1.5 million Michigan At-Risk Drivers Without Auto Insurance

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No-Fault insurance lawyer Steven Gursten advises how to protect yourself and offers a solution to lower the cost of auto insurance, increase the number of insured drivers.

Steven Gursten, Michigan Lawyer of the Year and Michigan Leader in the Law

The correlation between the economy and the number of insured drivers is very strong. As more people lose their jobs, more people cannot afford No-Fault insurance, and more people choose to drive uninsured.

1.5 million Michigan drivers do not have No-Fault auto insurance, says Steven M. Gursten, head of Farmington Hills-based Michigan Auto Law. “That puts them, and everyone else on our roads in peril if they're involved in an auto accident," he said.

According to USA Today's September 11, 2011, story, “One in seven drivers have no insurance,” 19 percent of Michigan's drivers are uninsured. With more than 8 million registered vehicles in Michigan (Insurance Institute of Michigan data), that equals a whopping 1,520,000 people driving with absolutely no auto insurance, Gursten noted.

"The correlation between the economy and the number of insured drivers is very strong. As more people lose their jobs, more people cannot afford No-Fault insurance, and more people choose to drive uninsured," said Gursten, who is also president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association.

Below is information from Gursten on what happens in car accidents with uninsured drivers:

If a person is injured and uninsured: Under Michigan’s No-Fault insurance laws, an uninsured driver has no No-Fault (also called PIP or Personal Injury Protection) coverage and therefore, no legal right to vital No-Fault insurance benefits, including lifetime medical care, wage loss, attendant care and replacement services. Even worse, the uninsured driver is also prohibited from suing an at-fault driver who causes the auto accident. This holds true even when the uninsured driver is completely innocent and is seriously injured by another driver who causes a car accident.

If a person is injured by an uninsured driver: If someone with auto insurance is injured by an uninsured driver, there is usually no source of legal recovery for personal injuries and pain and suffering. It is possible to file a lawsuit against the at-fault, uninsured driver for his or her personal assets. But with most uninsured drivers without sufficient personal net worth to compensate a person that they've hurt in a car crash, often a judgment becomes just a piece of paper.

For the people who can afford auto insurance, the good news is that there's protection in case of a crash with an uninsured driver: uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), said Gursten.

"UM and UIM provide a valuable source of legal recovery when someone is hurt in an auto accident by a driver who is uninsured or does not have adequate insurance," he added. "Any auto insurance policy sold in Michigan today without this coverage is just not enough to protect you and your family."

Gursten said that many auto insurance adjusters fail to tell their customers about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and so it's important to specifically request it. He also said the coverage is surprisingly affordable: "For the cost of a movie and a popcorn, you can financially protect your family in case of a car crash with an uninsured driver."

As for the drivers who just can't afford No-Fault insurance, Gursten offers a two-part solution that he says is pragmatic and simple.

"The first step is to recognize that Michigan insurance companies should not lead the nation in profitability, and should not be making excessive profits in this state, as the Angoff Study found in 2005. Let’s give our insurance commissioner the power to regulate excessive profit-making and price gouging by Michigan’s auto insurance companies, just as insurance commissioners can in most states in the U.S. today," Gursten says.

The second step, once auto insurance premiums have fallen, Gursten says, is to have the Michigan Secretary of State aggressively pursue those drivers who are driving without auto insurance. "Let’s stop the temporary insurance binder game that people are playing. With computers today, it's very easy to see who is driving without insurance," he said.

In cities that have been especially affected by tough economic conditions, such as Detroit, the number of uninsured drivers is about 50 percent, according to a published report by The Detroit Legal News.

About Steven M. Gursten: Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top No-Fault lawyers handling serious auto accident lawsuits and truck accident cases. He is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and lectures to attorneys across the country about various legal topics, such as traumatic brain injury.

About Michigan Auto Law: Michigan Auto Law has 18 lawyers exclusively handling auto accident and No-Fault insurance litigation throughout the state. Michigan Auto Law has received the top-reported jury verdict for a car or truck accident victim in 2009, 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to published reports by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. The firm has offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. For more information, call Michigan Auto Law at (800) 777-0028.


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