L. Brooks Patterson speaks out against changing Michigan's no-fault auto insurance

Apr 30, 2013

A proposed reform to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance is circulating in the Legislature.

Among other things, it would cap benefits for people who suffer severe injuries in auto accidents at $1 million.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has come out as a strong opponent to this legislation.

Patterson is still recovering from a serious auto accident he had last summer, and his driver, James Cram of Owosso, was paralyzed from the neck down.

In this interview with Jennifer White, Patterson talks about his opposition to the proposed legislation and his recovery.

You can listen to the full interview above.

Patterson wanted to be clear that he and his driver were working at the time of their accident.

Their medical bills are covered by worker's compensation, so Patterson says his opposition to changes to Michigan's no-fault insurance laws are not for his own benefit.

"Did the accident make me more aware and more sensitized to the plight of people who suffer from catastrophic injuries? Absolutely," he said.

"Did the accident make me more aware and more sensitized to the plight of people who suffer from catastrophic injuries? Absolutely."

Patterson's driver was left quadriplegic after the accident. Patterson said he's met other people who were injured as badly as his driver and who are covered by Michigan's unlimited coverage for their injuries.

"But for that fund, they long ago would have been put into a medical warehouse, a nursing home, a rest home under Medicaid never to be seen again," he said.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White asked if Gov. Snyder is wrong when he says Michigan's auto insurance rates are too high.

"We are five percent higher than the national average," said Patterson. "By that I mean right now, that's $22 higher than the national average. In exchange for that slight nick when you by your insurance, you get in return unlimited coverage."

The proposed changes to Michigan's auto insurance would cap that coverage in the case of a catastrophic injury at $1 million. 

Patterson said $1 million sounds like a lot, but it's not when it comes to these kinds of injuries. He used his driver's medical bills as an example.

"I mean the accident was only 8 months ago, he's already gone through $2.4 million, so $1 million would have covered him for about four months," said Patterson. "I mean when these people are catastrophically injured, the expenses for care are just astronomical."

Patterson said the insurance industry's proposal doesn't have the votes yet in the Michigan Legislature.

"There's going to be some serious arm twisting, and they're going to be brought into [Speaker Bolger's office] and they're going to lock the door," said Patterson.

Patterson said the biggest issue he has is that the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, a group made up by insurance companies, sets their fees in secret, so we don't know how they arrive at the fact that these catastrophic claims are linked to higher insurance rates in Michigan.

"I still get out. I still have time to share a few laughs with my friends, and that's something that is unfortunately beyond Jimmy's reach," he said.

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham has reported on this in the past. You can read more in his post "Seven things to know about changes to Michigan's mandatory auto insurance."

Patterson said his injuries are serious, but no where near as bad as his driver's, James Cram.

"I still get out. I still have time to share a few laughs with my friends, and that's something that is unfortunately beyond Jimmy's reach," he said.

Patterson and Cram are suing the driver accused of causing the crash that led to their serious injuries.