Florida Moves One Step Closer to Repealing the No-Fault Car Insurance System
Getting your first driver’s license and taking the keys of your first car is a rite of passage shared by many Americans, and is considered a major milestone toward becoming an adult. One of the less exciting aspects of owning a car, though, is the need to consistently maintain car insurance as required under the law. Now, insurance can be a good thing when a driver gets into a car accident, and the insurance company pays for damages to the vehicles and any necessary medical care. This is certainly preferable to drivers being entirely responsible for all the costs. In a perfect world, submitting an insurance claim would be that easy, but the frequent reality is insurance companies dispute the coverage, and policyholders are left to contest the company’s decision or somehow find a way to pay for everything on their own.
Florida enacted a law, starting in the 1970s, that requires all car owners to buy no-fault car issuance in hopes of lowering insurance premiums, avoiding litigation, and reducing insurance fraud. However, a recent article in the Palm Beach Post looks at steps taken by state officials to potentially repeal this law. The state is commissioning a study to determine what the consequences would be if the no-fault system was abandoned in favor of coverage with varying levels of bodily injury limits. This push to get rid of the no-fault car insurance comes as some drivers in Florida saw a 40 percent increase in premiums from the top insurance companies since the beginning of 2015. This post will take a look at what coverage a driver needs to satisfy the no-fault insurance requirement and the circumstances under which an injured party can sue a driver beyond the no-fault coverage limits.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Florida law requires all insurance companies who insure auto drivers to offer personal injury protection coverage in each policy. PIP coverage extends to all of the following:
- the policyholder;
- all relatives residing in the policyholder’s residence;
- any person driving the car insured under the policy;
- passengers in the vehicle; and
- anyone hit by the car injured under the policy who sustained physical injury as a result.
PIP policies pay $10,000 in medical and disability benefits and $5,000 in death benefits to parties for bodily injuries, sickness, disease or death arising out of the operation, ownership or maintenance of vehicle listed on the policy. Specifically, PIP insurance will pay 80 percent of all necessary medical expenses within 14 days of an accident. Note that there are many complicated rules about reimbursement for certain medical services that can easily lower the actual amount an insurance company pays out. In addition, PIP coverage will pay 60 percent of a person’s lost wages or earning capacity when injuries sustained in a car accident prevent him/her from working.
Right to Sue
PIP policy laws were initially put in place to reduce the amount of litigation arising from car accidents by blocking injured parties from suing the person who hit them for personal injuries. There is an exception to this prohibition on civil lawsuits. The law permits individuals who suffer the following injuries to sue for compensation related to mental anguish, suffering, pain or inconvenience:
- significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- permanent injury, other than scarring or disfigurement;
- significant and permanent scarring and disfigurement; or
Talk to a Lawyer
If you were in a car accident and have questions about your ability to sue the other driver for your injuries, talking to a personal injury lawyer will give you an opportunity to learn about the strength of your case and the legal process in these cases generally. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado can evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action. Contact us for a free consultation.