Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance model was designed to help lower insurance costs and discourage costly civil court claims for every little fender bender. And yet, research shows Florida drivers pay the third-highest auto insurance bills in the nation – roughly $1 billion annually.
Recently, bills were introduced by state lawmakers that would reform the no-fault auto insurance system in favor of a bodily injury coverage model. It’s not the first time lawmakers have tried. For three years running, similar bills have failed to gain enough traction.
It has been eight years since the most significant updates were made to F.S. 627.736, Florida’s PIP law, which requires one’s own auto insurer to extend up to $10,000 in coverage following a Florida car accident, regardless of fault. In 2012, lawmakers imposed restrictions on how much PIP coverage one could receive based on the severity of one’s injury. Insureds can now only glean $2,500 in PIP compensation for medical and disability benefits if the claimant didn’t suffer an emergency medical condition.
To pursue coverage outside of Florida’s no-fault system from the other driver, one must first meet the serious injury threshold, requiring evidence of permanent loss of a significant bodily function, permanent injury, significant and permanent scarring or death.
The Sunshine State is one of only a handful to adopt a no-fault approach to auto insurance. The two new bills that seek to alter the current model SB 378 and HB 771. These measures would shift the emphasis from personal injury protection coverage to a bodily injury model and require at least $25,000 in bodily injury coverage.
Our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers know there are pros and cons to each approach, and lawmakers are going to have to consider them all carefully.
Personal injury protection extends coverage to you and any of your passengers and possibly other victims like pedestrians or bicyclists – no matter who is at-fault. Bodily injury protection coverage, however, is only going to cover injury you cause to someone else because of your negligence. It won’t cover the insured. Bodily injury coverage is not currently required under Florida law.
By removing the requirement to prove fault, PIP does save a fair number of crash victims time and money (though that’s not to say it’s never a good idea to work with an attorney to make sure you receive all the PIP to which you’re entitled). However, PIP does tend to mean higher insurance premiums. A bodily injury protection model will likely reduce insurance premiums, but it’s going to put many crash victims under immediate financial strain if they no longer have PIP coverage. A bodily injury coverage system can also drive up uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage costs if a fair number of drivers don’t carry it. Florida already has one of the highest rates of uninsured and underinsured drivers. It’s not uncommon as it is for damages in an accident to exceed the at-fault driver’s personal insurance. That’s why carrying UM/UIM coverage is so imperative – and will continue to be no matter what lawmakers decide.
In addition to SB 378 and HB771, another pending bill, SB 924, would shift the proof burden in bad faith insurance claims from the insurer onto the insured. Proponents say that to do so would reduce frivolous lawsuits, but this overlooks the fact that bad faith lawsuits are already sufficiently challenging to win as it is. This measure will only deny justice to those seriously and legitimately harmed by insurers acting in bad faith.
Our injury lawyers will be closely watching the progression of all three measures.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Florida car insurance 3rd highest in U.S. but will lawmakers act? Jan. 13, 2019, By Charles Elmore, Daytona Beach News-Journal