Leave My PIP Alone!

Michigan’s automobile insurance companies would like to crimp motorist personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. The Republican majority claims that the expense of providing this coverage is crippling the Michigan economy, driving employers out the state, poisoning the air and water, increasing obesity, cancer and heart disease, allowing children to drop out of school earlier and earlier, causing telemarketers to call right at dinner time, and raising the television volume during commercials. In short, all of Michigan’s problems are caused by requiring unlimited PIP benefits.

Although Michigan voters have endorsed unlimited PIP benefits by referendum, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the insurance lobby have bought enough legislators to endanger the law. Michigan Rep. Harvey Santana offers a concise explanation of why such a change would be wrongheaded in “Rep. Santana on HB4936 and SB649.”

Gov. Rick Snyder and the legislature want to avoid the embarrassment of citizen review. The legislature attached an “appropriations” measure so that the law will not be subject to challenge by the people. This loophole allows the legislature and governor to pass laws that are not subject to referendum. The PIP-elimination bill includes an appropriation of chump change to print some brochures — a cheap trick to stymie the democratic process. If you read to the bottom of the bill, you find that $50,000 is appropriated to the Office of Insurance and Financial Servises “to implement this section.” That is like putting a thumb bell on the steering wheel of a 450 hp. Peterbilt flat-top sleeper and calling it a tricycle.

Proponents of this measure claim that it will reduce auto insurance premiums. Have you ever seen insurance companies reduce rates in response to favorable changes in the law? That is about as likely as the AFLAC goose showing up in your leaky rowboat. Consumers will not see any benefit from this bill, but it will drastically reduce the coverage for those who are seriously injured in auto accidents.

As a case in point, a Pennsylvania colleague was contacted by the wife of a seriously injured 50-year-old man. The accident was caused by an impaired driver. The husband received very severe head injuries and will be permanently disabled. The driver who caused the accident had minimal insurance and only $15,000 can be obtained. The husband owned three vehicles at the time of the accident, but his uninsured-motorist coverage was limited to $100,000 per vehicle. The cost of treatment for injuries has greatly exceeded the $315,000 available, so there is nothing for long-term care. This family, which includes two middle-school aged children will be financially ruined.

If this case were in Michigan, the husband would have unlimited PIP benefits to cover his lost wages and care needs of about $10,000 per month. Our legislature wants to eliminate this protection. The insurance lobby claims that the new law would still cover 99% of injured motorists, but 1% of motor-vehicle injury claims make up a lot of seriously-injured Michigan citizens. Tell your governor and legislators to leave our no-fault auto insurance coverage intact.


John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2012 John B. Payne, Attorney

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