Does Michigan No-Fault Law Cover Injuries Sustained When A Vehicle Is Parked?

Metro Detroit Car Accident Lawyer

Under Michigan No-Fault Law, the responsible insurance provider is "liable to pay benefits for accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle." MCL 500.3105(1). This is true even if the insured caused the injury producing event. 

What about injuries that occur when the vehicle is parked? Is an injured claimant still entitled to receive no-fault benefits (benefits for hospital and medical bills, wage loss, replacement services, etc.)?  

MCL 500.3106 states that if the motor vehicle involved in an accident is a parked vehicle, the resulting injury will not be viewed as arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle (thus precluding no-fault benefits) unless one of the following three circumstances exists: 

  1. The vehicle was parked in a way that caused an unreasonable risk of the injury that occurred.
  2. The injury occurred either as a direct result of physical contact with the equipment permanently mounted on the vehicle or while the equipment was being operated or used, or while property was being lifted onto or lowered from the vehicle in the loading or unloading process.
  3. The injury occurred while a person was occupying, entering, or alighting from the vehicle.

Whether a particular case fits the above exceptions to the general rule excluding no-fault benefits for injuries from a parked vehicle is fact specific and requires careful analysis by an experienced Michigan no-fault attorney

The more a claimant can show that the injury was related to the transportation function of the vehicle, the more likely a court is going to find that no-fault benefits are available. For instance, In Daubenspeck v Automobile Club of Michigan, 179 Mich App 453, 446 NW2d 292 (1989), the court of appeals held that plaintiff was not entitled to no-fault benefits where he slipped and fell on ice at a self-service gas station after he had finished pumping gas but before replacing the gas cap. The court reasoned that plaintiff’s slip and fall was merely incidental or fortuitous, as it could just as well have occurred elsewhere. The court declared that it could not be said that plaintiff’s injuries arose from the maintenance or refueling of his car.

In contrast, the Michigan Supreme Court held that no-fault benefits were available to a claimant who slipped on ice while lifting one leg into a parked vehicle toward the driver's side floor board and shifting her weight to her other leg. Putkamer v Transamerica Ins Corp of America, 454 Mich 626, 563 NW2d 683 (1997). The court reasoned that it was undisputed that plaintiff was entering the vehicle with the intention of driving, and that the resulting injury was “exactly the kind of injury that the Legislature decided should be covered when it established an exception to the parked vehicle exclusion for entering a parked vehicle in subsection 3106(1)(c).” Putkamer, 454 Mich at 636.

Furthermore, an injury is not entitled to no-fault benefits (even if one of the above exceptions applies) if worker's compensation benefits are available to the injured party. Thus, an employee who is eligible for worker's compensation benefits and who is injured in the course of employment while loading, unloading, or doing mechanical work on a vehicle is not entitled to recover no-fault benefits from his or her employer's insurance carrier unless the injury arose form the use or operation of another vehicle. MCL 500.3106(2)(a).

Metro Detroit Injury Lawyers is a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan law firm practicing personal injury law. Contact us today at 248-430-8929 for a free consultation and evaluation of your case, with no obligation.