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Car Accident Victims in Michigan Receive Affirmed Benefits from Court

Car Accident Victims in Michigan Receive Affirmed Benefits from Court

The state Supreme Court of Michigan ruled Monday that major changes to the auto insurance system do not apply to people who suffered catastrophic injuries before a 2019 legislation went into effect, providing crucial relief to thousands of people dependent on long-term benefits.

Paralyzed since the 1980s, Brian Woodward has spoken openly about the law’s profound effect on his treatment, so the 5-2 decision came as little comfort to him. His relatives stated he passed away on Monday at the age of 64. Crash victims have been guaranteed a lifetime income to cover “all reasonable charges” for medical and therapeutic services for decades.

A new state statute, however, established a charge structure and reimbursement cap. As a result of the sudden withdrawal of some care providers, the lives of 18,000 people who were already receiving assistance were thrown into disarray.

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A “vested contractual right” to continuous benefits “cannot be stripped away or diminished,” the Supreme Court ruled, especially since legislators failed to disclose a desire to do so when changing the law.

Tim Hoste, president of CPAN, a coalition of medical organizations and consumer groups, said, “This is an enormous victory for the rights of crash survivors and we want to thank all the advocates who fought along with us to make this day a reality.” Democratic Justice Elizabeth Welch authored the decision, which was supported by her fellow Democrats and by Republican Chief Justice Elizabeth Clement.

Since Michigan has some of the highest insurance prices in the country, the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer have agreed to make significant adjustments for 2019. Drivers can cut costs by selecting less comprehensive injury coverage. The costs of providing some types of treatment were reduced, though.

Vladimir Konstantinov, a former player of the Detroit Red Wings and a hockey superstar, is among the critically injured and needs round-the-clock attention. In 1997, when the club won the NHL Cup, he was severely injured when the limousine he was riding in was wrecked by a drunk driver.

Theresa Ruedisueli from Arcadia Home Care & Staffing, which continues to provide care for Konstantinov, said that the legal change resulted in a $250,000 unpaid deficit for home care.

“He can’t eat, he can’t cook, he can’t drive,” Ruedisueli said. “All of the things that you and I take for granted, just getting ready for work in the morning, he can’t do without help.” Woodward’s insurance allowed him to receive in-home care after he suffered severe spinal injuries in a vehicle accident and even allowed him to keep his work.

He claims he lost his carers and was transferred between facilities after the law changed and care charges were lowered. “I’m dying,” Woodward told The Detroit News last week. “My body is breaking down because I’m not getting enough exercise.” The law, according to Hoste, caused the “spiritual, emotional, and physical decline of many people, including Brian.”

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The Supreme Court’s ruling will allow for medical care price gouging, according to the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, an industry trade group. Since the statute was changed, however, the reduced reimbursement schedule for injuries has not changed.

It would be unfair to lower future payments for the long-term injured, Justice David Viviano wrote in a dissenting opinion, so the majority of the Supreme Court created a decision based on “vague and disputed concepts” to protect individuals with that view.

As a result, the efforts of the Legislature and the governor to reduce costs and make insurance more affordable for all the residents of our state will not come to fruition for many decades,” said Viviano, who was joined by fellow Republican Justice Brian Zahra.

“If courts cannot be trusted to faithfully interpret and apply the laws, especially those involving such significant and contested topics, then the democratic process is in peril,” Viviano said.

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