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Serious Bicycle Accidents And Michigan No-Fault Law

October 27, 2014

October 14, 2014 marked a milestone for Michigan cyclists – Governor Snyder signed the Nathan Bower Act, making motorcycle and bicycle awareness and safety mandatory in drivers’ education.  It is no longer an instructor or a program’s choice to cover motorcycle and bicycle safety and awareness – it is the law.  This news provides a new hope — a hope that increased awareness and education will help reduce the increasing number of accidents involving cyclists.

In the past decade, bicycling has emerged as a growing trend – increasing as a popular form of urban transportation, exercise, and recreational sport.  The number of individuals commuting to work in the United States has increased to approximately 800,000, up from 450,000 in 2000. With increased cyclists on our roadways, the number of bicycle-related accidents has also increased.  In 2013, there were 1,902 accidents involving bicycles in Michigan, 29 fatal. Earlier this month, a tragic bicycle accident here in Grand Rapids, Michigan took the life of Grand Rapids South Christian High School math teacher and golf coach, Rod VanDyke.  VanDyke was traveling on his bicycle to work at the high school in the early morning hours when he was struck from behind by a vehicle.  VanDyke reportedly had appropriate lights on his bicycle, but the vehicle that hit him allegedly was visually impaired by headlights from an oncoming vehicle traveling the opposite direction.  With the passing of the Nathan Bower Act, Michigan is moving toward educating the public on bicycle awareness and safety, in an effort to prevent tragic stories like that of Rod VanDyke.

In addition to educating raising awareness of motorcycle and bicycle safety, it is important for cyclists in Michigan to understand their legal rights if involved in an accident.

If you or someone you love is injured in a bicycle accident caused by a motor vehicle, seek legal help immediately.  Whether and to what extent you recover reimbursement for your losses from a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle depends on the correct application of Michigan’s No-Fault law. Often, the insurance companies – even your own – will do everything in their power to avoid paying you what they owe; they will delay and employ legal tactics to deprive you of reimbursements you deserve.  Here is a brief overview of the application of Michigan No-Fault law to accidents involving a bicycle and motor vehicle.

In Michigan, if you are a bicyclist and are involved in an accident involving a car or truck, you are eligible to receive Michigan No-Fault insurance benefits (a first-party claim) and when the injuries are catastrophic or fatal, you can also sue for pain and suffering compensation (a third-party claim).  If your bicycle accident does not involve a motor vehicle, usually you cannot collect Michigan No-Fault benefits.

Priority rules are contained in the No-Fault Act.  The priority rules dictate which insurance company has the highest legal responsibility to pay an auto (or bicycle) accident victim’s No-Fault personal injury protection benefits.  When injured in a motor vehicle accident in Michigan where you are not an occupant of a motor vehicle (i.e., a bicyclist), the priority rules help determine what insurance company will pay your personal injury protection benefits:

  1. Your No-Fault insurance policy in which you are the named insured.
  2. Your spouse’s No-Fault insurance policy in which he or she is the named insured.
  3. The No-Fault insurance policy for a relative who lives with you, in which he or she is the named insured.
  4. The No-Fault insurance company for the owners or registrants of the motor vehicles involved in the accident.
  5. The No-Fault insurance company for the operator (i.e., driver) of the motor vehicle involved in the accident.
  6. The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility.

The same insurance coverage applies to first-party claims involving a bicycle hit by a motor vehicle.  First party benefits include medical expenses, lost wages, replacement services (household services such as chores, childcare), and attendant care (nursing services).  According to Michigan’s statute of limitations, you must make a first-party claim within one year from the date of the bicycle accident with a motor vehicle.  Again, refer to the priority above to determine where you should make your first-party claim.

A third-party claim is a lawsuit that can be filed against the negligent driver of the motor vehicle that caused the bicycle-motor vehicle accident.  A third-party claim is for non-economic damages, also known as pain and suffering.  To file a third-party claim, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Death
  • Serious impairment of body function (impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life)
  • Permanent serious disfigurement

According to Michigan’s statute of limitations, you must file a third-party lawsuit within 3 years from the date of the accident.

As you can see, whether and to what extent you recover reimbursement for your losses from a bicycle accident depends on the correct application of Michigan’s No-Fault law. It is therefore important for anyone injured in a bicycle accident, and especially those who suffered serious injuries, to immediately seek help from an attorney experienced with Michigan’s No-Fault Law. Even a relatively minor delay can cause you to lose the right to reimbursements. We will review your claim and guide you in obtaining fair reimbursement for the harms and losses. At Buchanan and Buchanan, we are skilled at investigating bicycle accidents with motor vehicles and successfully negotiating fair settlements with insurance companies, and persuasively presenting cases at trial when insurers refuse to do what is right.