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Auto accident consumer advocates have been pushing for more information from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) for years. They have filed numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, but the MCCA has denied them. Now that fight carries on as the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled on the case.
Is the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association required to answer FOIA requests? A group of auto accident consumer advocates, including doctors, hospitals, trial lawyers, unions, and policyholders called the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault, along with the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, say yes.
The MCCA was formed by law as part of the Michigan Insurance Code to provide coverage for auto accident victims who are seriously injured and whose medical expenses and other benefits exceed a certain threshold. Advocates say that makes it answerable to the public. In particular, the group has sued the MCCA to get information on how it calculates its per-car fees paid by Michigan drivers as part of their auto insurance policies.
The MCCA says it shouldn’t have to disclose that information because of exclusions built into the law creating it. Last year, a Michigan Court of Appeals agreed. But advocates weren’t done. They appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court and the Legislature.
They got results. The Michigan Legislature had been considering a number of reforms to Michigan No-Fault reform. Even they were finding they didn’t have enough information about how the MCCA works or the financial status of the accounts. Earlier this year, the Michigan Legislature passed a law amending the Michigan No-Fault Auto Insurance Act to make the MCCA answerable to FOIA requests.
On October 16, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed there was a problem. Three days after hearing attorneys on both sides argue the case, the Court vacated the lower court’s decision and sent the case back down to the Court of Appeals to hear the case again. The Court specifically instructed the Court of Appeals to decide whether the MCCA was a “public body.”
Last year, the Court of Appeals had dodged that issue by ruling instead addressing a part of the Michigan Constitution that says the legislature cannot amend one law by mentioning it in another law. Now, the Court has directed the judges to apply that law differently, depending on the public nature of the MCCA.
This means the MCCA may still be able to avoid giving consumers the information they need. But if the court of appeals decides that the MCCA is a public body subject to FOIA requests, auto accident advocates can get the information they need to make sure consumers aren’t getting overcharged.
David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team fight the auto insurance companies to make sure car crash victims get the benefits they need to recover. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in an auto accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.
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