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When you are trying to settle your no-fault auto insurance claim after an accident, it is important to know what is included, and what isn’t. That’s where the assignment of future claims can become important. It controls whether you will be able to file again if your accident continues to require medical treatment.
The Michigan No-Fault Act can be tricky to understand. Even when a statute is only one sentence long, decisions by courts over the decades can make a straight-forward statement much more complicated. MCL 500.3143 is like that. The statute says:
An agreement for assignment of a right to benefits payable in the future is void.
Assignment means giving your right to someone else, like a medical provider. Often when you receive a no-fault settlement, your attorney will ask you to assign part of the award to the doctors, hospitals, and therapists who helped you. Their medical bills get paid out of the money you receive.
But MCL 500.3143 says you can’t assign what hasn’t already been earned. So if you need ongoing treatment for your injuries, it will be up to you to hold on to the settlement and pay the bills as they come due.
What makes MCL 500.3143 complicated is that it doesn’t apply to a “release.” While an assignment gives a benefit to someone else, a release gives it back to the insurance company that would otherwise have to pay for it. For example, if you hit your head during a car crash, but up until settlement you do not appear to have suffered a traumatic brain injury, the insurance company’s attorney may ask you to release your claim for TBI benefits. If you do, the insurance company won’t have to pay for later treatments relating to that injury. A release may just seem like an assignment back to the insurance company, but Michigan law still allows you and your insurance company to agree to release claims in order to reach a settlement if those claims are reasonably disputed.
Generally, you don’t want to agree to release your future claims until you know you have all of your injuries covered. However, your particular circumstances may make a release of future claims a good idea. Sometimes a fixed monthly payout will be easier to maintain and avoid the cost of going back to court every time you incur more medical expenses. Other times, the remaining treatments may be small enough to be covered under your regular medical insurance.
Before you sign anything releasing an auto insurance company from paying out no-fault benefits, make sure you talk it through with an attorney. If you don’t, you could accidentally sign over your right to get your medical treatment paid for.