Everyone loves saving money, but it could cost you if your current means of doing so include not listing all drivers of your vehicle on your insurance policy. SMDA recently worked a case where the insurance company claimed they were entitled to deny no-fault insurance benefits to our client because he allegedly was not listed as a named insured on his commercial vehicle automobile insurance policy. The company attempted to apply the holding from the Court of Appeals in Barnes v Farmers, 308 Mich App 1 (2014), to this case involving a commercial policy to ask the Court to rule that our client was not entitled to receive No-Fault insurance benefits following a collision. However, the Court determined that the Barnes case only pertained to personal automobile insurance policies and not commercial policies. Since the SMDA client was operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the accident, the holding from Barnes was inapplicable to our client. However, our case should act as a good reminder for anyone, especially families, with a personal No-Fault automobile insurance policy to list all drivers of the car on the policy, no matter how little time they spend in it and here’s why:
The Barnes case resulted from a car accident involving the owner and driver of a vehicle who applied for No-Fault benefits from the company that issued the insurance policy on her vehicle. The Plaintiff and her mother were the sole owners of the vehicle. However, the No-Fault insurance policy covering their vehicle was purchased by the mother’s friend, as he was also using the car in order to assist the mother who was disabled. That person was the only named insured driver on the policy. After the daughter was injured in a collision, the insurance company denied the claim stating that she was an owner of the vehicle and she had failed to to maintain insurance on her car which is a requirement to obtain no-fault automobile insurance benefits following a collision. The car she was operating was insured under the friend’s name. However, she was the owner and operator of the car but she was was not listed on the personal no-fault insurance policy and thus not entitled to any benefits. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case and the Court of Appeals upheld this ruling meaning that whatever the injured driver/owner of the car saved by not being listed on the policy, she lost far more in No-Fault benefits following this collision.
How Could This Affect My Claim?
Many people, families especially, don’t list all operators of the car on their automobile insurance policy. Sometimes, it is an oversight and sometimes it is because it is more expensive to do so. For families with many children, all of whom drive the family car, the costs of adding each individual child can be intimidating for many parents, but it can be worth it as it displayed by the outcome of the Barnes case. The same goes for other owners of a vehicle who have multiple drivers using their car. If a driver has unfettered access to the car or usage of the car for over a month, even if the vehicle is not registered or titled in their name, they can be considered a constructive owner who is required to be named insured on the policy under the Barnes case. Since there is no way to know when an accident will occur, it is to the benefit of everyone who shares a car to be listed on the insurance policy so there is no dispute that they are entitled to No-Fault benefits in case of an accident. Medical bills can be overwhelming after an accident. No one wants to give their insurance company an excuse to deny them Michigan No-Fault Automobile Insurance coverage which is necessary for them to recover from their injuries and resume the normal rhythm of their life.
Everyone wants to imagine that an accident will never happen to them, but to make sure you don’t end up footing the bill of a car accident yourself, prepare for the worst and list every driver to your personal insurance policy before the costs of an uncovered accident surprise you.