Report: Diabetic emergency cause of Nielsen accident, hospitalization

Neal D. Nielsen

Prominent Brighton attorney and former U-M regent Neal D. Nielsen, who died on Dec. 11, had been involved in a three-car accident on Nov. 29 at Grand River Avenue and Dorr Road in Genoa Township after suffering a suspected diabetic emergency.

According to the crash report from the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office, Nielsen, 70, was heading west in the eastbound lanes of Grand River Avenue in a 2007 Chevy Silverado pickup truck just before the accident.

A 2020 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, driven by a Brighton man and heading east on Grand River Avenue, was stopped at the light at Dorr Road. According to the report, the driver flashed his headlights at Nielsen’s vehicle when he saw it heading toward him.

After the traffic light turned green, the 2020 Silverado started moving into the intersection when Nielsen’s truck hit it head-on, and then a 2015 Lincoln MKC, driven by a Brighton woman, struck it in the rear.

All the drivers were wearing seatbelts, according to the report, and the two eastbound drivers appeared normal after the accident, while Nielsen appeared disoriented and unable to answer basic questions, like what the date was, or where he was; he repeatedly said, “I think I hit my head.”

In the report, the responding deputy said he was talking with Nielsen and in close proximity to him, and detected no signs of intoxication on Nielsen or in his vehicle.

After Livingston County EMS arrived, the deputy learned Nielsen was experiencing a diabetic emergency. EMS transported Nielsen to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

While it’s unknown how long Nielsen was hospitalized between the accident and his death, it was confirmed that he died at U-M Medical Center on Dec. 11, 2020, and that the autopsy report has not yet been received.

Nielsen, who got his start in the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office, went into private practice, established his own legal firm, and became one of the highest-profile and most successful attorneys in the community.

Nielsen graduated from the University of Michigan in 1971, and earned his law degree at the Detroit College of Law. He served on the University of Michigan Board of Regents from 1984-1992, after being elected to the position when he was 33.

Nielsen said he well understood the financial hardship of paying for college after working two jobs while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at U-M, so in 1985 he established an annual $1,000 scholarship to the university for county students based on their grades, community service and educational activities.


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