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Driver collects PIP benefits from assigned claims, not from insurer who wrote coverage on non-owned vehicle. Time limit extended when estate is opened.

Tonya Arold was killed in a motor vehicle collision while driving a vehicle owned by her, but insured by her fiance's father.  Her family filed an action for PIP benefits against the vehicle's insurer, Citizens Insurance Company.  Citizens argued she had no insurable interest in the vehicle and should pursue a claim against the Assigned Claims plan (MACF).  The family filed a claim with the MACF and Titan Insurance Company was assigned, however, Titan also refused to pay PIP benefits.

The trial judge ruled that Citizens owed coverage and awarded the family about $60,000.00 in benefits.  Citizens appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed.  It ruled that under the policy language, the vehicle owned by Arold was not an "insured vehicle," and therefore Citizens did not owe benefits.  Nevertheless, since Arold was driving an insured vehicle, she remained elgible for PIP benefits and they should have been paid immediately by Titan. 

The victory may ultimately be illusory or of limited impact, however, as the family will be entitled to collect only "one year back" of benefits, and since they thought that Citizens was the proper insurance company, they did not sue within one year of the accident.  The Court did hold that the "savings provision" applicable to a death and the appointment of a Personal Representative extended the statute of limitations so that the family may be entitled to collect something.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262