Summary of Admire vs Auto Owners, Michigan Auto No-Fault Court Case

Home modifications by occupational therapist (OT) based on principles of universal design and accessibility.

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
This summary of the Admire vs Auto Owners court case is an excerpt from a Miller & Tischler, P.C. newsletter.


 In perhaps the most important decision on "allowable expenses" since Griffith , the Supreme Court in Admire v Auto Owners has significantly changed what is compensable for the purchase of a modified van.

For many years, a common claim in catastrophic injury cases has been for the purchase of a van modified for wheelchair use. We have sought, on behalf of our clients, that the insurance company reimburse the entire cost of the modified van (i.e., the purchase price plus the modifications) as an allowable expense under the No-Fault Act. Insurers often took the position that only the modifications to the van were compensable, but for many years, the courts consistently held that, under most circumstances, the entire cost of a modified van was compensable.

The Supreme Court has changed the landscape through its decision in Admire v Auto Owners, in which it held that only the modifications to the van are compensable.  In Admire, plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries in 1987. He requires wheelchair-accessible transportation to go to work, visit family, attend medical appointments, and get around the community. On three prior occasions, the insurance company agreed to pay the full cost of purchasing and modifiying a van large enough for plaintiff to get in and out while remaining in his wheelchair.  In December 2006, a new van was sought by plaintiff.  Although the insurance company reimbursed plaintiff for the full cost of the previous vans, this time defendant would only pay for van modifications.  The case took several years to weave its way through the Court system, ultimately with the Supreme Court rendering opinion on May 23, 2013.  It decided: "Because the base price of the van is an ordinary transportation expense-an expense that is as necessary for the uninjured as the injured-and is easily separated from the modifications, defendant is not required to pay for it under the no-fault insurance act."

What does this mean for you or your patients?  If catastrophically injured and require a wheelchair van for transportation, the insurance company is now only obligated to pay the cost to modify a van plus medical mileage.  While the insurance company may have paid in the past the full cost of the van plus the modifications, Admire no longer requires they do so.  

Of note is that Admire was a van case, not a housing case.  The Court in Admire did not address any modified home claim but in its opinion, overturned two housing cases that used an incremental approach to payment for housing.  That aside, it is unknown at this point how the Admire decision will affect housing claims.  What we do know is that the matter is certainly not settled and we expect more to come on the issue of modified home claims in the near future. 

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