PIP vs. MANDATORY BI
Author: Rick Kriseman
Phone: 1-800-4-INJURY or 1-800-446-5879
As reported by CBS News Miami, Florida Governor Rick Scott has indicated that he believes Florida’s currently mandatory Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage should be optional for all Floridians. “We’ve got to pass a law that allows citizens the choice of what type of automobile insurance coverage they want” said Governor Scott.
What Governor Scott nor his office have said is whether he would be supportive of the Legislature adopting policy which makes bodily injury (BI) coverage mandatory in the face of optional PIP coverage.
For most Floridians, the debate over coverage is not something they have paid great attention to, with the exception of the impact this debate will have on the cost of their auto insurance OR if they have been involved in an auto accident and have had to rely on the coverages currently required under Florida law.
So just why is this debate occurring and what is the real impact of the Governor’s suggestion?
To answer those questions it is important to first understand what PIP and BI coverages are and how they protect us if we are ever in an accident.
Let’s first talk about PIP, or No-fault coverage. In the State of Florida, as the Governor has stated, it is mandatory that all drivers licensed in Florida carry personal injury protection benefits. This requirement is found in Florida Statute 627.736.
Under this statute, coverage for the named insured (you), any relative residing in your home, persons operating your vehicle, passengers in your vehicle, or persons struck by your vehicle who were not an occupant of a “self-propelled vehicle”, are covered under your PIP insurance up to the required limit of $10,000.00.
Florida Statute 627.736(1)(a) provides that your PIP insurance will pay eighty (80%) percent of all
“reasonable expenses for medically necessary medical, surgical, X-ray, dental, and rehabilitative services, including prosthetic devices, and medically necessary ambulance, hospital, and nursing services.”
Whether the accident which caused your injuries was your fault or the fault of someone else, it is YOUR PIP insurance that will pay your medical bills at 80% as provided under this statute (minus any deductible that you may have chosen).
The PIP statute also provides some additional coverages for you. Under F.S. 627.736(1)(b), this coverage will reimburse you, at sixty (60%) percent for any lost wages or loss of earning capacity that you incur because of your injuries from the accident. This same section also will reimburse you for
“…all expenses reasonably incurred in obtaining from others ordinary and necessary services in lieu of those that, but for the injury, the injured person would have performed…”
Putting it in simple terms, that is how PIP works. BI coverage is optional coverage which protects you in the event you are involved in an auto accident in which you were at fault (you caused the accident). For those you injury, this coverage will help pay for their medical treatment, for any lost wages they incur as a result of their injuries, for any other expenses they might incur, for future medical treatment and lost wages, and for present and future pain and suffering (if their injuries are significant enough to qualify under Florida law).
Unlike many other states, as I have stated, BI coverage is not mandatory but instead is optional in the State of Florida. It is up to each insured to decide whether they want to carry this type of coverage.
So here comes the answer to the question posed above – what is the real impact of the Governor’s suggestion that PIP coverage be optional and not mandatory and why is this important?
The answer is, the real impact could be significant and important to both Floridians and businesses.
You see, not everyone in Florida has health insurance. So if you have no health insurance, have CHOSEN not to carry PIP coverage, and are injured in an auto accident that was your fault, unless you are independently wealthy, how are you going to pay for the medical treatment that you need because of your injuries? The truth is, you aren’t going to be able to pay for that treatment. That means you either won’t get the treatment you need, or will do so at our expense (we, the taxpayers of this state, will end up paying for your care, or your doctors or hospitals will have to write-off the care you received).
And that’s only when we’re talking about paying for medical treatment. As I mentioned above, PIP coverage also reimburses you for lost wages. This is important because even if you were fortunate enough to have health insurance that could pay for your medical treatment, that same health insurance will NOT reimburse you for wages you lose because you are unable to work, nor will it pay for someone to clean your home or mow your lawn when you are physically unable to perform those tasks.
Well, what if the accident wasn’t your fault. Won’t the other driver’s auto insurance company be required to pay for your medical treatment and any expenses or lost wages?
The answer is yes, they will. But this answer makes one very big assumption – that the driver who caused the accident has BI coverage. As has been stated, BI coverage in Florida is NOT mandatory, it is optional. Just like what the Governor is suggesting for PIP.
Well, you say, most people of reasonable intelligence will choose to carry PIP coverage or BI coverage for just the examples I cited.
I wish that were true.
In these difficult economic times where people are hanging on by a thread, if you gave people the choice of paying hundreds of dollars a month for PIP coverage vs. rolling the dice that they will not be injured in an accident, which do you realistically believe they will choose? The answer is simple – NO PIP INSURANCE.
The answer is the same for BI coverage. Because we do give people the choice of paying hundreds of dollars a month for BI coverage vs. rolling the dice that they will not be at fault for an accident in which the person they struck was injured, many Floridians have chosen to save money by not purchasing the BI coverage.
Just like they will do if PIP is optional.
So, should Floridians be given a choice of whether they want to carry PIP coverage as the Governor suggest? Unless BI becomes mandatory in Florida first, the answer to that question should be a resounding NO!
Maybe that is what the Governor should be considering
For more information or a free consultation on your legal issue contact The Law Offices of Charles D. Scott PLLC, your injury law and family law attorneys, at 727-300-4878. http://www.yourstpetelawyers.com