Articles Posted in Auto Insurance

Everyone loves saving money, but it could cost you if your current means of doing so include not listing all drivers of your vehicle on your insurance policy. SMDA recently worked a case where the insurance company claimed they were entitled to deny no-fault insurance benefits to our client because he allegedly was not listed as a named insured on his commercial vehicle automobile insurance policy. The company attempted to apply the holding from the Court of Appeals in Barnes v Farmers, 308 Mich App 1 (2014), to this case involving a commercial policy to ask the Court to rule that our client was not entitled to receive No-Fault insurance benefits following a collision. However, the Court determined that the Barnes case only pertained to personal automobile insurance policies and not commercial policies. Since the SMDA client was operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the accident, the holding from Barnes was inapplicable to our client. However, our case should act as a good reminder for anyone, especially families, with a personal No-Fault automobile insurance policy to list all drivers of the car on the policy, no matter how little time they spend in it and here’s why:

Background

The Barnes case resulted from a car accident involving the owner and driver of a vehicle who applied for No-Fault benefits from the company that issued the insurance policy on her vehicle. The Plaintiff and her mother were the sole owners of the vehicle. However, the No-Fault insurance policy covering their vehicle was purchased by the mother’s friend, as he was also using the car in order to assist the mother who was disabled. That person was the only named insured driver on the policy. After the daughter was injured in a collision, the insurance company denied the claim stating that she was an owner of the vehicle and she had failed to to maintain insurance on her car which is a requirement to obtain no-fault automobile insurance benefits following a collision. The car she was operating was insured under the friend’s name. However, she was the owner and operator of the car but she was was not listed on the personal no-fault insurance policy and thus not entitled to any benefits. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case and the Court of Appeals upheld this ruling meaning that whatever the injured driver/owner of the car saved by not being listed on the policy, she lost far more in No-Fault benefits following this collision.   

SMDA is pleased to update the status of the victory in the trial win against the auto insurer of a grieving family of their minor daughter who was seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision.  SMDA tried this case to verdict and successfully defended the case in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.  The case was tried over three days in August of 2015.  SMDA, with the assistance of counsel for Mary Free Bed Hospital and Covenant Health Care, won a verdict of over one million dollars following a hard fought trial. Plaintiff’s daughter, who passed away in a house fire before trial, was 15 years old at the time of the crash.  She sustained serious injuries as a result of a single car accident while she was on her way to school.  Her right to receive automobile no-fault insurance benefits rested on whether or not the she had permission to drive the car.  Since the insurance company alleged that she did not have permission and thus was not entitled to receive any benefits from her mother’s automobile insurance policy, it was their burden to explicitly prove she took the car without her parents’ permission. Although her mother initially stated that her daughter had taken the car without permission, under testimony both parents and the minor plaintiff unequivocally testified that she had permission to take the family car.  The insurance company also argued that permission could not be legally granted because the minor only had a permit and she could not legally operate the vehicle without a licensed adult in the car.  

 

At trial, her mother, who is a rehabilitation nurse, admitted that she initially told the Defendant Insurance Company adjustor that her daughter didn’t have permission to take the car.  However, she indicated that she was afraid that if she admitted that she allowed her daughter to take the car, she would be criminally prosecuted and she would be unable to take care of her daughter. Her father also testified that his daughter had permission to take the car on that day and that she had been given permission to take the car a number of times previously.  With the testimony of both of the client’s parents, and the client’s own testimony presented through testimony provided before she passed away from an unrelated house fire, and the testimony of a half dozen eyewitness that she had driven the car alone without supervision before the accident, and some who were present when her parents gave her permission to do so, the lawyers from SMDA were able to win the case in favor of the teen. After a three day trial, the jury awarded the estate of the injury victim $246,897.00 in overdue benefits and another $1,018,467.00 to Covenant Medical Center Inc. and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for a total verdict of $1,265,364.00.  

 

After the trial, the defendant filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals alleging that the teen had illegally taken the car, consequently nullifying her ability to make a claim.  However, the Court of Appeals held that the specific wording of the statute which, when analyzed, requires that whoever operates the vehicle only need to acquire it by legal means regardless of whether or not they operate it legally in order to qualify for no-fault insurance benefits. Since SMDA proved that the minor driver had received permission to “take” the car, regardless of the fact that she only had a permit, the appeal was denied.  Now that the Supreme Court refused defendant’s request to hear the case, this matter has finally been resolved once and for all allowing the family the closure they deserve.  

ot many people know about uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist coverage covers you when you are injured as a result of a driver who did not have insurance, a hit and run driver, or a driver of a stolen car. Uninsured motorist coverage is provided by your own insurance company. The cost of this coverage is usually nominal and should be considered when purchasing auto insurance.

Underinsured motorist coverage allows you to recover from your own insurance company, money to pay for damages incurred from an at-fault driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages. Not enough people elect to have this type of coverage, but it is important to consider because these situations are far too common.

The Michigan No-Fault law provides in pertinent part: An insurer providing personal protection insurance benefits shall offer, at appropriately reduced premium rates, deductibles and exclusions, reasonably related to other health and accident coverage on the insured.

Case law supports that there was no intent by the Legislature when it mandated that no-fault carriers make available coordinated coverage at a reduced cost to correspondingly prohibit health insurers from including coordination of benefits clauses in the coverage provided by the health insurance policy. As a matter of contract interpretation, a no-fault insured is not entitled to receive duplicate payment for medical expense where the insured had elected uncoordinated benefits under his no-fault policy, but his health insurance policy contained a coordination of benefits clause.

The option of choosing between uncoordinated or coordinated no-fault automobile insurance does not exist for an individual who does not have underlying health or accident insurance that applies to automobiles. That individual must pay the higher premium for uncoordinated no-fault insurance. Therefore, the individual who is unemployed or does not have employment that provides health insurance must purchase uncoordinated no-fault insurance.

In Michigan, if you are involved in a car accident that was caused by another driver, you are entitled to recover up to $1000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You must contact the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident and ask for the mini tort coverage. You should include photos of your vehicle, estimate of repairs, the police report, and a declaration sheet from your own automobile insurance company.

When you are involved in an accident that was caused by someone else, the at fault driver should your deductible and then your auto insurance will cover the remainder of the damages.

If you have been involved in a car accident, call SMDA law today and we can help you recover the money you are entitled to.

If you are involved in a car accident that was caused by another driver, you are entitled to recover money for the damages. Michigan has a mini tort law in which a victim of a car accident can recover up to $1000 for damage caused to his/her car. This amount is recovered from the automobile insurance company of the driver who caused the accident. You, or your attorney, must contact and make a claim with the at fault driver’s insurance company and request the money. This amount is to cover your deductible, and then your own insurance company should cover for the remaining damage.

If you are involved in an accident caused by another driver, you should not have to pay any money out of your own pocket. Be sure to contact the proper insurance company to receive your money.