GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the Wieland family in Grand Rapids, Thursday’s ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals was a welcome step toward justice.
The court ruled Thursday in favor of people who were catastrophically injured before the state changed its law and said the new cap on reimbursement and fee schedules should not apply to those who received premiums for unlimited benefits.
“After years of being stonewalled by legislative leadership, the courts now finally step in and ruled in favor of decency, in favor of justice and in favor of fairness,” said Tom Constand, CEO of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. “There’s about 18,000 survivors that are ecstatic with this, but it’s still a long road.”
In 2019, Michigan changed its no-fault law in attempt to lower insurance rates for drivers. While many welcomed the lower cost, the change also left nearly 18,000 people who need long-term care in a state of limbo. Their insurance suddenly did not cover all their treatment and providers dwindled.
“I felt, shall we say, jilted because we had paid all this time and then suddenly the legislature decided they don’t need to pay you like they were for taking care of your son like they [use to] do,” said Sheldon Wieland.
His son Shawn was in a car accident four days before Christmas of 1997. “When they greeted us at the hospital they said, ‘well, we are not sure if he’s going to live,’” Sheldon Wieland said. “They don’t greet you with a doctor, they greet you with a social worker.”
Shawn Wieland suffered a traumatic brain injury that impaired his speech and balance. His father said it took years of different therapies and constant care for Shawn to relearn how to walk. But when the law changed in 2019, some of Shawn Wieland’s therapies and care were not covered. The Wielands were left with thousands of dollars’ worth of bills.
Shawn Wieland now communicates through his iPod. He told News 8 that he is optimistic that their insurance and care will return to pre-2019 numbers.
“I feel great, finally,” he said.
“The care is expensive. The care is extensive,” Constand said. “A multiple disciplinary team is needed. Highly trained, highly skilled individuals to provide care … and care too often is life-long.”
The insurance industry is expected to appeal the decision to the state supreme court. It is unclear if those impacted by the 2019 law change will receive backpay for their expenses.