Mother who witnessed son's death in motorcycle accident entitled to PIP benefits

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Decisions

April 26, 2011

Mother who witnessed son's death in motorcycle accident entitled to PIP benefits 

A Michigan appellate court held that a mother who suffered posttraumatic stress disorder after seeing her son die in a motorcycle accident was entited to no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.

As she was driving her own car, Gale Boertmann saw a fatal collision between the motorcycle that her son Chris was operating and another vehicle. Doctors later diagnosed Boertmann as having depression and posttraumatic stress disorder caused by witnessing the accident.

Boertmann filed a PIP benefits claim with her insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Co., which denied the benefits. She filed a lawsuit to recover them. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion, holding that Boertmann had proved sufficient causation between her injuries and her son’s motor vehicle collision, as required under applicable law.

Affirming, the appellate court noted that under a Michigan statute, an insurer is obligated to pay PIP benefits for bodily injury “arising out of” the operation of a motor vehicle. Citing case law, the court found that other litigants had recovered PIP benefits where the injuries did not result directly from their own operation of a motor vehicle and where there was no physical contact between the claimant and the motor vehicle involved in the accident.

The court acknowledged other cases in which courts held that plaintiffs who claimed coverage for injuries resulting from their children’s deaths were not entitled to PIP benefits because their injuries were independent from the cause of the child’s death. However, Boertmann’s experts testified that her injuries resulted from her witnessing the fatal collision and therefore arose out of the use of the motor vehicle, the court concluded.

Citation: Boertmann v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 2011 WL 799760 (Mich. App. Mar. 8, 2011).


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