We have written at length on The Whisler Law Firm blog about Florida’s No-Fault Law and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. As a state with one of the highest rates of automobile accidents, Florida’s PIP coverage requirement was mandated so that when people did endure an accident and needed compensation for their resulting injuries, they would be covered directly by their own insurance provider for those costs. But that may change in 2022.
In early May of 2021, Florida state legislators succeeded in passing a bill to repeal mandatory PIP coverage and instead mandate that drivers carry bodily injury (BI) coverage in its place. If there are no successful court challenges to overturn this bill, brand-new laws could become effective on January 1, 2022. But it’s important to understand what these changes could mean for you and your insurance plan well before then.
Recapping the Details of PIP Coverage
Florida’s mandatory $10,000 in PIP coverage for motorists is intended to make it easier and more reliable to receive the compensation you need when you suffer injuries during an automobile accident. Instead of attempting to work with the other party’s insurance provider to determine who was at-fault for the accident and who should be responsible for coverage, PIP makes it so that your deal with only your own insurance provider to receive up to $10,000 in coverage for damages. And it doesn’t matter who caused the accident. So, say you’re stopped a traffic signal, waiting for the red light to turn green. Suddenly, you’re rear-ended by a driver who wasn’t paying attention and failed to brake before striking your stopped vehicle at the light. You suffer severe whiplash during the accident and will need to see a doctor or other specialists to address your injury. As a driver who carries legally required PIP insurance, you are guaranteed reimbursement for the costs of these medical treatments through your own insurance provider.
Even though it’s entirely clear that the driver who struck you is responsible for the accident and your injuries, PIP insurance makes the process of seeking coverage for damages easier on you by allowing you to turn to your own insurance provider. You don’t have worry about the hassle of trying to work with or negotiate with the other driver or their insurance company, no matter how responsible they may have been for the accident. But this is the problem many legislators have with the current outlines of PIP coverage: It does not matter who was at fault for the accident in order for someone to file a claim and receive coverage. And this is precisely why these legislators are attempting to repeal the law—because fraudulent PIP claims are abound in Florida.
The Trouble with Florida’s PIP Coverage
Even though PIP coverage is very well-intended, in recent years it has been viewed as a system that is hindering the insurance industry in Florida. That’s because when “fault” is not made a consideration for providing coverage, it’s more difficult to prove that the injury the victim suffered actually resulted from an automobile accident. What’s to stop someone from experiencing an injury in another way, then claiming medical coverage for it through their PIP policy? It’s even more common for a PIP claim to state that injuries are much worse than they actually are, resulting in higher coverage payouts than necessary. This then allows the claimant to simply pocket the difference between the actual treatment costs for their injury and what their insurance provider gives them.
The way insurance companies attempt to combat claims they suspect may be fraud is by opening their own investigation into the claim. Before providing compensation, they gather detailed information about the car accident that occurred as well as the extent of the injuries involved. But in return, these insurance adjusters are often threatened with bad faith claims and lawsuits by the party under question, whether they are being truthful or not. This makes for an untrustworthy and aggravating system for everyone involved. And that kind of relationship is never good for anyone involved.
Fraud as it relates to PIP insurance claims is rampant throughout the state of Florida. PIP coverage may work well to limit litigation brought against responsible parties by barring lawsuits from being filed for more minor accident injuries, it isn’t foolproof when it comes to people looking to make money by cheating the system. These people make the process that much more difficult for people like you, who are attempting to use your PIP plan how it was intended.
The Proposed Alternative to PIP Coverage
In answer to this fraudulent activity, the newly proposed Florida bill suggests removing the legal requirement for drivers to carry PIP insurance entirely. Instead, it suggests making it legally mandatory for drivers to carry BI insurance coverage. Currently, Florida does not require motorists to carry BI coverage, and it is the only state in the country to do so
(although neither New Hampshire nor Virginia require their drivers to carry car insurance at all).
The new legislative bills, titled Florida HB 719 and Florida SB 54, would require drivers to carry BI coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. These higher coverage amounts aim to make up for the lost coverage of eliminating PIP, and then some. The concern by many, however, is that this will result in a disproportionate number of low-income residents having to pay more for their auto insurance plans. This may be true, but could also mean that residents already carrying more coverage may potentially see a decrease in their premiums.
The elimination of Florida’s No-Fault Law would then also come with the added necessity of deeming who was responsible for the car accident, therefore determining which driver’s insurance company should be responsible for covering injuries and other damages. Working with any insurance company can be a headache, but often, having to work with another person’s insurance company can be much more difficult. This is where an experienced car accident lawyer would come to your aid.
Regardless of what Florida’s insurance laws may be now, one year from now, or ten years from, The Whisler Law Firm will always recommend that drivers carry as much auto insurance coverage as they are financially able to. Paying monthly premiums now could mean all the difference when faced with extensive damages later, no matter who caused them or what the law may say about it. If you take care of keeping up with your coverage, then we’ll take care of dealing with insurance companies and making sure you receive the compensation you deserve after an accident. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or schedule an entirely free consultation with our team. We’ll review your insurance policy and your claim, and keep you abreast of important changes to Florida laws as they pertain to your unique situation.