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So if you have not heard, the auto no-fault insurance law has changed in Michigan for medical providers.  After nearly 40 years of permissible statutory action under the no-fault act, the Michigan Supreme Court abruptly changed the law for medical providers.  The case that changed the law is Covenant v State Farm (here).  Simply, the court held there is no statutory right” of action by a medical provider against a no-fault insurer.  That is it; the Supreme Court in Covenant did not eliminate any other legal form or right of action available to medical providers.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, considerable hand-wringing analysis and unnecessary worry has been discussed and written about the new era of medical provider no-fault litigation.  This article will avoid that useless hyperbole and get to the point for medical providers: get your insurance billing assignment from your patient after treatment and you are good to go.  Per 3143 of the no-fault act, only assignments of future benefits is prohibited.  Neither that section nor the act itself, prohibits the assignment of past or presently due benefits.  And the Supreme Court in Covenant even expressly acknowledged this very point of law in footnote 40 of its opinion.  So, with an assignment of past or presently due benefits, a medical provider may file suit against a no-fault insurer for unpaid charges incurred by the patient.  Careful drafting of the assignment is recommended so as to not create unnecessary parsing of words by the auto insurer and/or courts.  And while mechanically awkward or not typical of medical office management, again, have your patient sign the insurance billing form on the way out the door, after treatment.  You are flipping your paperwork/intake process; or, you are simply adding the billing part of the paperwork to the end of the visit.  This is critical because, otherwise, the no-fault insurer will accuse you of violating section 3143, i.e., obtaining an assignment before treatment — they will argue — is an assignment of future benefits.  Destroy this argument against payment by obtaining your assignment after treatment.

For more questions and/or assistance in drafting no-fault assignments for billing no-fault, medical providers are welcome to contact Smith & Johnson, Attorneys, P.C.

Authored by L. Page Graves

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

It may seem obvious.  It may seem an unnecessary public service caution to express.  Especially for us northern Michiganders.  But for whatever the reason, once winter returns the local news is ripe with car crashes occurring in our area, most often because a driver was driving too fast for conditions.  The posted speed limit is for optimum road driving conditions.  It is not the lawful and prudent speed in less than optimum conditions.  Winter road conditions mandate slowing down.  This is commonly known and referred to as “the basic speed law” which we are all taught in driver’s education.

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

 

The posted speed limit applies to perfect driving conditions (e.g., lighting, weather and traffic flow).  It is the maximum speed allowed in that perfect driving context.  When less than optimum conditions are present (e.g., reduced light/vision, wet roads or congested traffic), the basic speed law requires that you reduce your speed so that you can safely stop your vehicle within the assured clear distance ahead of whatever is in front of you (e.g., a car, a pedestrian, etc.).  Regrettably, some drivers ignore this basic rule of the road and drive the posted speed limit (if not exceed it) in poor driving conditions.  Raise your hand if you have been driving in a snow squall and semi-truck has blown past you in the passing lane, kicking up more snow and making driving even more dangerous.  Driving too fast for conditions can lead to dangerous crashes.  Maintain the appropriate speed for conditions present.  It is the law.

 

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

With summer now upon us here in Northern Michigan, the excitement to get out on the water builds. Refreshing yourself with the basic rules of navigation and right of way is always recommended. Failure to obey the rules and which causes an accident and injury will subject you to liability. Thus, it is also advisable that you consult with your insurance agent to make sure you are adequately insured. If you are involved in a boating accident, it is important to know what you must do and not do. Finally, and most important for boating safety to all is to follow the law pertaining to alcohol consumption which is identical to when operating a motor vehicle. If you happen to be the victim of a boating accident, please contact us for a free consultation to learn more about your personal injury and property damages rights. Also, if you happen to be arrested for operating a boat while under the influence, we can help you through that difficult legal process, too.

Authored by L. Page Graves