Legislative efforts to eliminate Florida’s “no-fault” auto insurance system and replace it with a tort-based system are currently underway. Florida first adopted a no-fault insurance system back in the 1970s to provide basic protections for motorists regardless of who was at fault for an accident. Under the current no-fault law, motorists are required to purchase $10,000 in PIP coverage to pay for their own emergency medical care after a collision.
Only the most seriously injured parties can pursue money from an at-fault party, and only after PIP policies have been exhausted. When it comes to injuries, PIP policies cover 80% of medical expenses, 60% of lost income, and a $5,000 death benefit. The system was designed to limit lawsuits that arise from traffic accidents.
2012 was the last time Florida changed its car insurance laws. The changes made that year required people involved in motor vehicle collisions to seek treatment within 14 days and placed a $2,500 cap on coverage for non-emergency conditions. The changes also eliminated massage therapists and acupuncturists from getting paid for medical coverage, and set new requirements for chiropractic visits.
Measure SB 150
Now, Florida’s legislature is trying to introduce a fault-based, or tort-based, system in order to shift the blame of accidents to at-fault drivers. Measure SB 150 will require motorists to carry $5,000 in “medical payments,” but will retain the 14-day requirement to seek medical treatment after the date of the accident. This would include coverage for medical treatments, chiropractic treatment, and dental work.
Under the proposed bill, PIP will pay 100% of medical expenses up to the $5,000 minimum. The Senate measure also requires minimum amounts of bodily injury coverage that would increase over time. Starting in January 2019, bodily injury protection that includes coverage for the injury or death of one person will increase to $20,000 and will increase to $40,000 for the injury or death of two or more people. The bill will also increase individual premiums to $25,000. Repealing no-fault insurance will also eliminate limitations on pain and suffering damages from PIP insurance policies.
A competing House measure, HB 19, aims to eliminate the system's limits on lawsuits. Drivers at fault in accidents would be fully liable for damages under HB 19. The proposal also eliminates limitations on pain and suffering damages. The bill retains a $10,000 financial responsibility for property damage.
No matter which bill passes, either one would shift the blame of a motor vehicle collision to the “at-fault” party. Florida is one of only two states that do not require drivers to buy bodily-injury liability insurance. About 90% of Floridians purchase both PIP coverage and bodily injury coverage.
If the no-fault system ends up being dismantled, those who are innocently injured by the negligence of another will be compensated by the at-fault party.
Contact our Pensacola personal injury attorneys if you have more questions about how SB 150 or HB 19 might affect you.