With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us and the New Year coming soon, I’m taking this time to write about what Michigan can accident law can look for in 2015.
Unfortunately for Michigan motorists and citizens at large, you can bet the Michigan legislature will again attempt to “reform” the Michigan automobile no-fault law. A new legislature sits in Lansing in January, and due to term limits, this legislature will have many new faces with many new ideas.
This legislature remains firmly in Republican hands, as house Republicans gained a few seats in November’s election and the state Senate remains a Republican super-majority. Republican governor Rick Snyder begins his second term and will have the political power to make another run at the no-fault law, something he has wanted to do for four years now.
During Governor Snyder’s first term, the state legislature attempted twice to limit the generous no-fault benefits that are afforded Michigan motorists and motor vehicle passengers. Currently, Michigan no-fault car insurers who are primary must pay for all reasonable and customary medical expenses that are related to a car or truck accident. There is no dollar amount cap on medical expenses and there is no limit to the length of time the car insurance company must pay medical expenses.
In 2011, the legislature attempted to institute a $50,000 cap on all medical expenses. When these failed, Republican legislators introduced new proposals that increased the limit but still maintained a cap on medical expenses. These proposals also included changes to when insurers were obligated to pay medical expenses, a fee schedule that severely reduced the amount of money medical providers could charge for their services, as well as the amount of money family members were entitled to receive for taking care of their loved ones. All of these proposals died a quick death in committee.
In 2012 and 2013, similar proposals reemerged, again seeking to radically decrease the benefits Michigan car insurance companies were obligated to pay its policyholders and claimants when a car wreck or truck accident occurred. What was interesting about these proposals was although benefits were guaranteed to be stripped – there was no guarantee insurance rates for Michigan policyholders would drop. And based on the language in these proposals, any meaningful decrease in insurance rates was going to be offset by new fees. Again, these proposals died in committee.
However, like death and taxes, one can expect more bills to be introduced in the new legislative session that seek to impose more draconian restrictions on claimants seeking to obtain Michigan no-fault benefits and reductions in the available benefits.
The governor has stated repeatedly to the press and others he wishes to change the Michigan no-fault law. He has said this despite the protestations from hospitals and doctors throughout the state of Michigan.
He supports reducing available no-fault benefits despite the fact that instead of car insurance companies paying car accident related medical bills, Michigan taxpayers will get struck with the bill as accident victims seek health insurance coverage from Medicaid and Medicare following an accident.
He supports reducing available no-fault benefits despite the fact car insurance companies offer no guarantee they will lower car insurance rates for any meaningful amount of time.
It is expected these new proposals will be introduced sometime in the spring of 2015. Although prior bills have not passed – despite the fact both the state house an state senate where in Republican control – this new legislature appears to be more conservative than its predecessors.
Given this, it can be expected it will be more aggressive in its approach to ensuring some type of no-fault change is made, whether it’s through more pervasive arm twisting or more creative horse trading.