The Michigan Financial Responsibility Law requires that every motorist carries car insurance with a minimum level of coverage. Under Michigan's no-fault law, drivers have the most first-party protections and benefits compared to elsewhere in the U.S., and as a result, some of the highest rates nationwide. Its designed this way in part to help residents recover their economic losses with as little down-time as possible, and to limit court backlogs. There are alternative proofs of financial responsibility besides car insurance, but these alternatives may leave your own personal assets exposed.
Always have your insurance ID card with you when you drive, in case you are pulled over on the road; this is the most common occasion when you will be asked to show proof of insurance besides registering your car or renewing the registration. Otherwise, a valid certificate issued by the State Treasurer or Secretary will suffice as well (covered below).
|MI Required Min. Limits|
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
|Until full recovery (no longer needing rehab)|
Property Protection Insurance (PPI)
|$1MM per accident|
Bodily Injury/Property Damage (Residual BI & PD)
|$20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident/$10,000 for damages|
Michigan Car Insurance Minimum Requirements
A valid Michigan insurance policy will at least include Personal Injury Protection, Property Protection Insurance, and Residual Bodily Injury & Property Damage coverage. These coverages cover all of your own medical expenses and most of your property damage liability from an accident. Michigan also requires a minimum amount of residual liability coverage. Because every driver claims from their own PIP first, and there is a limited right to sue, only the most serious or outlying cases make it to court, which the residual liability would cover.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): pays your medical bills until you're done with rehab or recovery, 85% of missed income, daily household subsidy
- Property Protection Insurance (PPI): $1 million per crash for any collateral damage to stationary property
- Residual Bodily Injury & Property Damage: covers the other party's medical bills and car repairs, under limited circumstances
Personal Injury Protection (PIP): covers your medical expenses. PIP in Michigan will pay for you until you are no longer physically recovering or rehabilitating for injuries from any given accident, whether or not it was your fault. It's the most generous coverage, since there is no ceiling to the amount of coverage you can receive. Other benefits that your PIP provides include 85% of your lost income (in case you cannot work because of your injuries) and a daily household subsidy no more than $20/day. You may receive these additional benefits for as long as 3 years after the accident in certain cases.
Most insurers will ask you to bear a certain amount of costs before they step in – also known as a deductible amount; it is usually $300 or $500 per accident, and varies by insurer. Furthermore, if your health insurance plan covers auto accident injuries, you can choose to coordinate your car insurance with your health insurance coverage for a lower PIP premium. In other words, when either your medical expenses or even income loss benefit is primarily (first) covered by your health insurance, your PIP coverage only comes in for costs not covered, and so your premium will decrease accordingly.
Property Protection Insurance (PPI): a coverage unique to Michigan motorists, PPI covers the costs to repair any collateral property damage you cause in an accident up to a total of $1 million per crash. This typically only covers stationary objects - examples include a corner of the building or a light pole that your car crashed into. This usually doesn’t cover another driver’s car, unless it is property parked by the side of a road when you run into it.
Bodily Injury & Property Damage (Residual BI/PD): collectively known as the liability insurance, Bodily Injury and Property Damage cover the other driver’s injuries and property damage costs, respectively, from an accident you cause. This is the only Michigan required coverage that has stated limits you may choose from, but you must always at least be covered up to $20,000 per injured person and a total of $40,000 for two or more persons, and $10,000 for damage to property. You may see insurers refer to these limits in a split limit format that looks like this: $20k/$40k/$10k.
In Michigan, BI and PD are residual because Michigan limits its motorists’ right to sue in exchange for the generous no-fault benefits. Only under a few exceptions will this coverage come into play. However, when it does (for example, a driver died because of you, and his or her family sue you for $50,000 for the pain and suffering they endure), your insurer will pay out up to your policy's limits. If you are not sufficiently covered, your assets will be on the hook for the rest in a lawsuit.
Another complication is that Michigan's basic residual property damage does NOT cover repairs and fixes to another car (unless parked - see above) you collide with in an accident you cause, as most other states would. It can only be accessed in serious accidents, when you're out of state, or when you hit an out-of-state driver (more below).
