Should Michigan get rid of no-fault auto insurance policy?

Ruth to the Rescue: Michigan's no-fault auto insurance debate

You've probably heard Michigan lawmakers are trying to reform the state's no-fault auto insurance.

There is a new bill in the state legislature that supporters say will help drivers save money on their auto insurance. However, part of the plan would eliminate the current unlimited lifetime benefits for victims of catastrophic auto-related accidents.

That change is a big concern for the families of accident victims, who worry future victims might not get the care they need. More from a family who has been through that kind of crisis in a moment. First, here's a look at the plan to reform Michigan's auto insurance system.

Proposed Changes

Michigan State Representative Peter Lund is leading the charge to reform the no-fault system. "I have people calling my office on a regular basis complaining about their insurance rates," said Lund who's the chairman of the house insurance committee.

His plan calls for the elimination of the unlimited benefits and replaces it with a $1 million cap. "The highest any other state requires medical coverage or personal injury protection in auto insurance is New York at $50,000 and we're talking about limiting ours to one million," Representative Lund said. "We will be 20 times higher than any other state."

The bill would also create an agency to investigate insurance fraud and put limits on what medical providers can charge for treating accident-related injuries.

"Currently, we see sometimes where they're four or five times more for a procedure just because they find out it's an auto accident. That is wrong. And that is why people's auto rates are so high," said Lund.

Lund says Michigan drivers pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. His legislation guarantees Michigan drivers will save $125 per car for the first year after the bill is enacted.

"Well after the first year, when the rates are guaranteed, the commissioner has made it clear that he won't allow rates to go up unless its for a justifiable reason," Lund told Local 4 Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer.

The Opposition

What is the cost for victims of catastrophic accidents? Lund says victims currently receiving benefits would not be affected, and even that claim is disputed by opponents of the bill. Still, families who have been through catastrophic accidents are alarmed at what future victims could be facing without the unlimited benefits.

Grant Anderson was just 20 years old when he was involved in a horrible accident. In 2007, he was blinded by sunlight and plowed into the back of a semi-truck without hitting the brakes. Anderson suffered a severe traumatic brain injury.

Doctors told the Anderson family their son would not survive and if he did he would at best be a virtual vegetable. But Grant proved them wrong. He is now able to walk once again, plus play the piano and sing, activities he dearly loved before his accident.

"And in Grant's situation, a million dollar cap? He exceeded a million dollars within the first year easily," said his father, Glen Anderson. "I could remember seeing a bill from one of the hospitals from just a short period of time of his stay and it was $382,000. So the bills add up very, very quickly."

Grant Anderson has been receiving around the clock care and various therapies for six years. His parents say they've met other accident victims who did not have the support of those unlimited benefits, and they believe those people have a slower, more difficult recovery.

"You would never really know, until you've actually done it. And watching your child go through all these changes and say to you ' Mom, why didn't you just let me die,' " said Grant's mother, Julie Anderson.

"I don't think a person should be limited as to how far along they can come in their progress," said Grant Anderson. " And putting a cap on that would say this person has had enough recovery and they can't go any further."

Though the legislation promises Michigan Drivers their auto insurance rates will not increase without a "justifiable reason," the proposed bill does not make it clear what situations or circumstances are "justifiable."

The Anderson family strongly feels the savings would not justify giving up the unlimited benefits, they believe helped their son recover.

"For the minimal amount you pay per year compared to what you get, anybody would want to have this, if this happened to you," said Grant's mother Julie Anderson.

What's Next

Right now, the proposal to reform no-fault insurance is awaiting action in the state house. Michigan voters have rejected changes to the no-fault system twice in 1992 and 1994.

Ruth to the Rescue will be following new developments in this important debate as the lawmakers consider the legislation.