Changes to no-fault auto insurance law push car accident survivor to death


Almost every week since September, people who have survived car crashes with catastrophic injuries have taken to the state Capitol to ask lawmakers for help.

They lose their care. That’s because the new no-fault auto insurance law has cut payments to their caregivers nearly in half.

Many healthcare providers go bankrupt.

As each week passes and nothing is done, the despair of survivors and their loved ones grows.

At the Capitol rally last week, I met 68-year-old Charlie Wallace. He told me he planned to be at the rally with his son by his side.

Instead, he was alone.

Wallace had a look of utter exhaustion on his face, but there was also something worse: terror. The terror of a man facing the worst thing a parent can face.

He said his son, Michael, was seriously injured in a car accident 26 years ago. Michael was paralyzed from the shoulders down and he had a traumatic brain injury.

Photo of the accident that left Michael Wallace a quadriplegic

“He was on a ventilator,” Wallace said. “They said we would never get him out of the vent, and we did. They said he would only live for seven years, and he’s now 26 after the crash. And that’s up to because of the nursing care he received.”

Michael’s insurance company, Auto-Owners, paid for the nursing care, under Michigan’s old no-fault law, which provided high-quality, lifelong care for survivors of the most catastrophic car crashes. .

Michael’s life since the accident hasn’t been easy, but his son is fiercely independent, Charlie said. A fighter.

Despite the brain injury, Michael managed his own health care and hired his own nursing agencies. But on July 1, auto owners began slashing payments for her nursing care by nearly half, under the new No-Fault Automobile Act.

And on December 31, the home care agency finally said she couldn’t afford to stay any longer. The nurses left. The assistants left. Michael was alone.

“We tried to find other agencies,” Charlie said. “But no one is going to take a new case at a loss, and they know it’s a loss, so we can’t have anyone.”

So after Dec. 31, Charlie drove almost every day from his home in Rochester Hills to Michael’s house in Ann Arbor, an hour’s drive each way, to transfer him from bed to wheelchair, change his catheter , feed it and install it. in front of his computer. Other parents traveled long distances to do a shift here and there as best they could.

Until January 11. That night, Charlie paid for a nurse with her own money. He went out for an errand. And that’s when Michael called 911 to say he was refusing further medical attention.

“He totally gave up,” Charlie choked out between sobs. “He just wanted to die. No more catheter, no more medicine. And then two minutes later, here’s the stretcher and the paramedics, and because he said that (he was refusing treatment), I couldn’t get it. ‘stop it. I couldn’t legally stop it.’

Charlie was unable to go to the ER with her son due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The only thing we had was hope,” he said of the run-up to changes to the state’s no-fault insurance law. “I hope it continues. Everything was fine. And now they took him away, and he wants to die. He’s done. He fought this for a long time, and he just gave up. But I can’t let him go.”

Michael spent two days in the emergency room at the University of Michigan Medicine Hospital. They couldn’t admit it because the lung unit was full of COVID patients.

He obtained a psychiatric consultation in the emergency room. But he mainly credits an ER nurse, Emily, for his recovery. He said she spent hours talking with him that first night.

Now Michael is back home. He said he was grateful that his father and other family members were dedicated to his well-being, but noted that they could not replace the skilled nursing care he once had.

Michael still does not have professional home care, and his father and other family members still struggle to care for him. They pay for the nurses’ visits out of their own pocket.

Michael said he slept in his wheelchair for several nights in a row to reduce the number of times he was transferred to bed by someone without medical training.

Michael is supposed to have a catheterization every two to three hours – a procedure that should be done by a nurse – but he said he has cut down on his fluid intake so he can extend the time between procedures. Infrequent catheterization in a person with quadriplegia can be life-threatening, causing a condition known as autonomic dysreflexia, a sudden and dangerous increase in blood pressure.

These kinds of silent tragedies are happening to more people every day. Survivors of catastrophic injuries sustained in car crashes said the Wallaces’ story was just the tip of the iceberg.

There are more than 18,000 Michiganders with catastrophic injuries who received a range of services under the old law.

Now many of their care agencies are depleting their emergency funds trying to stay in business for another month.

Automobile Owners Insurance declined to comment.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) said he plans to introduce a new bill as soon as next week. Green said he would reinstate what he calls “reasonable payments” for caregivers in car crashes. He is trying to get as many co-sponsors on the bill as possible, hoping to convince his party leaders to allow a hearing.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *