For years, bikers have relied on the Michigan No-Fault Act to protect them when motorcycle accidents with vehicles cause them serious injuries. But the recent Michigan no-fault reform law has raised questions about how motorcyclists’ medical expenses will be paid for, or if bikers will be taking a risk every time they get on the bike.
Motorcycle Accidents Cause Serious Injuries to Bikers
Every year, thousands of Michigan motorcyclists are seriously injured when their bikes collide with motor vehicles on the road. There were 2,648 motorcycle accidents in 2018 alone. Nearly 2,325 people were injured and 134 died from those injuries.
Motorcycle accidents often cause some of the most severe injuries. Bikers are all too easily thrown from their motorcycles to hit the pavement of the road. That can cause head and spinal injuries, snap bones, and cause the kinds of catastrophic injuries that change lives and end livelihoods.
Bikers Rely on the No-Fault Benefits of Others in a Crash
In years past, the Michigan legislature had carved out motorcycles from the list of “motor vehicles” covered under the No-Fault Act. That means that bikers are not required to maintain the same personal injury protection coverage as vehicle owners (though they are legally required to maintain liability insurance to cover damage caused to other people and property). Instead, when a motorcyclist is injured in a collision related to a motor vehicle, the motorcyclist is entitled to claim no-fault benefits under the policy:
- Of the owner of a motor vehicle involved in the crash
- Of the driver of a motor vehicle involved in the crash
- Covering their own motor vehicles as the operator of the motorcycle
- Covering the motor vehicles of the owner of the motorcycle
Benefits must be sought in that order (called priority). That means unlike drivers, passengers, non-motorized bicyclists, or even pedestrians, motorcyclists rely on the no-fault benefits of others before turning to their own policies.
Michigan No-Fault Reform Leaves Questions About Motorcycle Accident Benefits
And that has Michigan bikers nervous. On Friday, May 24, 2019, the legislature passed the Michigan No-Fault reform law that has been in the works in one form or another for years. Senate Bill 1 will roll into effect in stages. Some aspects are already the law of the state. Others will go into effect over the course of the next year.
The biggest change is that the Michigan No-Fault Reform will allow drivers to opt to purchase less than unlimited PIP benefits. Under current Michigan law, an insurance provider is legally required to pay for 100% of any reasonable and necessary medical expenses arising out of an accident involving a motor vehicle. But starting in 2020, insurers will be allowed to provide drivers with options for lower coverage, at lower premiums. The lowest tier would provide only $50,000 in PIP coverage and only applies to drivers receiving Medicaid. Other drivers may choose PIP caps of $250,000 or $500,000, or choose to continue unlimited coverage.
When drivers choose lower PIP caps, they may be counting on the fact that their health insurance or personal savings will cover the difference. But motorcyclists don’t get that same choice. Their benefits will be tied to the choices made by whoever hit them. Under the currently passed bill, it isn’t even clear whether motorcyclists will be allowed to turn to their own no-fault coverage or optional PIP motorcycle insurance to make up the difference after the first-priority payer’s benefit cap is reached. And that could leave bikers holding the bill for accidents beyond their control, even when they have done everything they can to protect themselves.
The rush to pass the Michigan no-fault reform has left legislators, litigators, and residents with many questions about how the new insurance plans will cover the victims of motorcycle accidents and other motor vehicle collisions. Legislators have one year to close the gaps. Then it will be up to personal injury attorneys and judges to wade through the new law and find protection those hurt by the changes.
The Macomb Law Group, is a personal injury law firm in Clinton Township, MI. Our attorneys can help you review your options and collect benefits after a motorcycle accident. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured, contact Macomb Law Group and get our team working for you.