Since the 1970s, Florida has participated in a no-fault auto insurance system. Since then, numerous lawmakers have attempted to update and change the way our state handles car insurance, and as of August 16, a new bill has been filed to attempt to do that… again.
SB 150 was filed by Senator Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa to repeal the current no-fault system during the 2018 Legislature. As it stands right now, Florida drivers are required to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Under Lee’s proposed bill, motorists would need to carry bodily injury and medical payment coverage instead of PIP coverage.
So, What’s Wrong with the Current System?
According to Lee, “Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law has resulted in widespread fraud, abuse and a complex litigation process…Since its enactment…the value of the PIP benefit has eroded, while Florida’s auto insurance premiums continue to rise.”
If Lee’s bill is passed, big changes will be coming to Florida drivers. So let’s first understand what our current system is and how this repeal could affect potentially affect you.
What Exactly Is a No-Fault Car Insurance System?
As mentioned above, Florida motorists are required to carry PIP coverage. This means if you are ever injured in a car accident, your PIP benefits will kick in and pay for your medical expenses and a few non-medical costs such as lost wages and replacement benefits, which is when you need to hire someone to complete your household chores.
PIP benefits apply to you as the driver, your children (including if they’re injured while riding the school bus), household members, and most car passengers who don’t have their own PIP coverage. If you are injured in a car accident as a passenger in someone else’s car or as a bicyclist or pedestrian, your PIP benefits will also apply.
Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, your PIP benefits will cover your injuries, but you are unable to sue the other driver for further damages – even if he or she was at fault. The only way you can attempt to sue the other driver is if:
- your injuries are considered permanent;
- you’ve suffered significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement;
- or you’ve suffered significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
In addition to not being able to sue, high instances of fraud have occurred under the no-fault system due to car insurance companies not necessarily asking questions or conducting thorough investigations of crashes because it doesn’t matter who was at fault.
What Will a No-Fault Repeal Mean for Me?
As mentioned above, under this new bill you would have to carry bodily injury liability coverage and a mandatory $5,000 in medical payments coverage instead of PIP coverage.
While some disagree with the medical payments coverage, without PIP benefits, the bottom line is that Florida drivers will have to take responsibility if they are the ones to cause an accident – because people who are injured will be able to sure for damages.
In recent years, over 20 other states have dropped their own no-fault systems because they found that they are not only expensive, but also ineffective. Colorado drivers saved 35 percent on their car insurance premiums after getting rid of their no-fault system. A study has determined that Florida drivers could save $81 per vehicle (or nearly $1 billion across the state) with a no-fault repeal.
Only time will tell what happens to this new bill. In the meantime, if you are injured in a car accident, contact an experienced Florida car accident attorney to see if you’re entitled to damages.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.