By Mike Kruzman /

A local family is holding a fundraiser for a loved one who was seriously injured in a traffic crash and has been negatively impacted by recent changes to the no-fault insurance laws.

In 2002, Courtney Bliss of Fenton was involved in an accident at I-96 and US-23 that left her with a severe brain injury. Now 44 years old, Bliss has limited mobility and some independence, but still depends on a caregiver, daily.

Her cousin, Ellen Zezula of Howell, told WHMI that, at the time, no-fault insurance laws gave Bliss support for home expenses, rent, and a new vehicle every 7 years. At the time, the policy was considered open-ended with no caps, leaving the family to feel comfortable that Bliss would be cared for. Zezula says, however, recent changes to the law have led the insurance company to say the plan is no longer capped and they will not renew her vehicle, which is past its lifespan and no longer drivable by caregivers. To add a bit of salt in the wound, Zezula says that the insurance company may want Bliss to move in with a roommate, losing more of what independence she still has.

To help with the vehicle situation, the family has started a GoFundMe, hoping to raise $35,000. Zezula says that won’t cover the full cost which includes modifications for wheelchairs, but it will be a good start for getting a like-new vehicle that fits Bliss’ needs. A new vehicle, decked out as would be needed, Zezula said would likely cost around $60,000 to $70,000.

She said her cousin is a very giving, grateful person who has a sense for giving back to the community in ways like mentoring students. Not having a vehicle hampers her ability to leave the house and do the things she loves like visiting the park, going to the farmer’s market, getting coffee with friends and family, and other things that can affect us all on a social and emotional level.

Zezula says that Bliss has perseverance and tenacity, is not one to give up, and has come a long way since suffering the injury. Working with a physical therapist, Bliss can now take about 700 steps with a walker. Zezula called it a “huge triumph from where she came from, and she won’t give up.” She added that Bliss is hoping to make it to where she can walk from her vehicle to inside her sister’s house and sit down. To do that, Zezula said, would hold significant meaning.

Zezula said her hopes and prayers are that with how fast technology develops, especially in the medical community, that maybe something comes along in 5 or 10 years which is “totally in reach” of her cousin’s lifetime that may help her walk again. She said Bliss knows this too, and is propelled by it.

Zezula says she knows that Bliss isn’t alone in being affected by changes to insurance laws. She said if there is a silver lining, it’s that they can help raise awareness for others with disabilities that are getting care and support removed because insurance companies are saying they no longer need to cover some costs.

A link to donate can be found below, or by searching “A Call to Support Courtney” on Zezula said that if you would rather make a private donation no through the website, that contact information for Bliss’ sister, Julie Reed, can be found on the campaign page.

To hear more from Zezula about her cousin and her journey, tune in to WHMI’s Viewpoint, this Sunday at 8:30am.

(Photo: GoFundMe)