Online Auto Insurance: No-Fault Fees Play into Michigan Helmet Debate

April 09, 2012 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Michigan's no-fault law has become a point of debate for proponents and opponents of legislation now sitting on the desk of Gov. Rick Synder that would roll back helmet restrictions for motorcyclists, reports Online Auto Insurance.

SB 291 would repeal current law requiring that all motorcyclists wear helmets, leaving riders under 21 some of the only ones who would need to wear the protective gear. The law would allow motorcyclists over 21 to ride without helmets as long they pass a licensing course and are covered by at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits. Passed by the state Legislature, it was presented earlier this month to Synder, who can either veto or approve the measure.

Opponents say they fear the question of how much does car insurance cost if you have more motorcycle-related accidents and injuries occurring, more claims being filed and, ultimately, motorists' fees rising to pay for those claims.

Fees charged to every vehicle by the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA), a state fund that helps manage insurers' compensation for claims, have already been increasing, from $104.58 for 2008-2009 to $175 for 2012-2013, and SB 291 opponents say adding more motorcycle-related claims will inflate costs even more.

Michigan's no-fault system pays out unlimited reimbursement for crash-related medical care under personal injury protection coverage (PIP), regardless of who was at fault for the collision.

The Insurance Institute of Michigan (IIM), which has publicly opposed SB 291, said the no-fault system gives motorcyclists "special treatment."

"If a motorcyclist is injured in an accident with an automobile, insurance paid for by the driver of the motor vehicle pays benefits to the motorcyclist, even if the driver of the vehicle was not at fault," the IIM stated in a policy letter. "The consequences of the motorcyclist's decision not to wear a helmet is borne by all of society through higher insurance premiums, lost productivity and increased health care costs."

Motorcyclists backing SB 291 say requiring a helmet does not impact the amount or severity of claims.

"Supporters of the bill also believe that helmets are not effective in preventing death or serious injury in motorcycle accidents," a summary provided by the House stated. "They say that fatality rates are not higher in states that have modified their helmet laws."

Still, opponents have cited federal statistics showing helmetless motorcyclists are at risk for more and pricier claims. The IIM said in its letter that estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say a motorcyclist is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury without a helmet than with one.

In the bill's summary, proponents highlighted financial impacts aside from insurance, saying that current law keeps out-of-state riders from bringing business to Michigan.

"Changes to the state's helmet laws are likely to increase tourism spending, as well as increase the sales of vehicles and accessories," according to the summary.


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