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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has made no-fault reform one of his top priorities saying that it is necessary to rein in no-fault auto insurance rates (not true, but that’s what he says) and tackle a $2 billion unfunded liability in the state's catastrophic auto accident fund (also not true and the fund refuses to make fund accounting public).

The insurance industry says the cost of the current system is unsustainable; the industry proposes severe cost controls and an end to Michigan’s one-of-a-kind lifetime, unlimited, medical benefit for accident victims. The insurance industry favors a system where customers can choose a level of coverage, from $500,000 to $5 million; of course it does, because the costs would then be shifted to the taxpayers through Medicaid. And that is what the insurance industry is really seeking here: The usual tort reform shift of responsibility from the private carrier (who got the premiums and accepted the risk) to the taxpayer. So, since this kind of responsibility shift legislation will, undoubtedly increase taxes, why do so may Republicans support it? Aren’t they the anti-tax, personal responsibility party?

This legislative push has not come without backlash from trial attorneys and accident victims. However, personal circumstances sometimes create strange bedfellows. Enter staunch conservative Republican, Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson. Mr. Patterson was critically injured in an auto accident last August, suffered multiple broken bones and was in a coma for 17 days. Today, he is still uses a wheelchair and undergoes physical therapy several times a week. His driver was left paralyzed from the accident.

I have often written that each of us is one “never event” from being a seriously injured accident victim. And, if victimized, a person will, almost instantly change an “anti-justice” view into a “pro-justice” view. In Patterson’s case, his debilitating injuries and personal experience with the medical benefits provided by Michigan’s No-Fault automobile law has made him a believer in the law and he is now openly criticizing the proposed changes advanced by his fellow Republicans. He said drastic changes to No-Fault and the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association would hurt Michigan’s economy and hospitals, shift health care costs to Medicaid, and financially devastate critically injured auto accident victims.

Maybe now Mr. Patterson can understand what I have been blogging about for years – the truth behind "tort reform" limitations on the rights of innocent victims. When I read “An open letter from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson,” I could not help but wonder if Patterson reads my posts on this site (I know, I flatter myself!); the words do seem to mimic my own. Patterson’s letter begins by saying:

A perception has been cast that there is a need to change Michigan's Auto No-fault insurance system despite the fact that citizens of this great state have already voted twice to maintain the country's best coverage for auto accident victims… the system is working as it was originally intended and any attempt to change the current law without having independent third party financial information is reckless and would result in damage to Michigan’s economy, shift millions of dollars of cost from private insurance to Medicaid and destroy the livelihood of Michigan’s catastrophically injured auto accident victims.

Here are some other key points of his letter:

  • Making changes to our current auto no-fault system without any real and validated data that substantiates the existence of a real problem is reckless and jeopardizes the balance of our entire statewide health care system.
  • The changes pander to the insurance industry, while ignoring basic consumer safeguards that ought to be part of any reform effort.
  • Over time, the kind of reform being contemplated could shift billions of dollars in medical costs from insurance companies to taxpayers. The result would be a massive shift to Medicaid.

These proposed changes to the Michigan no-fault system are a bad deal for Michigan citizens. It is sad that tragedy had to strike for L. Brooks Patterson to understand the distortions and outright lies his Republican brothers and sisters are trying to sell to Michigan citizens. My writings have been unsuccessful in getting the message across; perhaps Brooks Patterson can succeed where I have failed. It’s not too late to stop the madness.

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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