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The Michigan Legislature is, again, debating a proposal to raise the speed limits for state and county roadways.  The package of bills (HB 4423  thru 4427) have been passed by the House Transportation Committee (Chaired by Republican, Peter Pettalia, District 106) and will now be considered and debated by the full House.  A comprehensive legislative analysis of the bills and “the 85th Percentile” rationale by the House Fiscal Agency can be found here.  Increasing the speed limit raises safety questions for Michigan motorists.  Political alliances are forming for and against the proposal; one partisan hypothesis by the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy (in favor of the bills) cynically charges that those who oppose the bills — citing safety concerns  — are actually, just privately motivated by financial loss if the bills are implemented.  Meanwhile, the MDOT is on record confirming that its studies factually prove that higher speeds lead to more serious accidents.  We will continue to monitor and report about the status of this important legislation that will impact us all.

Authored by L. Page Graves

The Michigan Court of Appeals has strengthened medical service providers’ rights under the Michigan No-Fault Act.  On October 22, 2015, the court published a recent decision which upheld Covenant Medical Center’s claim against State Farm.  Specifically, Covenant had notified State Farm of its billings and its claim for payment.  Unbeknownst to Covenant, State Farm then negotiated a settlement with the patient.  When Covenant filed its lawsuit to collect, State Farm attempted to avoid liability because the insured patient had released State Farm from any liability.  In rejecting State Farm’s disingenuous ploy to avoid liability, the court relied upon the plain language of the no-fault statute, section 3112, which makes plainly clear that when the insurer has written “notice of the claim of some other person”, the insurer’s liability is not extinguished.  Critical to the court’s holding and application of the statute was the fact that Covenant’s written notice preceded State Farm’s settlement with its insured.  The case is titled Covenant Medical Center v State Farm and can be found here.  For more information about this case and how it can either help or harm medical service providers, please contact us for a free consultation, in that regard.

Authored by L. Page Graves

With the growth and development progressing from Acme, east toward Kalkaska, the MDOT has elected to redesign M-72 to include roundabouts.  While MDOT proclaims roundabouts will decrease accidents and improve safety, a closer reading of its own exhaustive study reveals that the facts are not necessarily conclusive.  In fact, to quote directly from its study, MDOT cautions readers to keep in “mind that these results do not account for regression-to-the-mean, traffic volumes or the decreasing time trend in crashes in Michigan so these results should not be used to make conclusions about the effectiveness of roundabouts in Michigan.”  Further, lack of lane discipline, speeding and unfamiliarity with location were all contributing factors that resulted in roundabout crashes.   Needless to say, the jury is still out on whether roundabouts improve the safety of the general public.  At its core, however, — as always — is driver behavior which is paramount for the safety of us all.

Authored by L. Page Graves

 

It is striking to both see first-hand and then also hear a witness defensively testify that he was “driving the posted speed limit”, albeit in poor weather conditions, poor light (e.g., nighttime driving) or even around a curve on a road.  The basic speed law is one that governs speed for the conditions present; the posted speed limit is only for optimum conditions (the driving environment).  Driving for conditions allows a motorist to maintain absolute control.  Failure to drive for conditions can lead to tragic consequences.  It is a simple rule that saves lives.

Authored by L. Page Graves

The nice weather is upon us. Naturally, with that, so are avid motorcycle enthusiasts and cyclists. Sadly, although a motorcyclist or bicyclist is generally highly prudent and safe consciously aware of the road environment, this common Michigan traveler on the roadway seems to be the one missed, more than the one seen. Accredited motorcyclist and cyclist organizations promote high visibility programs to enhance safety for all. Studies show that high visibility clothing and accessories lower the risk to the motorcyclist or cyclist. Vehicle motorists must always still be aware of motorcyclists and cyclists on the roadway; revisiting the 10 common rules for safe coexistence, is always recommended. When a motorcyclist or cyclist is, regretfully, involved in a crash with a motor vehicle, special legal rights attach under Michigan’s compulsory automobile no-fault insurance system. Accident victims are welcomed to contact Smith & Johnson, Attorneys, P.C., for a free consultation to learn their legal rights.

Authored by L. Page Graves

In 2012, the Michigan Legislature passed and Gov. Snyder signed into law, a new Michigan Assigned Claims Plan for No-fault Benefits. The new law modifies the administration of the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan. Formerly, the plan was administered by and through the Secretary of State. Now, under the new law, it is administered through the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility. The administrative transfer became effective on December 17, 2012. From this day forward, all potential MACP claims shall be submitted to the new MAIPF. You can read more about the MAIPF here. And the Application for No-Fault Benefits under the plan can be found here (and also can be found on the website). For more questions or information regarding the new MAIPF, please contact us directly.

Authored by L. Page Graves

Yesterday, the Michigan Supreme Court did away with the long-held rule of protecting minors and the infirm in no-fault claims.   This legal issue has literally been a political ping-pong match with the balance of the court changing so much since 1999.   Since 1973 — when the no-fault act was enacted — it had always been the rule to protect this class of persons.

In 2006, however, AAA of Michigan got its request granted when the new court created a new rule that no longer protected minors and the infirm.  This directly impacted medical providers because their unpaid claims approaching one year were now at risk.  If not paid or a lawsuit filed, those unpaid claims became barred under no-fault.  Resorting to Medicare or Medicaid or writing off as bad debt were the only remaining options.

