No-Fault Law Explained: Motor Vehicle Defined

Before you can file a claim under your Michigan no-fault automobile insurance, your attorneys will have to determine one basic question: Was this a motor vehicle accident?

In most car crashes there is no question: when a car hits a car and you were in one of them, a motor vehicle accident has occurred. But what if a car hits a person? Or what if two motorcycles collide? What counts as a motor vehicle?

The No-Fault Act defines motor vehicle as “a vehicle, including a trailer, that is operated or designed for operation on a public highway by power other than muscular power and has more than 2 wheels.”

Let’s break that down:

  • A motor vehicle needs to have more than 2 wheels. That means motorcycles and mopeds don’t count.
  • The device has to be intended for use on a public road. That means go-carts and golf carts don’t count.
  • Motor vehicles need to be powered by something other than your muscles. That cuts off bicycles, tricycles, wagons, scooters, and other rider-propelled toys.

Michigan law also explicitly excludes off-road vehicles (ORVs), commercial quadricycles, battery operated wheelchairs, and unregistered farm equipment, like tractors.

Let’s go through a few possible accidents to show whether a motor vehicle was involved.

Car v Car

A convertible runs into a sub-compact at a stop light. Since both are 4-wheeled, powered vehicles designed to work on the roads, their drivers and passengers are covered.

SUV v Bicycle

An SUV hits a bicycle at the start of a right turn lane. The bicycle doesn’t count as a vehicle, since it’s human-powered, but the SUV does. One motor vehicle is enough to count as a motor vehicle accident, so everyone is covered.

Semi-Trailer v Horse Trailer

A tractor trailer jack-knifes on the highway and the trailer strikes a horse trailer in the next lane. Neither the semi cab or the truck pulling the horse trailer are damaged. Both the semi trailer and the horse trailer count as part of a motor vehicle under the No-Fault Act. Even if the towing vehicles aren’t involved, the No-Fault Act will still apply.

Motorcycle v Pedestrian

A motorcycle hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The pedestrian doesn’t count as a vehicle – there’s no device. The motorcycle doesn’t count either because it doesn’t have more than two wheels, so the No-Fault Act doesn’t apply. However, motorcyclists are required to carry insurance under other Michigan laws, so there may be recovery available.

Four Wheeler v Pickup Truck

An off-road four wheeler runs into a pick up truck as it crosses a road. The four-wheeler is an off-road vehicle (ORV) and is explicitly excluded from counting as a motor vehicle. But the pickup truck does count, so the No-Fault Act applies.

After a complicated accident, you may be wondering whether the Michigan No-Fault Act applies in your situation. The auto accident attorneys at Christensen Law are ready to sit down with you and go through the accident step by step to see what your options are.