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Road rage victim can sue despite the fact she was operating uninsured vehicle

Lindsey Grea sued Gary Chrostowski after he allegedly ran her off the road in a fit of "road rage."  Gray did not have no fault coverage on her vehicle, and normally, under Michigan insurance rules, if you haven't paid for no fault coverage, you cannot collect any damages from the wrong-doer--even  if he or she is a drunk driver.  When Gray sued Chrostowski, his insurance company persuaded the trial judge to dismiss her claim because she did not have coverage on her vehicle.  Gray appealed, arguing that there is no immunity under no fault for intentional acts (like a "road rage" assault) and therefore if she prevailed in documenting the assault, Chrostowski would not enjoy the benefit of the statutory provision wiping out an uninsured victim's claim.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the precise language of the no fault statute and the rules of statutory construction, and agreed with Gray.  It noted, unanimously, that under the plain language of the statute, the no fault "immunity" provisions give protection only to negligent drivers--not drivers guilty of causing injury through an intentional wrongful act.

All of this analysis begs the question of why the wrongful actor's insurer should gain a windfall from the victim's failure to buy auto insurance:  the victim is already punished under the no fault scheme by being deprived of the right to collect any medical expenses or the first three years of lost wages and expenses.  And the negligent perpetrator's "responsibility" or "liability" to pay any remaining damages was transferred to the insurer --under the law-- by policy language requiring the insurer to pay the remaining damages (only)  owed to someone suffering death or serious injury. In other words, from an underwriting standpoint, the insurer's obligation is precisely what it would have been, regardless of the victim's insurance status.

It is sometimes argued that the provision denying damages to an uninsured victim serves as a warning to drivers that they must maintain the statutory coverage, however, it is our experience that not one in ten drivers even knows that this is a possible consequence of failing to purchase  or renew no fault coverage.  In truth, this ;unitive provision is simply a windfall to an insurance company that further injures an otherwise innocent motorist  who has already suffered a negligently inflicted injury for which no medical expense will be recoverable. 

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