Important Legislative Developments in Auto No-Fault Law in January 2015

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Our No-Fault community continues to be vigilant about dramatic changes that have been threatened over the last several years. Thus far, our No-Fault law remains largely intact. However, in January 2015, several legislative changes occurred to the No-Fault law: 

First, change in the status of golf carts. As we know, only injuries arising out of the use of "motor vehicles" can give rise to No-Fault benefits. For years, we have known that there are many vehicles that have motors that are excluded from the definition of "motor vehicles." These include most prominently motorcycles, ORVs, and farm tractors. Effective January 2015, the law has been amended to include golf carts in the list of things that can never be a "motor vehicle." §500.3101(2)(h)(v).

Second, change as to motorcycle ownership. As we know, owners of motor vehicles include not only title holders, but "constructive owners" (i.e., those who merely have the use of motor vehicles for more than 30 days). For many years, case law made clear that motorcyclists could only be owners by holding title. Effective January 2015, the law has been amended so that motorcyclists can now be constructive owners. §3101(2)(k)(ii). The significance of this is that all owners (title holders and constructive owners) must insure their vehicles. Failure to do so results in disqualification.

Third, broadening of the "unlawful taking" disqualification. The law has now been changed to read that a person is disqualified if the person "...was willingly operating or willingly using a motor vehicle or motorcycle that was taken unlawfully, and the person knew or should have known that the motor vehicle or motorcycle was taken unlawfully." This removes the old savings clause for persons who "reasonably believed that [they were] entitled to take and use the vehicle." §3113(a).

Fourth, a new disqualification appears for persons who operate "...a motor vehicle or motorcycle as to which he or she was named as an excluded operator as allowed under section 3009(2)." §3113(d).

So while we have avoided wholesale changes to the No-Fault law, be aware that there has been some significant legislative "nibbling."

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