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Red Wings legends Vlad Konstantinov and Darren McCarty appear at Detroit rally for no fault insurance fix

Detroit no fault rally
Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio
Red Wings legend Darren McCarty speaks on behalf of fellow Red Wings legend Vlad Konstantinov, and more than 18,000 other car crash survivors at rally

Car crash survivors and their supporters held a rally in Detroit on Thursday with a familiar guest of honor - Red Wings legend Vladimir Konstantinov - who is also a survivor of a catastrophic crash. 

They hope to convince state legislators to fix Michigan's auto no fault law so it doesn't apply to people who were hurt in crashes before the law was passed.

Konstantinov was joined by his former Red Wings teammate Darren McCarty, who asked Senator Majority leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Jason Wentworth to acknowledge the harm the law is doing to crash victims, and begin discussions on amending it. 

The law cuts payments for care so deeply that many care providers are going out of business, leaving their patients scrambling for alternate care, and often, not being able to find it.

young car crash survivor
Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio
Braxton Wood was 17 when he suffered a partial spinal cord injury in a car crash. With intensive physical therapy, he said he was close to being able to walk with a cane for nearly half a mile. Now, he can't find caregivers to drive him to PT, due to 45% cuts in their pay under the auto no fault law. He's now back in a wheelchair full-time.

"We're Michigan, for gosh sakes," he said. "We shouldn't be mediocre. We should be great. Let's be great together, let's have that compassion together."

McCarty called the retroactivity of the law "ridiculous."

Other speakers at the rally said the 2019 auto no fault law has failed to fulfill any of its promises.

Detroit City Councilwoman Latisha Jones said drivers in Detroit were promised relief from discriminatory rates.

But she said the law only made the discrimination worse.

A recent report shows that many Detroit residents now pay more for the lowest tier of personal injury coverage than non-Detroit drivers pay for the highest tier of injury coverage.

And Jones said people in Detroit and across the state are losing care.

"Crash survivors are suffering and dying. Our leaders need to admit their mistakes and fix this mess immediately," she said to sustained applause.

The rally was attended by a few hundred injured survivors of catastrophic accidents, their families, friends, and caregivers.

Braxton Wood survived a catastrophic car crash when he was 17. His spinal cord injury was partial, and he said thanks to intensive physical therapy, he was close to being able to walk nearly a half mile with braces and a cane.

But the no fault law cut payments by nearly 50% to the caregivers who drove him to those PT appointments. They discharged him as a patient as a result.

Now, he's back in a wheelchair full-time.

"And I am one of the ones who are least affected," he said. "There are people dying out here. It's criminal. It makes me want to cry."

More survivors are losing their care as each month passes with no fix to the law.

Jason Tunnecliffe, who suffered a C6 spinal cord injury in 2008, will lose his 24/7 home care next month.

He doesn't know what he'll do, other than try to get a judge to order his insurance company to pay reasonable rates for his care. If that fails, he might have to move out of his home, into an institutional setting.

Insurance companies - a powerful lobby in Lansing - oppose any change to the law.

The industry's trade group says the law is working as intended and the state legislature should stay the course.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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