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No-Fault Insurance in Florida May Soon Be Scrapped

Lawmakers are gunning for a repeal of Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system – one they say is outdated and inefficient and costly to Florida motorists. Doctors and other health care groups are opposing the measure. 

F.S. 627.736 stipulates that personal injury protection (PIP) benefits must accompany any auto insurance policy in Florida, and it must provide compensation to the named insured, relatives residing in the same household, persons operating the insured vehicle, passengers in the vehicle and others struck by the vehicle who suffered bodily injury while not an occupant of the vehicle (i.e., bicyclists and pedestrians). It allows for up to $10,000 in medical and disability benefits (with non-emergency benefits capped at $2,500) and $5,000 in death benefits, regardless of who is at-fault in the crash. Only if someone is severely injured (i.e., has lost an important bodily function, is permanently scarred or has broken a bone) or died can one pursue legal action to obtain bodily injury liability coverage from the at-fault driver’s insurer.

Now, HB-19, which has cleared an early hurdle for the next legislative session beginning in 2018, may change that. The measure calls for overturning the no-fault laws that necessitate PIP coverage, and would instead allow motorists to pursue legal action directly against at-fault drivers. PIP benefits would no longer be required. The proposal was cleared by the state house Commerce Committee recently.

Supporters say that by getting rid of no-fault car insurance in Florida, they can save roughly $80 per car – or an estimated $1 billion annually – through the savings of no longer requiring motorists to buy PIP. They argue the PIP system has long been plagued by high costs and fraud. They also say it’s redundant for motorists who already have health insurance to buy additional coverage just for their use of a vehicle.

Doctors and health care providers, however, say such coverage is critical to the health care industry. Emergency care is provided to crash victims regardless of their insurance status and no matter who was at-fault, but PIP coverage is one sure means by which they’ll actually get paid. Of course, PIP doesn’t typically cover one’s entire expenses following a serious car accident in Orlando, but doctors say it’s important if we don’t want overall health care costs to rise.

Health care lobbyists are pressing lawmakers to include a provision that would still make medical payment coverage mandatory in auto insurance plans.

Auto insurers have also lodged their opposition to the bill, although they have not as of this writing released formal statements as to why.

A bill nearly identical to this one passed the Florida House last year with substantial support (81-29), but the Senate version failed to gain traction. The state Senate version would have required auto insurers to include $5,000 in medical payments coverage, to ensure emergency healthcare providers could at least count on some amount of reimbursement for care of crash victims. Supporters of this new bill say they don’t want to include “med pay” requirements because it’s only a renaming of PIP, and would eliminate most motorist savings.

More than two dozen states have backed out of their no-fault auto insurance systems over the last two decades. Florida’s has been in place since the 1970s, and is one of only a handful of states that still have this system.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

PIP repeal: House panel votes to overturn no-fault plan in Florida, Nov. 7, 2017, By Charles Elmore, The Palm Beach Post

More Blog Entries:

City to Pay Injured Bicyclist $6.5M After Pothole Injury, Sept. 19, 2017, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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