Florida PIP Update

Originally published October 5, 2007  Done deal, PIP heads to governor TALLAHASSEE — The Senate has unanimously added its approval to a bill re-creating Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law.  The legislation now heads for Gov. Charlie Crist’s desk for his quick approval into law.   The measure doesn’t make medical coverage mandatory again until Jan. 1, but it adds fee schedules and controls on where medical care can take place — efforts to crack down on fraud that bedeviled the former program that expired Oct. 1. "Are all of the special interests happy? Of course they’re not happy," said Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman Bill Posey.  He characterized the House-Senate compromise bill as a plan that "redlines the crooks out of the process."  Crist is expected to sign the bill quickly, said his general counsel, Chris Kise. Sen. Dave Aronberg argued against continuing Florida’s no-fault laws, saying they unfairly penalize those with good driving records. Nevertheless, he voted for the bill. "The worst situation in the world to me is the status quo, where you have no mandatory insurance," Aronberg said.
The return of no-fault auto insurance to Florida got back on track earlier when House Republicans backed off their efforts to use the bill to limit lawyer fees.  The House approved re-enacting no-fault medical coverage, on a vote of 105-4. Reps. Will Kendrick, Don Brown, Aaron Bean and Carlos Lopez-Cantera opposed it.  The current deal before the House and Senate reinstates mandatory medical coverage as of the day the measure is signed by Gov. Charlie Crist, and changes what’s covered in that Personal Injury Protection on Jan. 1.  The state’s no-fault system also would restart on the date the bill becomes law. However, the re-enactment of PIP doesn’t affect motorists whose car insurance policies have already renewed since Oct. 1.   That leaves a segment of Florida’s driving public that, even if they voluntarily buy personal injury protection, must still live for four months under a system torts — lawsuits for fault-finding in car crashes.  Any accident they are involved in can end in a lawsuit, against either them or against those in the other vehicle. For those consumers, bill author Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff has this advice as a practicing insurance agent. "Buy more uninsured motorists coverage. You might want to protect yourself," she said.  Florida insurers will adapt to whatever the Legislature passes, said Sam Miller, vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, one of the industry’s state trade groups.
They must contend with the prospect of handling claims involving different medical coverage and even differing legal systems. "Companies work with that in the vast majority of states," said Miller. "National insurers know exactly how the tort system works."

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