Brian Culver

Today, those closest to Brian Culver would describe him as one part thrill seeker and 100 percent inspiration. When speaking with Brian, the first things people notice are his undying spirit and his courageous attitude.  And it is these traits – along with nation-leading care provided by Michigan’s no-fault insurance system – that have helped Culver overcome a high impact and severely traumatic auto accident.

April 7th, 1994 was the day that forever changed Brian Culver’s life. Culver, a former firefighter, spun out of control after taking a sharp street corner while driving his personal vehicle. In attempt to avoid impact with a parked trailer he swerved, only to make head on impact with another stationary vehicle. When emergency teams arrived at the crash site, they were shocked to see one of their own trapped in the wreckage.

Culver survived his accident, but was left paralyzed from the neck down, unable to breathe or eat without the aid of medical machinery.  Doctors and nurses filtered in and out of Culver’s room during his 55 days at Borgess Medical Center with what seemed like, an endless reel of bad news. But there was no way Culver was going to let anyone tell him what he is or is not capable of achieving. He had spent his career defying death, running into the fire as everyone ran out. This accident was not going to be the thing to kill his spirit.

Culver spent the next six months in extreme physical therapy.  Sheer endurance and grit got him off the breathing ventilator within the first three weeks of recovery.  Today, 17 years after his accident, Brian is finally achieving some control over his body motion. He can now clench his stomach muscles and move his shoulders and head.  He can control the muscles in his back and chest, and feel temperature sensations and pain on certain regions of the body.

While many would view such a life changing event as a reason to give up, Culver views the accident as an event others can learn from. He speaks about injury prevention among students in Kalamazoo and teaches beauty pageant contestants how to be strong advocates for people with disabilities. He started a non-profit a few years ago, All American Roll Models, aimed to provide resources for people with disabilities. He regularly organizes adrenalin high events such as wheelchair basketball tournaments, skydiving outings and ice lugging.

“I’m not going to sit here day by day and accept the fact I’m paralyzed” says Brian Culver, “I’m going to walk out of this chair, there’s no doubt in my mind. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind once you spend time with me.” The heightened quality of living and new hope experienced by Brian and countless other victims of extreme car crashes are direct results of the resources made available to them from Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system.

Policymakers can also learn from Brian’s story.  Under other states’ insurance systems, Brian would have reached the cap on his insurance at the five, 10 or maybe $50,000 mark. At that point, his medical bills would have had to be paid for through private insurance – which is capped – or out-of-pocket, with friends and family possibly chipping in to cover the gaps. Eventually, the millions of dollars in medical and rehabilitation costs would have forced Brian into bankruptcy and onto the state Medicaid system, where the same level of care just is not available.

Thanks to Michigan auto no-fault, accident victims like Brian can receive the exact care they need without worrying about losing their home to pay for health care.  Taxpayers also save because there are fewer people who enter the Medicaid system. It’s what makes Michigan’s auto insurance system the best in the country, and is why CPAN continues to fight to keep it intact.

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