Bike Accidents and Auto No-Fault Reform: A Dangerous Combination
A series of seemingly unrelated events are combining to form a great danger to Michigan bicyclists, especially those in West Michigan. In April, the Grand Rapids Business Journal reported that Grand Rapids has the highest number of bike fatalities in the state. According to that article, bicyclists in Grand Rapids were 50% more likely to be fatally injured than cyclists in other parts of Michigan. In addition, the Grand Rapids Press reported that the number of hit-and-run accidents was on the rise in Grand Rapids. There were more than 1,600 hit-and-runs in Grand Rapids in 2013 [editors comment: 1,600!], with even more predicted to occur this year. These are sobering statistics that should make all Michigan citizens concerned.
So what does any of this have to do with auto no-fault law? The auto no-fault “reform” proposal is being debated in Lansing, known as HB 4612 (H-3). Much of the news coverage on this bill has focused on the serious effect that it would have on Michigan drivers and medical providers. But little has been said about a certain group of Michigan bicyclists who stand to lose significant rights: those bicyclists who rely on bikes as their sole means of transportation. Of course, a bike is not an automobile. But if a Michigan bicyclist is injured in an accident involving a car, that bicyclist is entitled to no-fault benefits under Michigan law, including the right to receive lifetime medical care. Generally speaking, a bicyclist injured in an accident involving another car will get their no-fault benefits from the insurer of a car in the bicyclist’s household. If the bicyclist does not own a car, then Michigan law lets that person collect no-fault benefits from the insurer of the car that hit the bicyclist.
But what happens to a bicyclist who doesn’t own a car and is the victim of a hit-and-run? Under current Michigan law, that cyclist is allowed to collect no-fault benefits, including lifetime medical care, through a process known as “assigned claims.” However, the new auto no-fault “reform” proposal will change all of that. Under HB 4612 (H-3), assigned claims patients will have their medical benefits capped at $250,000. That means those bicyclists who don’t own a car and are the victims of a hit-and-run will see their medical benefits cut off after $250,000 worth of medical care. This same cap would apply to Michigan motorcyclists—more evidence that this “reform” proposal discriminates against those who ride on two wheels.
The facts speak for themselves. Michigan bicyclists, especially those in Grand Rapids, are at a high risk for being in a serious accident. And that serious accident is very likely to involve a car that flees the scene. The no-fault “reform” bill known as HB 4612 (H-3) only compounds the tragedy. It leaves those bicyclists with little benefits and leave others—family, medical providers, or Michigan taxpayers—to take care of the rest.