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About That No Fault Thing: Do Not Mess This Part Up

By John Lindstrom
Posted: February 23, 2018 5:40 PM

If there are any advantages to getting older it is this: those who have circled the sun more than others have had the chance to see a lot of ideas get reworked and retried. And they can generally tell those younger what will or will not work. One hopes younger folks might listen.

People have complained about auto insurance rates for a long time. The focus in the decades-old fight on auto insurance rates has been over the unlimited medical care provided for by Michigan’s no-fault insurance. Frankly, that probably should be the focus overall.

Now a number of House Republicans have proposed eliminating no-fault altogether, in HB 5518*, HB 5519* and HB 5628*, and throwing the entire system back into the pure tort system. That Michigan once had. That Michigan got rid of. That at least one Michigander suggests lawmakers think very carefully about going back to, very carefully, very thoughtfully with considerable retrospection and investigation and serious contemplation. Take all the time you need, and more time than that before embarking on this course.

This reporter can speak from some experience about life in the tort system compared to the no-fault system. And yes, there has been at least one horrifying accident in this reporter’s household experience – where thankfully there were no major injuries because the driver had finally been convinced, by this reporter, to always use her seatbelt – and it is the kind of accident that has often been the focus of the no-fault debate. But that is not the kind of accident I am talking about.

It’s the fender-benders. It’s where someone backs into you or runs into your car or truck’s rear. No injuries, just property damage.

Since no-fault has been enacted, it’s a relatively simple process to get claims made, repairs made and repairs paid for. Certainly, it’s an annoyance, having to check out body shops or mechanics and getting estimates. But generally, the insurance works very quickly to get the repairs dealt with and paid for.

And then there’s the tort system. Haven’t I told you, I’m sure I have, about the time, about a year before no-fault became the law of this land, when my 1969 Olds Cutlass got rear-ended? No, I haven’t? I haven’t told you about how I was told get it fixed and the insurance will take care of me, which I did and had to pay for, and then waited while my insurance company tussled with the other guy’s insurance company over who was paying for what, and whose fault it was, and I waited, and waited, and waited some more before finally getting a settlement that didn’t completely cover the repair? Well, you’ve been told now.

And some of the legislation will now allow uninsured drivers. Yes, I know uninsured drivers are a problem because they cannot afford insurance. But I know what it is like to deal with a driver who could afford insurance but didn’t get it and sued me to force me to pay for his damages. And this was after no-fault had become law, with its requirement that everyone get insurance. My insurance company decided to defend me, the suit got dropped, and then so did I by my insurance company. And the new legislation will allow folks to go without insurance because, oh, because the sky is blue and the birds are singing so sweetly you cannot hear the crunch of bumpers.

Whatever happens with auto insurance in this state, think carefully about how fast one wants simple repairs done and paid for, and how, whatever the law ends up looking like, that process is not made more inconvenient. After all, we really don’t want another older guy smirking a superior smirk and saying, “Told ya so.”

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