How involved is “involved” under Michigan’s No-Fault Act?


Michigan’s No-Fault Act applies only to accidents arising “out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle…” Because a motorcycle isn’t a “motor vehicle” as defined by the No-Fault Act, insurers are liable for benefits only if a motor vehicle—i.e., an automobile other than a motorcycle—is involved in an accident.

Michigan’s courts have held that a motor vehicle’s involvement must be active rather than passive for the No-Fault Act to apply to a motorcycle accident. But it isn’t always clear what that distinction means. The Michigan Court of Appeals’ recent decision in Detroit Medical Center v. Progressive Michigan Insurance Company, however, provides some clarity.

In Detroit Medical Center, a motorcyclist was traveling near 100 mph on a dark and deserted side street when he saw headlights from an approaching motor vehicle. Startled, he rapidly applied his brakes to avoid a collision. The motorcyclist lost control and fell. There was no contact with the motor vehicle. Detroit Medical Center treated the motorcyclist and later filed suit against the motorcyclist’s insurer for personal protection insurance benefits under the No-Fault Act.

The Court of Appeals held, however, that the automobile was not sufficiently involved in the accident. The motorcyclist overreacted to the approaching headlights, since there was no need to take evasive action. A subjective and erroneous belief that evasive action is required is not enough for the court to conclude that the motor vehicle was involved in the accident for purposes of the No-Fault Act. Therefore, the motorcyclist’s insurer was not liable.

Detroit Medical Center has filed an application for leave to appeal from this decision before the Michigan Supreme Court.

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