According to the Michigan Court of Appeals, an uninsured motorcycle rider
who was not wearing a helmet at the time of his deadly crash was not excluded
from recovering no-fault insurance benefits. This decision came as a result of
Estate of Swick v Farm Bureau Insurance Company.
The motorcyclist suffered fatal injuries when the motorcycle he was riding
collided with a car insured by Farm Bureau Insurance Company. The motorcyclist
was not wearing a helmet and the motorcycle was not insured. As a result,
there was a dispute whether the motorcyclist “owned” the motorcycle
within the terms of the No-Fault Act since he never signed the certificate
of the title as the buyer. The certificate of title also excluded the
price, odometer reading, and sale date. Farm Bureau Insurance Company
denied the no-fault coverage and the motorcyclist’s estate brought
an action for personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. The trial ruled
in favor of the estate and the Farm Bureau Insurance Company appealed.
According to the Court of Appeals, MCL 500.3113(b) didn’t preclude
the motorcyclist’s estate from collecting PIP benefits since under
that statute, uninsured owners or registrants of motorcyclists are not
entitled to PIP benefits. However, Farm Bureau Insurance Company argued
that even if PIP benefits were available under that statute, they were
precluded by the statute because MCL 257.658 is part of the Michigan Vehicle
Code and sets forth the circumstances in which an individual riding or
operating a motorcycle is not required to wear a helmet.
The Court of Appeals explained that MCL 500.3101(1) explains the security
required for a registrant or owner of a motorcycle and describes the security
for payment of PIP benefits that an insurer must provide to the registrant
or owner of a motorcycle. While the MCL 500.3103 does not require the
motorcycle registrant or motorcycle owner to purchase PIP coverage, the
Court states that the rider or operator of the motorcycle who does not
wear a helmet must have benefits under MCL 257.658(5)(c) in effect. However,
the Court added, “Nothing in the plain language of these statutes
actually precludes an uninsured, helmetless operator or rider from collecting
Farm Bureau Insurance Company argued that the Michigan Vehicle Code and
the No-Fault Act should be read together and that the Legislature purposefully
precluded no-fault benefits, even if Legislature did not say so in the
statutes. The Court of Appeals declined this argument and concluded:
Regardless of the Legislature’s intent to require helmetless operators
and riders to purchase security for PIP benefits under MCL 257.658(5)(c),
it did not preclude them from collecting PIP benefits if they nevertheless
failed to satisfy this requirement. Thus, any evidence that Swick was
not wearing a helmet did not create a question of fact regarding his entitlement
to PIP benefits, and the trial court properly rejected this defense below.
Goodman Acker P.C. Can Protect Your Rights and Future
Cases involving motor vehicle accidents and PIP insurance can be highly
complex. At Goodman Acker P.C.,
our legal team of Detroit personal injury lawyers has ample experience and knowledge handling such cases. If you or someone
you love has been harmed in a motorcycle accident or any other type of
collision, we urge you to get in contact with our team right away.
To discuss your case,
call our Detroit personal injury attorneys at Goodman Acker P.C.!