state’s “governmental immunity,” a person will need to show the MDOT knew or should’ve known about the pothole and had time to repair the pothole – both of which are “presumed” if the pothole “existed … for a period of 30 days or longer before the injury took place.”
HB 5815-17 propose to make warranted and welcome changes to this program. The bills would:
- Introduced on April 17, 2018, by Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit), HB 5815 would require MDOT to “post [and update weekly] on its website a database of all potholes on state trunk line highways reported to the department using the department’s “report a pothole” online form or telephone hotline. The database shall include the date the pothole was reported and the location of the pothole.”
- Introduced on April 17, 2018, by Rep. Patrick Green (D-Warren), HB 5816 provides that MDOT’s “knowledge” of the pothole’s existence “and the time to repair the [pothole] is conclusively presumed if the [pothole] existed so as to be readily apparent to an ordinarily observant person for a period of 7 days or longer before the injury or damage took place.”
- Introduced on April 17, 2018, by Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township), HB 5817 proposes to increase the maximum recovery amount from $1,000 to $5,000 against the MDOT for pothole-related damage claims.