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Owner arranges PIP insurance through friend; cannot collect because vehicle not insured by the owner

Crystal Barnes took over her mother's car after her mother's legs were amputated and she couldn't drive.  She arranged with a friend to purchase No Fault PIP insurnance on the vehicle, but did not transfer the title to him.  She and the friend shared the car and garaged it intermittently at both homes.  When she was hurt in a car wreck and attempted to collect her medical, wage loss and replacement domestic services purchased through mandatory PIP insurance, however, State Farm rejected her claim.

State Farm argued that since Barnes and her mother were on the title and neither had insured the Chevrolet Cavalier, she could not collect the PIP benefits that Barnes' friend purchased.  By State Farm's interpretation, the premiums it collected did not obligate it to provide the coverage purchased because no "owner" was a Named Insured.  Barnes then sought coverage through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.  The Court held that as an "owner" of the vehicle which had been insured, but not by an "owner," she was ineligible to receive PIP benefits.

So, the owner arranged for premiums to be paid on the vehicle; State Farm collected those premiums; but no one owes the medical and wages the premiums were intended to buy.  A nice system for insurers, but certainly not "justice" where the owners unacquainted with the fine print of no fault law are concerned.  Not that that matters in a Michigan Court.

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