More auto insurance refunds possible, Pistons great Bob Lanier dies, a pre-Labor Day start to school

Michigan auto insurance companies reached their deadline to issue $400 refund checks this week. However, it might not be the end of money that drivers could receive.

According to Anita Fox, the director of the agency that oversaw the dispersal of $3 billion in refunds, her team will continue to audit funds held by the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association over the summer. If the amount of money held exceeds what is needed to cover expected costs, then the Department of Insurance and Financial Services could order another refund.

"It's not impossible that there will be additional savings, but this was an extraordinary amount of money saved as a direct result of the reforms," said Fox. 

The most recent refund issued to drivers was because of the MCCA's surplus of billions of dollars they reported in 2021. Any additional refund amounts DIFS could order likely won't be as big as the $400 that was sent back to drivers this past spring.

While the deadline has passed, Fox said her agency's work isn't done and would be following up with drivers and insurance companies to make sure all available refunds made it to respective drivers. 

It's the latest step in what she described as an "extraordinary" effort by the department overseeing a massive transfer of funds to millions of drivers. Fox said the state has issued a refund in the past, but not to the level it did this year.

"It was a big lift to get individual checks and electronic transfers to millions of drivers," she said. "There had to be tight controls, so the right amount of money was refunded."

That includes implementing more cost controls in insurer plans, reconciling how much money each auto insurer owed how many drivers, and setting up a deadline that got money to residents in a timely fashion while giving companies enough time to issue the refunds.

The department also needed to navigate the best way to keep drivers from being scammed.

"Every time money changes hands, there will be those who try to take advantage," Fox said. "We heard anecdotally through the Attorney Generals' office right from the beginning that people were getting unsolicited calls, so we told consumers ‘don’t give out personal information over the phone or at the door.'"

Anyone left with questions about their refunds or still didn't receive a check but were eligible will need to contact their insurance company first. If issues remain, then drivers are advised to call DIFS hotline at 833 ASK DIFS (833-275-3437) M-F from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Michigan remains the only state to offer the option of unlimited benefits for those catastrophically injured in a crash. Prior to the 2019 reforms negotiated between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led legislature, Michigan drivers were required to choose an insurance plan that offered unlimited injury protection coverage.

The reforms, which lifted that requirement, led to lower premiums. It also led to the MCCA's $5 billion surplus. 

The MCCA's fund that cares for people who were catastrophically injured in crashes ended up with a higher surplus due to those reforms, Fox said. As a result, it overestimated how much it would need to cover potential claims for long-term care. The trust has about $24 billion in total.

As a result, last November the group was told to refund the maximum surplus they could while maintaining enough money to cover claims plus a little extra cushion in case.

When DIFS audits the group, they'll be looking if MCCA exceeds 120% of expected liabilities from claims.

Detroit public schools eye pre-Labor Day start to class

The next first day of class at Detroit Public Schools may come before Labor Day. During a district school board meeting Monday night, members approved a tentative plan for the 2022-23 school year, which includes a pre-Labor Day start to school. Kids would instead start class on Monday, Aug. 29. 

Labor Day has long been the last holiday of summer vacation and the unofficial start to the school year in Michigan. But in recent years, school districts have increasingly pushed to have class start earlier in the year. 

One of the issues that may impact schooling earlier in the year is the lack of air conditioning in some district buildings. While DPSCD is looking forward to hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades for dozens of buildings, many still lack basic A/C that would make attending class in the summer less comfortable.

The district is expected to receive $700 million in one-time funding that will be deployed over the next several years. That includes district-wide renovations that include HVAC system installations and roofs and masonry improvements. The board's approval of the district's 2022-23 academic plan is only tentative and still needs to be fully approved.

Former Pistons' Center Bob Lanier dead at 73

Bob Lanier, the left-handed big man who muscled up beside the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the NBA's top players of the 1970s, died Tuesday. He was 73. The NBA said Lanier died after a short illness. The Hall of Famer had worked for the league as a global ambassador. The Athletic reported in 2019 that Lanier was being treated for bladder cancer.