Optional Car Insurance Coverage in Michigan
Apart from choosing higher limits of the required-Residual BI/PD coverage, here are a few unique Michigan optional coverage that drivers may find as helpful additions:
Limited Property Damage: under the mini-tort law (covered below), when you are more than 50% at-fault for a collision accident, the other driver can sue you for their car’s damage. The most the other driver may sue you for under the mini-tort law is $1,000, and you are covered for judgments up to that amount if you buy this coverage.
Collision: this pays for your own car's repair when it is damaged by you driving into something. Typically, collision will cover your repair costs regardless of fault, after you have paid some portion of the costs equal to the deductible amount you’ve chosen. Michigan insurers may offer you a choice of the following types of Collision coverage, with different scopes and premiums:
- Limited: the lowest cost type, limited Collision pays for your vehicle’s damage when you are less than 50% at-fault for the crash. You can choose to not have a deductible, but your premiums will be higher.
- Standard: the standard Collision, which is known as physical damage coverage (along with Comprehensive), will cover you regardless of your negligence. You must always choose a deductible with this option.
- Broad Form: costs the most out of the three options, but asks for least out-of-pocket. Broad Form Collision pays for your damage regardless of fault, and waives your deductible when you are less than 50% to blame.
Your Right to Sue
Your right to sue is limited in Michigan for most accidents, as part of the no-fault law's unlimited medical / economic loss benefits. You are almost never in a situation to sue the negligent driver for pain and suffering (non-economic loss), except under several circumstances:
- Serious Injuries or Death: if someone in your car is seriously injured or permanently disfigured (subject to the jury’s judgment), or even dies from the accident, you or his or her family member may sue the negligent driver.
- Accidents Involving Non-Michigan Residents: when you are involved in an accident with a non-Michigan resident, he or she is not subject to the Michigan no-fault law, and so will not be limited in their right to sue, unless that is also the case in their resident state.
- Accidents Outside of Michigan: if you get into an accident out-of-state, where there is no limit to sue, the other driver may sue you.
- Mini-tort: in the event that the other driver believes you are more than 50% at-fault for an accident, he or she may sue you for up to $1,000 for vehicle damage in a mini-tort claim court. If the other driver is covered by a type of collision coverage and has had to pay a deductible, you will need to pay him or her that deductible amount back. This is referred to as the “Mini-tort” law, and Michigan insurers have a specific coverage (Limited Property Damage) for it.
Alternative Proof of Financial Responsibility
Provided that you meet the requirements, the Secretary of State in Michigan may allow you to replace getting a car insurance policy with three alternatives. You must understand that although they satisfy the Financial Responsibility Law, you'll be both responsible for your own medical bills, as well as any claims or judgments others bring against you. Here are the alternatives:
Surety Bond: by purchasing a surety bond with a licensed surety company in Michigan, you may file a copy of the bond and apply for a certificate with the Secretary of State. This will be your surety of promise that you will pay all necessary payments for the property damage and personal injury that you cause to another person in an auto accident. In the event that you cannot pay any claims or judgments made against you, the surety company will step in to pay, and then try to recover from you.
Real Estate Bond: a real estate bond involves two other individuals, both of whom own real estate in the state. By signing the bond and listing their real estate as lien, this bond is a promise that you will pay for any property damage and personal injuries that are your fault, and that the other two individuals will pay in your place if you cannot satisfy the liability. A valid real estate bond must have a judge’s approval in the county court where the real estate is located, and the clerk of the court has to file the bond and send a copy of it to the Secretary of State.
Cash/Security Deposit: a deposit in cash or security is only valid proof of financial responsibility when you make it with the State Treasurer, and get a certificate of deposit from the office. The sum will be specified by the Treasurer, and you may make the deposit in either cash or securities, such as government bonds or notes. Whenever you cause an accident the deposit will be used to cover any medical expenses or property damage costs you are considered responsible for.