Stephen Sinas Leads Michigan No-Fault Insurance Webinar

Lansing auto accident attorney Stephen H. Sinas discussed the history, purpose and future of Michigan no-fault insurance, during a live webinar presented by Michigan Lawyers Weekly on July 25, 2017.

The program titled, “The State of No-Fault Insurance in Michigan,” was the first webinar that Michigan Lawyers Weekly has hosted, and Stephen was honored to be invited as the featured speaker.

Stephen is known as a leading authority on Michigan no-fault law. He is recognized across the state for his representation of individuals who are injured in auto accidents, semi-truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and bicycle accidents — all of which often trigger no-fault PIP benefits.

Michigan No-Fault Law: Purpose & Notable Judicial Changes

Because Michigan no-fault insurance is mandatory for motorists, Stephen explained that insurance rates need to be equitable and fair for everyone. He also pointed to several important judicial interpretations of the the No-Fault Act, including:

  • Devillers v ACIA, 473 Mich 562 (2005), and Joseph v ACIA, 491 Mich 200 (2012) — The Michigan Supreme Court strictly enforced the one-year-back rule, holding those exceptions to the limitations period for mentally incapacitated persons and minors do not apply.
  • Moore v Secura, 482 Mich 507 (2008) — The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a no-fault insurer is not obligated to reconcile the conflicting medical opinions of the insurer’s independent medical examiner and the injured person’s own treating doctor.
  • Griffith v State Farm, 472 Mich 521 (2005) — The Michigan Supreme Court overruled prior caselaw that allowed room and board as no-fault benefits. As a result of this decision, courts began evaluating no-fault PIP benefits under MCL 500.3107(1)(a) a bit differently.
  • Admire v Auto Owners Ins Co, 494 Mich 10 (2013) — The Michigan Supreme Court established a new standard for allowable expenses under MCL 500.3107(1)(a), overruling prior caselaw that allowed the base price of a handicap accessible van to be recovered as no-fault benefits.

In addition, Stephen discussed the May 25, 2017 Michigan Supreme Court decision in Covenant v State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins Co. In that case, Covenant sought to recover payment under the No-Fault Act for the medical treatment it had provided State Farm’s insured, who was injured in a Michigan auto accident. The Michigan Supreme Court held that:

“healthcare providers do not possess a statutory cause of action against no-fault insurers for recover of personal protection insurance benefits under the no-fault act.”

While the overall impact of Covenant is yet to be determined, Stephen noted the decision stands for several things:

  • healthcare providers have various options to pursue unpaid medical bills: 1) assignment of past-due benefits; 2) third-party beneficiary theory; and 3) file a lawsuit against the patient.
  • individuals can file claims against their Michigan no-fault insurer to recover medical expenses.
  • it remains to be seen whether a medical provider can intervene in an insured’s suit against the insurance company.

Meanwhile, Stephen also talked about so-called “bad behavior” in no-fault insurance claims, such as fraudulent claims filed by insureds. In particular, he referred to Bahri v IDS Property Casualty Ins Co, 308 Mich App 420 (2014), where a no-fault policy was completely voided due to the insured’s fraudulent claim. He also discussed bad-faith claims handling by insurance carriers. He explained that insurers can be penalized for improperly denying a claim through penalty interest and attorney fees (which can sometimes be difficult to recover). He noted, however, that insurance companies cannot be sued for damages under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

Public Perception Of Michigan No-Fault Insurance

During the webinar, Stephen touched on the public’s opinion of Michigan no-fault insurance and the attempts over the years to reform the system. It was noted that, according to an Insurance Alliance of Michigan poll, 72% of respondents believe no-fault needs reformed and 79% support changing the system to reduce auto insurance premiums.

Stephen pointed out that discussions are currently underway to reform Michigan’s no-fault insurance system … for the benefit of everyone involved.

So what does the future hold for no-fault insurance in Michigan? Stephen emphasized that, while reforms are certainly needed to improve the system, Michigan no-fault insurance is still considered the best in the nation.

If you’ve been injured in a car crash and have questions about your no-fault insurance benefits, contact one of our experienced Lansing car accident lawyers or Grand Rapids auto accident attorneys today. We’ll help you get the compensation and benefits you deserve.