Lanier played 14 seasons with the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds for his career. He is third on the Pistons' career list in both points and rebounds. Detroit drafted Lanier with the No. 1 overall pick in 1970 after he led St. Bonaventure to the Final Four.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Lanier was among the most talented centers in league history, and added that his accomplishments went far beyond what he did on the court. Lanier served as the NBA's global ambassador.

Lanier went into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. But his boat-size shoes got there ahead of him, with a display of his bronzed sneakers in the shrine.

— Courtesy of the Associated Press

Oxford school district rejects Nessel's offer to probe shooting

The school board rejected Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's offer to investigate the Oxford High School shooting. Nessel first offered to investigate the shooting in December and again in April. She promised it would not cost the district money nor interfere with criminal proceedings. 

Instead, the district said it will use "more holistic third-party reviews" to look at the district's three-year plan and the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting that left four students dead. Three companies are being considered to conduct the reviews.

"I want to know what happened here. I want to know what happened in this house. I don't even want to know to place blame, I want to know because this will forever affect my son and other people, and I want it to never happen again," said parent Renee Upham. According to the district, the ongoing criminal cases stemming from the shooting have delayed the release of information that could help the review. 

Because of this, the school board said the third-party review won't happen until have the trials of suspected shooter Ethan Crumbley and his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley. Parents shared their thoughts about the decision not to have Nessel investigate during a board meeting Tuesday, while students pushed back at the district for not having a memorial for the victims. The board also left room to take up Nessel's investigation offer in the future. However, her office said the offer has a May 20 deadline. 

Opponents allege James Craig submitted forged signatures for ballot petition

Opponents of James Craig, who is running for governor of Michigan as a Republican, allege he submitted forged signatures to get on the ballot. The former Detroit police chief said he collected more than the needed 15,000 signatures to qualify, but others filed a 200-page document alleging fraud with 7,000 of those signatures.

Scott Brewer, the former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party who reviewed the signatures said the only way dead voters get on the petitions is through forgery. He compared the signatures with 2020 signatures.

"They don't match at all," he said. "It's massive. It's pervasive. It affects we believe at least 7,000 signatures, if not more, and that's more than enough to knock him off the ballot." Craig's campaign said, "We are confident the process will show we’ve met the requirements to be on the ballot and this was a malicious, coordinated attack on Chief Craig because both Democrats and Republican opponents are scared that he is already leading the race. We are full steam ahead." 

"'Well, if there was fraud and forgery, ya know, Craig was a victim.' No, he's not a victim. It's his job to supervise the people who work for him, and at best this shows a lack of supervision and negligence by him," Brewer said. "If he had knowledge of this then he is fully culpable."

What else we're watching

  1. Royal Oak has joined the ‘No Mow May’ movement, encouraging its homeowners to hold off on cutting their lawn for the remainder of the month. The practice is intended to promote pollinator habitats while reducing greenhouse and noise pollution.
  2. All three county executives from the tri-county area will be speaking at a chamber discussion in Lathrup Village Wednesday. Warren Evans, Dave Coulter, and Mark Hackel will be in attendance beginning at 8:30 a.m.
  3. The Metroparks staff will be conducting a prescribed burn at Rouge Park Prairie Wednesday. The practice is intended to restore wild habitats in an area. The burn is being conducted through a partnership with the city of Detroit Parks and Recreation.
  4. Ever wanted to find a specific mural in Detroit? Or how about ever mural? A new app being presented by Detroit's Director of Arts and Culture will identify all wall art in the city. Director Rochelle Riley will roll out the app at 2:30 Wednesday.
  5. Among the starkest examples of what a supply chain disruption can do to a product line is the shortage of baby formula wreaking havoc in the U.S. A mix of supply shortages and a massive recall is impacting availability. 

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

The good weather week continues Wednesday with a high in the low 80s, lots of sun and morning clouds. Expect more of the same to round out the week.

The end of iPods: What you should know as Apple discontinues the iconic line of music players

Officials with Apple Inc. announced on May 10 that the company will discontinue the last product on its iPod line, thus bringing an entire product line to an end after decades on the market.

"Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did, impacted more than just the music industry — it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared," said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, in a statement released on May 10.

Go here to learn more about the iPod's humble beginnings and its eventual decommission.