What You Need to Know: Michigan Motorcycle Accident Laws

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What You Need to Know: Michigan Motorcycle Accident Laws

michigan motorcycle accident laws

Motorcycle Accident Laws are always changing and that is no different in 2023. The Michigan motorcycle accident lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. want you to be aware of updates and reminders about motorcycle law. There are also proposed changes to the way motorcycle accident insurance claims may be handled soon.

Potential Changes in Michigan Motorcycle Accident Laws in 2023

There may be some critical changes to who pays Michigan no-fault benefits, or PIP benefits, when a motorcycle accident occurs that involves a car or truck.

First some background. Motorcycle accident victims are entitled to first-party Michigan PIP benefits so long as a “motor vehicle” was involved in the accident. A “motor vehicle” is defined by Michigan law as (i) “a vehicle, including a trailer, that is operated or designed for operation on a public highway by power other than muscular power and has more than 2 wheels.” In other words, a car or truck is a motor vehicle, but a motorcycle is not.

Under the law, if a motorcycle is an accident involving a motor vehicle – like a car or truck – then the motorcyclist and their passenger are eligible for Michigan first-party benefits.

After a Michigan Motorcycle Accident Who Pays First-Party Benefits?

 The insurance company responsible for paying first-party PIP benefits for a motorcycle crash victim is different than for car accident victims. For motorcycle crash victims, the order is the following:

  • The car insurer of the owner of the motor vehicle
  • The car insurer of the driver of the motor vehicle
  • The car insurer of the operator of the motorcycle involved in the crash
  • The car insurer of the owner or registrant of the motorcycle in the crash
  • Michigan Assigned Claims Plan

 So there is a specific order of who pays first-party benefits. Instead of going to your own auto insurance immediately like normal, a person injured on a motorcycle goes to the auto insurance carrier for the motor vehicle owner. If the owner doesn’t have auto insurance, but the driver does then the driver’s car insurance is on the hook.

If the car and driver are uninsured, only then does the auto insurance company for the motorcycle operator pay the claim. If the motorcycle owner doesn’t have car insurance, then an entity called the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan must pay first-party benefits.

The Big Problem with Michigan Motorcycle Accident Laws

There is a major problem with this law. A motorcycle driver is stuck with whatever amount of PIP coverage the car owner or driver selected for their own vehicle.

For example, you decide to go on a motorcycle ride during a beautiful afternoon when a car makes an illegal turn, causing you to ditch your bike and suffer horrible road rash and a broken arm.

You can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for pain and suffering. This is a standard negligence case and the driver’s or owner’s insurance must pay for these non-economic damages.

However, you are stuck with the PIP coverage the vehicle owner selected. Let’s say you have $500,000 in PIP coverage on your own truck. What you have doesn’t apply for first-party PIP benefits. Instead, you are struck with whatever amount of PIP coverage the car owner purchased. In many cases, this can be as low as $50,000. That is all you have to pay your medical bills, even though your own auto policy has $500,000. 

Will There Be Changes to the Motorcycle Accident Laws?

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The reality that you are stuck with whatever amount of insurance coverage the guy who hits happens to have doesn’t sit well with me or a lot of other people. These frustrations have been mentioned to the state government numerous times.

Recently, the state legislature is looking at drafts to change the order of priority of who pays PIP benefits after a motorcycle crash. Under the proposed changes, motorcyclists would be able to go to their own auto insurance for additional PIP benefits if the car owner has a lesser limit.

Michigan Motorcycle Helmet Law

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The motorcycle helmet law that was enacted over ten years ago still allows individuals ride without a helmet. However, to qualify a person must:

  • Be at least 21 years-old
  • Have had a motorcycle endorsement on their license for at least 2 years
  • Purchase medical coverage

A Detroit motorcycle accident lawyer can help explain the law to you and determine whether you qualify.

Crash Helmet Rules and Regulations

All crash helmets must be approved by the Michigan State Police. They also must meet minimum federal safety standards. Operating or riding on a motorcycle with a helmet that fails to meet the minimum safety standards can result in fines and tickets. 49 C.F.R. 571.218 explains in detail these requirements and why they are so important.

Motorcycle Insurance Coverage

The amount of motorcycle insurance a person must purchase depends on a few factors. First, all bodily injury insurance must be at least $50,000 per person or $100,000 per occurrence. This is the coverage that covers a motorcycle rider if they cause an accident.

In addition, motorcyclists and riders wearing helmets may purchase medical coverage in $5,000 increments. This coverage is paid by the motorcycle insurance company and pays for medical bills and hospital bills after a crash. This coverage is not required, but highly recommended.

If a motorcyclist and rider is not wearing a helmet, then $20,000 in medical coverage must be purchased. This is mandatory insurance coverage. Studies have shown that individuals who do not wear helmets suffer more severe injuries and costly medical treatment from an accident. The law recognizes this and makes individuals pay more to cover their risk.

Michigan Motorcycle Accident Lawyers You Can Trust

Our motorcycle accident attorneys at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. have obtained tens of millions for motorcycle accident victims. We specialize in Detroit motorcycle accident cases.

Call us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) for a free telephone consultation. We also never charge a fee until we get you paid for your injuries.