You are in a car accident in Florida. The other vehicle is at fault. You are injured and require medical treatment. Who pays your medical bills?
Florida is a “No Fault State”. This means that Florida historically has required vehicle owners to carry personal injury protection insurance which covers a portion of their medical bills regardless of who is at fault in an accident. The justification behind PIP insurance was so that motorists would be able to obtain medical treatment immediately following a crash without having to litigate issues such as fault. However, since its implementation, the PIP system has had problems, including issues with fraud, lack of payment by insurance companies and overbilling. Therefore, since its enactment, the Florida Legislature and various interested groups have lobbied for changes to this statute.
The most recent change being proposed is repeal legislation to be heard this week in the Florida Senate. The Chairman of the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee, Tom Lee, is sponsoring a bill that would repeal PIP in favor of mandating bodily liability coverage. Bodily liability coverage covers a vehicle owner and driver for damages claimed by an injured driver. The proposed legislation would require drivers to carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage. There would still be a $10,000 coverage mandate for property damage. The bill would provide $5,000 in optional medical payments. Proponents of the bill claim that fraudulent PIP claims are a major cost driver of high car insurance rates in Florida.
Some stakeholders say that a bill such as this would make PIP fraud worse. They argue that if there is no minimum PIP coverage for damages, persons injured in an auto accident would immediately be required to file a lawsuit against an insurance company so that they could receive payment for treatment. Under the current PIP law, only medical bills not covered by PIP can be recovered in an automobile accident claim. Without PIP, there would be no limit to the amount of medical damages to be claimed. This concerns some who believe that this would increase the possibility of fraud.
However, mandatory bodily injury coverage does have its advantages. As it stands now, there is no requirement that any vehicle owner or driver in Florida carry bodily injury coverage. Therefore, if a motorist is injured in Florida, there may be no way to secure reimbursement for pain and suffering or future medical care required as a result of the injuries sustained. Current statistics are that 23% of Florida Motorists are uninsured, the fifth-highest percentage of uninsured drivers in the country. Mandatory bodily injury coverage would ensure that all persons injured in an accident had at least some way to recover for the damages they have sustained.
Time will tell whether any changes actually get made. There have been many PIP bills proposed in the past that have died in the Florida Legislature. No one knows whether now is the time for PIP insurance to disappear.
If you, a family member, friend or loved one are injured in a car crash and need more information about PIP coverage the experienced attorneys at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith PLLC will be happy to answer any questions about your car insurance coverage.
This blog was written by Firm Partner Jeff Gordon.