Florida motorists are likely to see a change in their required insurance in the near future. As of now, the state requires all drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP), but several lawmakers are unhappy with the current PIP law and the way an influx of third-party lawsuits have clogged up the Florida court system. Last month, SB 54 passed the Senate by a 38-1 vote after it had been retained on the Senate Special Order Calendar for several weeks. The bill itself proposes to repeal Florida's personal injury protection auto insurance and replace it with 25/50 of mandatory bodily injury liability auto insurance. If the bill is signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it will be the end of “no fault” auto insurance for Florida motorists.
What Exactly Does the Bill State?
The bill titled CS/CS/SB 54: Motor Vehicle Insurance states:
Motor Vehicle Insurance; Repealing provisions which comprise the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law; revising the motor vehicle insurance coverages that an applicant must show to register certain vehicles with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles; revising minimum liability coverage requirements for motor vehicle owners or operators; revising financial responsibility requirements for owners or lessees of for-hire passenger transportation vehicles; providing an exception to the circumstances under which a person who is damaged may bring a civil action against an insurer, etc.
What is The Problem With PIP?
As of right now, every driver in Florida is required by law to carry personal injury protection as the bare minimum in auto insurance coverage. Personal injury protection provides coverage for the financial costs of any medical expenses following an auto accident regardless of who is at fault. Those costs include, but are not limited to, lost wages due to missed time at work, any type of substitute needed to carry on with your day to day activities, and even funeral expenses. With the current PIP law, an insured driver in Florida can receive up to $10,000 for an emergency condition and, at most, $2,500 for a non-emergency condition. With such amounts, one would have to experience significant physical pain or death before receiving much financial assistance. A main concern with PIP is that limits are indirectly placed upon one's damages for the pain or injury experienced. Naturally, this has led to a drastic increase in third-party claims and lawsuits, and many lawmakers are concerned that precious time and money are being spent on these matters. For some, it seems the third-party lawsuits have gotten way out of hand.
Critics of the Bill
Those against the bill claim:
- It will drive up costs for the lowest socioeconomic group of Florida residents and/or those who only buy PIP coverage.
- It will increase the number of motorists on the road without coverage.
- Logan McFaddin, from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, said, “Given the financial burdens individuals, families, and businesses continue to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is not the time to make major policy changes that affect every Florida driver and impose a tremendous financial burden on Floridians, especially those who can least afford it.”
- Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg Florida, said Florida “already has some of the highest rates in the country. And, unfortunately, if you're just struggling to make it, if you're at the bottom end of the auto-insurance market buying just PIP today, your rates could go up 40 or 50 percent,” and he suggests the bill be delayed until updated cost estimates could be provided.
- The American Property Casualty Insurance Association claims costs would increase by 3-6 percent due to a “lack of meaningful bad faith reforms” in the legislation.
What is Bad-Faith?
Bad-faith refers to an insurance company's attempt to avoid providing payment as outlined in the insured's policy agreement. The insurer may refuse payment outright or may avoid the insured in more subtle ways like continued refusal to return communication about a claim. Bad-faith claims can be complicated and often involve third-parties, and this is where lawmakers are noticing a very complex web being woven between bad-faith and PIP coverage. The incessant lawsuits filed from third-parties against insurance companies is believed to have overburdened Florida's courts, and moves are being made to consider the most effective next steps.
Proponents of the Bill
Those in favor of the bill claim:
- A change is necessary because a fourth of Florida's driving population does not have coverage.
- It will reduce the rates for most motorists by about 5.6 percent in savings with a shift to a bodily-injury coverage requirement.
- It will eliminate fraud and put an end to frivolous litigation that takes up time, energy, and money.
- It will create an updated coverage level compared to the current one that was established in 1979.
Stay Up-to-Date with Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh
Laws are constantly changing, and it is up to you to make yourself as knowledgeable of these changes as you can. However, a trusted attorney can help you navigate these waters. Contact us today at Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh if you have any questions regarding this bill or others. Our experienced team is ready to fight for you and your needs.