Constructive Ownership of a Motor Vehicle – PIP

Written by Joseph Collison on . Posted in Legal Updates

MCL 500.3101(1) provides that the “owner or registrant of a motor vehicle required to be registered in this state shall maintain security for payment of benefits under personal protection insurance[.]” The statute defines “owner” to include (1) a person “having the use of a motor vehicle, under a lease or otherwise, for a period that is greater than 30 days,” and (2) a person “that holds the legal title to a motor vehicle[.]” MCL 500.3101(2)(k)(i) and (iii).

Under MCL 500.3113, a person is precluded from receiving PIP benefits if, at the time of the accident, he was the owner or registrant of the vehicle involved in the accident and the insurance required under MCL 500.3101(1) was not in effect. As the Court of Appeals recognized in Ardt v Titan Ins Co, 233 Mich App 685, 690; 593 NW2d 215 (1999), the “statutory provisions at issue operate to prevent users of motor vehicles from obtaining the benefits of personal protection insurance without carrying their own insurance through the expedient of keeping title to their vehicles in the names of family members.”

But a motor vehicle may have more than one owner for purposes of the no-fault act. Id. at 691-692. And as long as at least one owner or registrant had the insurance required by MCL 500.3101(1), PIP benefits may be recovered by another owner. Barnes v Farmers Ins Exch, 308 Mich App 1, 8; 862 NW2d 681 (2014). However “when none of the owners maintains the requisite coverage, no owner may recover PIP benefits.” Id. at 8-9.