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During its most recent session, Florida’s legislature passed Senate Bill 54—a bill designed to eliminate the no-fault system for auto drivers and require Florida motorists to carry a package of mandatory insurance coverage.
Many opponents of this bill have cited the higher cost to consumers (likely to result in an increased number of uninsured drivers), urging Governor DeSantis not to sign the bill into law.
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Laws
Under Florida’s no-fault system, if two vehicles are involved in an accident, each driver’s own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage will kick in to pay their medical bills and other financial losses. But unlike states that assess fault in auto accidents, Florida doesn’t allow injured drivers or passengers to recover financial damages for pain and suffering or other non-monetary damages these injured individuals might have sustained in an accident. Limiting non-monetary damages is one way to keep auto insurance rates down (though it doesn’t always work that way—explained in more detail below).
All Florida drivers must carry at least $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) and PIP coverage. This PIP coverage doesn’t just cover the driver/policyholder. It can also apply to:
- the children of a policyholder, even if the crash occurs in another vehicle
- all members of the policyholder’s household (unless otherwise excluded by the policy)
- passengers in a policyholder’s vehicle who don’t own a vehicle and don’t have their own PIP insurance (such as a child’s friend)
- the policyholder while he or she is riding in someone else’s vehicle, riding a bike, or walking
“PIP coverage is intended to limit the number of situations in which someone who is injured by a motor vehicle can’t recover damages for their medical expenses. Whether you’re walking, biking, driving or riding in someone else’s vehicle; and whether you’re an insured driver, their spouse, or their child, your medical bills will be covered by your own auto insurance,” says William from Bill McFarlane Law, a recognized expert in evaluating personal injury claims.”
There are some exceptions to the your-insurance-pays rule, however. If you meet the threshold for a “serious injury” under Florida law, you may be able to file a third-party insurance claim against the at-fault driver. And if you’re not happy with the amount or conditions of settlement being offered by the insurance company, you may be able to file a lawsuit to seek additional damages for pain, suffering, inconvenience, and mental anguish.
A serious injury involves one or more of the following:
- Death (in which case the lawsuit is converted to a wrongful death lawsuit)
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function (e.g. walking, seeing, hearing, or feeding)
- Permanent injury beyond scarring or disfigurement
- Scarring or disfigurement (but only if it is significant and permanent)
Serious injuries aren’t always apparent, and determining whether a particular injury is considered “serious” under Florida law can sometimes require expert testimony or extensive medical records. For example, if your loss of a bodily function (like vision) is likely to be long-lasting but may not be permanent, you may be required to present a doctor’s testimony estimating how long you’re likely to suffer this loss and whether it meets the “serious injury” threshold.
Another wrinkle of Florida’s current no-fault laws involves payment for physical property damage. You won’t need to rely on your own auto insurance to pay for any damage to your vehicle after you’ve been involved in a crash. You’ll be able to make a property damage claim against the at-fault driver even if your own insurance pays for any medical expenses you’ve incurred.
What Will Senate Bill 54 Change About Insurance Requirements?
Florida already has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the U.S. Senate Bill 54, or the PIP repeal would eliminate the requirement that Florida drivers carry $10,000 in PIP coverage.
Instead, Florida motorists must carry $25,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident, $10,000 in property damage insurance, and $5,000 in medical payment (Med-Pay) coverage.
What Else Might Happen if Senate Bill 54 is Enacted?
If Governor DeSantis signs Senate Bill 54 into law, all new PIP claims would be eliminated as of the bill’s effective date—January 1, 2022. PIP claims made before this date would continue. This bill also would create a system to allow injured motorists to pursue bad-faith claims against insurers, though some argue that this new system won’t go far enough to protect drivers from fraud and bad-faith litigation.