Expenses for care of catastrophically injured Michigan no fault victims
Attorneys and the families of catastrophically injured no fault victims continue to watch the Michigan Supreme Court to see what will happen with PIP expenses in the situation where the families avoid institutionalization. From 1974 until a few years ago, the Supreme Court took the position that families could be fully compensated for keeping a catastrophically-injured loved one out of an institution by providing care for him or her. The Court held that if an expense was payable to an institution, it would be payable to the family, as well.
The Court supported that decision by pointing to the logic of treating the expenses similarly, but also by emphasizing the enormous savings that results when a family provides care to a loved one. The Court did not rely upon the improvement in quality of life and health that results, but it could have. Unfortunately, the Engler Majority of the Supreme Court, an activist insurance-oriented group of justices, reversed this policy a few years ago in the Griffiths case, and allowed families to charge the insurer only for expenses that were directly necessitated by the catastrophic injuries. Thus, food, utilities and other expenses which are recovered from the insurer by the institution could not be recovered by a family providing care.
Justices Weaver, Kelly and Cavanaugh dissented from the decision in Griffiths and would have maintained the policy of treating these expenses as payable PIP benefits, regardless of who charged for them. Since Justice Taylor was bounced from the Court by voters in 2008, it is likely that the activist Engler Majority no longer has an insurance-captive majority, and therefore there is a good probability that the Justices will return to the long-established pre-Griffith policy. If that happens, families will once again be encouraged to provide for catastrophically injured motor vehicle collision victims at home: an outcome that benefits everyone, including the insurers. Unfortunately, under other rulings of the Engler majority, they may be limited to "one year back" in recovering expenses, even if their adjuster lied to them about their rights.