Attorneys George Sinas and Tom Sinas Address Judges about Michigan No-Fault Law
Lansing auto accident attorney George Sinas and Grand Rapids auto accident attorney Tom Sinas spoke last week at the 2014 Michigan Supreme Court Judicial Conference. Tom and George were invited to speak on cutting edge topics concerning Michigan’s no-fault law. The conference, which was attended by nearly every judge in Michigan, was held at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids.
George Sinas spoke to a group of judges about the part of Michigan no-fault law that allows injured people to pursue claims against negligent drivers. This is what is sometimes referred to as the law concerning “threshold” injuries. Although Michigan’s no-fault law permits individuals to recover certain benefits like medical expenses and lost wages regardless of fault, the law also permits injured people to pursue claims against negligent drivers – but only under limited circumstances. Michigan’s no-fault law requires that the injured person suffer one the following types of injuries in order to pursue a claim against a negligent driver: (1) death; (2) permanent serious disfigurement; or (3) serious impairment of body function. The phrase “serious impairment of body function” has undergone different interpretations by Michigan courts since the No-Fault Act was passed in 1973. The most recent change in this area of law came after the Michigan Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the case of McCormick v. Carrier. At this week’s Judicial Conference, George Sinas spoke about the McCormick decision as well as other appellate decisions that have come after McCormick. As George explained, because this is an area of law that continues to evolve, lawyers and judges must be well-versed in it order to deal with the complex issues that it presents.
Tom Sinas spoke to that same group of judges, but discussed the other part of Michigan’s no-fault law: the right to collect no-fault benefits (sometimes called “PIP” benefits). Specifically, Tom discussed the Michigan Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in the case of Admire v. Auto-Owners Insurance Company. As Tom explained, the Admire decision has direct implications for ability of catastrophically injured people to recover the expenses of handicapped-accessible vans. In Admire, the court held that a no-fault insurance company was not obligated to pay the “base price” of a handicapped-accessible van, but rather only the modifications to the van. Tom explained that the Admire case presents a unique analysis of what benefits are compensable under the No-Fault Act. In addition, as Tom said, although the Admire decision deals directly with vans, it is likely to have implications for other benefits, such as the residential housing needs for seriously injured people. Like the “threshold” law that George discussed, this area of Michigan no-fault law will continue evolve in the months and years ahead.