The old no-fault law protecting this class of persons was restored in 2010 when the U of M Hospital challenged the new rule.  But now the political ping pong has been hit back in Joseph v ACIA .  Once again, children, the infirm and their medical service providers must adhere to the one-year-back-rule for no-fault claims.

Authored by L. Page Graves

In the 1992 and 1994 Michigan statewide elections, many remember the no-fault insurance industry’s ballot initiatives (Proposals C and D) which sought to dramatically convert Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance system into managed care funded by tax payers.  These efforst were resoundingly defeated by the people of Michigan.  See the Official election results here.

After 17 years of dormancy, the no-fault insurance industry viewed Michigan’s current political landscape and climate ripe again to institute its wish list to keep more premium dollars while shifting the burden of paying for accident victims’ medical care to the taxpayers, i.e., the state and federal treasury (Medicaid and Medicare).  Instead of asking and involving the people of Michigan directly at the ballot booth, the no-fault industry has used its political influence to package its desired goals into Michigan House Bill 4936.

For a thorough summary and analysis of the bill’s current devastating impact on patient and provider rights and our local economy, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, by Tim Smith, of Smith & Johnson, Attorneys, P.C.

To understand the real life impact that our current no-fault system provides for and how it would drastically change, meet and listen to Katie’s and Katlin’s stories about how our no-fault system has changed their lives for the better.

Fortunately for now, HB 4936 has stalled thanks primarily to the efforts of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and the Brain Injury Association of Michigan who have educated Michigan legislators about this important issue.  Locally, Munson Medical Center has similarly contributed to educating the public and northern Michigan legislators (Senator Howard Walker and Representative Wayne Schmidt) too, on how changes in the bill will impact both injured persons and the local economy.

The battle is not over, however.  The effort to pass HB 4936 will begin again with the opening of the 2012 Michigan legislative session.  That is why your voice needs to be heard.   To assist you, Munson Medical Center has further created a sample letter for you to adopt and send to your local legislator here.  Make a difference and be heard: save people and save Northern Michigan jobs.

Authored by L. Page Graves

 

 

Facts & Ruling by Court:

Three cars were traveling south on M-37 approaching a curve in the roadway.  Heading northbound was a motorcyclist.  The first of the three cars was looking for wood.  It is here where testimony of several witnesses differed on what actually occurred next: the driver of the first car says he slowed and pulled completely off the road; others said he stopped abruptly and straddled the fog line before getting off the travel lane.  The second vehicle says she slowed and that there was no way she could pass the first car and therefore, she either came to a complete stop or was almost stopped; the testimony was disputed whether she was straddling the fog line.  The third motorist came around the curve to see the two cars ahead as described.  He could not go left or around the second car because he thought she was in the travel lane; he therefore swerved over the center line at the same time the motorcyclist was rounding the corner in the opposite direction.  The car struck the motorcyclist who was killed.

The estate for the deceased motorcyclist sued the three motor vehicles for liability damages suffered by the family’s loss of their loved one.  The third motorist who actually crossed the center line and struck the motorcyclist settled out of court.  The remaining two motorists (one and two in scenario) contested their role as being a factor in this occurrence.  The Court of Appeals agreed with the estate that a jury must decide whether the actions of one or both of the two motorists also played a role in causing the accident.  The Motor Vehicle Code requires that motorists not travel too close behind another so as to be able to stop safely within the assured clear distance ahead.  This is commonly referred to as the basic speed lawMCL 257.627(1).  A motorist also may not stop or park his or her motor vehicle in a travel lane when it is possible to pull completely off the travel lane.  MCL 257.672(1).  Finally, the common law requires every person to exercise ordinary care when engaged in any undertaking so as to not endanger others.

What this means for injured persons.

As to liability for personal injury damages claims, this case illustrates that multiple liability policies may be applicable.  Do not accept an insurance carrier’s denial of liability because it is not the final arbiter of your claim; instead, a jury of your peers makes that decision for you.

Even though this case did not discuss the application of no-fault benefits, it nevertheless does illustrate that more than one auto no-fault insurer may be liable to pay the motorcyclist’s no-fault claim under MCL 500.3114(5).  These benefits include medical bills, wage loss, replacement services and if necessary, funeral expenses and survivor’s loss benefits.  The no-fault statute only requires that a motor vehicle be “involved” in the incident with a motorcycle; not that it actually comes into physical contact with the motorcyclist.    MCL 500.3114(5).  Therefore, when factual scenarios illustrate that more than one motor vehicle may be involved, the motorcyclist or his/her estate must apply for no-fault benefits with all of the involved motor vehicle insurers.  One will accept responsibility and pursue recoupment from the others.  Failure to notify all potentially liable insurers in the same order of priority could prove detrimental and lead to only a partial recovery of no-fault benefits.  MCL 500.3145.

What this means for medical service providers.

This case illustrates that when collecting an injured motorcyclist’s charges incurred for care, medical providers must submit their claims to all involved motor vehicle insurers involved in the motorcycle accident.  Failure to do so may be partially fatal to recovering fully, the charges owed.  MCL 500.3145.

You can read this Opinion here.

Authored by L. Page Graves