Facts & Ruling By Court:
A man was hauling waste to a landfill using his attached trailer. The tailgate would not open freely. The man pushed on the tailgate and it sprung open, causing him to lose his balance. He fell down into the landfill and suffered bodily injury requiring medical care. The no-fault act provides coverage for instances when your car is parked and your injury was a direct result of physical contact with equipment permanently mounted on the vehicle. MCL 500.3106(1)(b). The man’s auto no-fault insurer refused to pay his medical expenses because it believed that the stated rule did not apply arguing that the tailgate did not constitute “equipment” mounted on a vehicle as contemplated by the statute. (Note that the no-fault act includes in its definition of a “motor vehicle”, “a trailer” [MCL 500.3101(2)(e)]). The Court of Appeals disagreed with the defendant no-fault insurer and ruled in favor of the injured person, holding that that the tailgate did constitute “equipment” under the law. Left unanswered, the Court said that a jury must now decide whether the man’s injury suffered had a causal relationship to his opening of the tailgate “that is more than just incidental.”
What this means for injured persons and medical service providers:
First, in bodily injury scenarios factually similar to this case involving the opening of equipment mounted on a vehicle, submit your claim for payment for medical expenses to your no-fault insurer.
Second, the court’s decision illustrates that factual questions about the cause of an injury are not decided arbitrarily by a person’s no-fault insurance company or the court. Instead, such questions must be decided by fair-minded and unbiased jurors of your peers. Therefore, do not be deterred by a blanket denial by an auto insurer; instead, rightfully challenge its denial.
You can read this Opinion here.
Authored by L. Page Graves