In a case before the Michigan Supreme Court, a man suffered a severe closed head injury in 1996 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike. The person who hit him drove off. The man was hospitalized for a month and received therapy and rehabilitation upon discharge. The man In accordance with the No-Fault law, obtained payment of his PIP benefits for his hospitalization, medical expenses, wage loss, attendant care and replacement services for 3 years.
In 1999 the man tried to return to work on a full time basis. He was unable to hold a job and ultimately stopped working. During this time period he attempted suicide on two occasions. After his second attempt, his psychiatrist indicated that he required further medical treatment for continued "ill-effects as a result of his closed-head injury…." The psychiatrist said he had short-term memory loss and impulsivity problems due to the accident and indicated that he needed care from an aide.
The dispute is whether the insurance carrier has to reimburse the plaintiff for care provided by his wife as recommended by the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist's company provided attendant care for the man and employed his wife to provide her husband's care. The company billed the plaintiff $40 per hour for attendant care, paying his wife $10 per hour. The circuit court agreed to the hourly rate of $40 and awarded approximately $1.2 million including attorney fees and interest. The Court of Appeals agreed with the hourly rate but ordered further proceedings to determine whether his wife had records of the care provided. The plaintiff's wife had not contemporaneously kept a daily log of each and every action provided for the care of her husband but rather she provided affidavits of the care provided which were recreated later using medical bills and receipts to help reconstruct what she had done.
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the injured accident victims must prove the amount and nature of services they received as well as the caregivers' expectation of compensation or reimbursement. The Court stated that "the best way of proving that a caregiver actually expected compensation for services" is for the caregiver to document the incurred charges contemporaneously with providing them either with a bill or a log of the services rendered and then providing the documentation to a reasonable time thereafter. The Court did note that the statute does not require that form of documentation.
The problem with this ruling is that most people will not know that this is required of them. All they know is that their loved one needs care. They get up and go through their day doing the best they can to provide care for their loved one. Significant time can go by without the care giver even knowing that they are to make contemporary logs and benefits that the injured person is entitled to, that they have paid for, can be lost.
Furthermore, the Court ruled that the commercial rate of $40 per hour is based on factors "too attenuated from those underlying the rate charged for an individual's provision of attendant care services" therefore an individual cannot charge a commercial rate. The Court further determined the $40 hourly rate to be clearly erroneous because plaintiff's wife was only paid $10. Therefore, the Court indicated that in determining a reasonable charge for attendant care, a fact finder must look to what health care agencies pay their employees to provide attendant care services, not what the attendant care agencies charge their patients.
The best lesson from this case is that if you or someone you love is injured in an auto accident, contact an auto accident attorney immediately so that you can understand your rights. Contact our office today.