Difference maker: WSU adjunct professor knows 'No-Fault Auto' world

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

According to attorney Wayne Miller, there’s a notion among law students — and even young lawyers — that the result in a Supreme Court or Court of Appeals decision was inevitable, and is revealed truth as if it has come down from Mt. Sinai.

“I try to make the point that law often results from personality and fortuity, such as who is on the court making the decision,” says Miller, who teaches No-Fault Auto Insurance Law as an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School. “Also, law can develop as the result of the vision of a particular lawyer, so each student should be inspired that they truly can make a difference.”

Miller has been teaching at Wayne Law since 1998 — a natural fit for someone whose parents named him after the university.

“My dad went to undergraduate and medical school at WSU, and Wayne is my law school alma mater, so I’m teaching in the same rooms where I was a student back in the ‘70s,” he says. “I have a very strong feeling of personal and family tradition every time I walk in the school.”

Chief Operating Officer and Chairman of the Board of Miller & Tischler in Southfield, and a member of its Management Committee, Miller founded the firm in 1982, after working for a small local law firm for a couple of years after law school. Laid off in 1982, he faced the choice of finding another job or opening up his own firm.

“I chose the latter, and have never looked back,” he says.

He took up teaching as the next step in his professional education.

“I knew I’d have to know the topic really well in order to teach it to others, so teaching enforces the discipline to continue learning.”

The firm specializes in legal issues relating to victims of motor vehicle accidents — cases involving catastrophic injury, including the rights of the injured, their families, and their professional service providers. When Miller started out on his own, he was trying to find a field that would be interesting and useful.

“Personal injury was crowded, but surprisingly, no one was really focusing on no-fault insurance benefits,” he explains. “The best attorneys preferred to do the negligence work, leaving the insurance side untouched, so I found myself doing catastrophic loss litigation against very veteran defense attorneys. It was quite a learning experience.”

For Miller, included in the “Best Lawyers in America” since 2005, and named the “Most Respected Advocate” by the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel in 2007, his legal niche has been very rewarding.
“I’ve had the privilege to be an extremely important part of the lives of people who are faced with unthinkable tragedy to their closest loved ones,” he says. “A number of my clients have become my heroes in life, role models as to how to face such tragedy with grace and determination.”

One memorable case involved the mother of two adult children, both of whom suffered severe brain injuries in separate car crashes, three years apart.

“The legal case was not so significant, but the opportunity to meet and work with this special lady was a revelation,’ Miller says.

In another case involving a mother of a severely brain-injured son, a previous lawyer had signed away their lifetime no-fault rights for $12,000, taking the insurer’s word that there was no coverage.

“I reviewed the claims file just to make sure, and found that there was at the very least a very strong argument for coverage,” Miller says. “We sued both the insurer and the lawyer, and after nine years of litigation and a trip to the Supreme Court, obtained a substantial settlement.”

Active in the Michigan Association for Justice and the Michigan Brain Injury Alliance, Miller co-authored a textbook used in three Michigan law schools that teach no-fault insurance.

“The textbook has been my opportunity to collaborate with George Sinas, my co-author, and a brilliant attorney and master of the no-fault law,” he says. “We both read every case that comes out, and try to integrate new cases into the structure of the next text revision that we make, so the text is always a work in progress, as of course is the no-fault law.”

Miller also offers Alternative Dispute Resolution Services, serving as a facilitator/mediator more than 1,500 times since 1998, as well as serving as both a plaintiff’s and neutral arbitrator. 

His career in law was a natural extension of Miller’s high school and college debate career.

“Instead of researching and debating public policy issues, we research the facts and debate the meaning of words and statutes,” he says.

While earning his undergrad degree in history from the University of Michigan, he was on the U-M Debate Team for four years, and calls it one of the best and seminal experiences of his life. He belongs to the U-M Debate Team Alumni Group.

“The current director, Aaron Kall, has done a great job of bringing us old alumni in to watch our young protégés develop, and to contribute financially and in mentoring as well,” he says.”

A Detroit native, Miller now calls Franklin home. He and his wife Andrea will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in January. Daughter Katie has just been accepted at U-M, while Emily is a high school freshman and an aspiring thespian.

Miller enjoys going to the movies, playing basketball a couple times a week — “knees permitting” — and playing guitar, after starting lessons about a year ago.

“I’m not ready for prime time yet but really enjoy it.”

He also has a passion for history books and biographies.

“Can’t wait to get started on the long-awaited last book in the Churchill series by Manchester, and now Reid,” he says. “I’ve found that the truth is often stranger and more fascinating than fiction.”

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