“Detroit drivers face the highest average auto insurance rates in the country, often more than $3,000 a year for a single vehicle,” while residents of Michigan as a whole pay the third highest rates of any state. A Detroit Free Press investigation by J.C. Reindl and others “finds that runaway medical bills, disability benefits payouts and lawsuits under Michigan’s one-of-a-kind, no-fault insurance system play a key role in driving up costs.” One key difference: of the twelve states that mandate no-fault insurance, only Michigan provides for unlimited lifetime benefits.
Some findings from the series:
* “Ambulance chasing” and solicitation thrive notwithstanding laws intended to curb those practices. Despite privacy rules governing police reports and hospital admissions, for example, those involved in crashes are often solicited within hours, then signed up with law firms that later disavow any knowledge of solicitation. And how did an accident treatment clinic in suburban Detroit come to be owned by a California and Florida plastic surgeon noted for appearing on “The Real Housewives of Orange County” who seldom visited?
* While crashes in Wayne County (Detroit) declined from 72,227 to 50,548 between 2003 and 2015, “first-party” lawsuits — against one’s own insurance company for no-fault benefits — increased from 1,699 to 6,327 and negligence suits against other drivers from 2,527 to 3,435. Many “first-party” claims, of course, are paid without anyone filing suit, which is how no-fault law contemplated would be normal practice;
* Auto insurers have launched racketeering lawsuits aimed at proving forms of collusive fraud. Unlike many states, Michigan has no official watchdog charged primarily with combating auto claims fraud.
* “Defenders of the current system include the powerful Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault, made up of trial lawyers, medical clinics, disability advocates and, until recently, the state’s hospital lobby.”
* Other states’ approaches to containing no-fault costs.