WHAT’S WRONG WITH AUTO INSURANCE LAW IN FLORIDA?
If you have not been involved in an automobile accident lately, then you may not have given much thought to automobile insurance. Most people don't even know what coverages they have on their policy until they have an accident. After your accident is not the time to start reading your insurance policy.
Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the State of Florida does not require drivers to carry Bodily Injury liability coverage. Let me repeat this if you missed it, Florida does not require drivers to carry Bodily Injury liability coverage. The only coverages that are required before you can operate a three thousand pound deadly weapon (a car) are personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage (PD).
In addition to the fact that most people have no idea what coverages they have on their auto insurance policy, they futher have no idea what the mandatory minimum insurance covers and does not cover in case of an accident.
As a personal injury lawyer, I have had many opportunities to sit down with auto accident victims that start out by telling me that they have "full coverage". Most often this means that they purchased the mandatory coverage as required by Florida Law.
So then what is wrong with auto insurance law in Florida?
First our state does not require Bodily Injury Liability insurance coverage. If you are involved in an auto accident that is not your fault, you would expect the other driver to be responsible for your injuries, but you may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you discover that the at fault driver may have no Bodily Injury Liability coverage which would compensate you for your injuries casued by the at fault driver. If the at fault driver has the required mandatory insurance, and nothing more, there is no coverage for your injury. So where are you to turn for compensation for your injury? This leads to the second thing wrong with auto insurance in Florida.
Second, PIP insurance is supposed to cover the first $10,000.00 of medical bills after an accident.
The personal injury protection (PIP) law was adopted in 1972 to make sure anyone injured in an auto accident would quickly get money to treat their injuries. The legislation provided that a driver’s insurance company pay up to $10,000 to cover medical bills and lost wages after an accident, no matter who is at fault.
The public policy in support of having PIP is expressed in Florida Statute Section 627.737 Tort exemption; limitation on right to damages. The intent was to limit injury lawsuits in Florida to the extent of personal injury protection benefits paid. The statute reads as follows: 627.737 Tort exemption: "Every owner, registrant, operator, or occupant of a motor vehicle with respect to which security has been provided as required by ss. 627.730-627.7405, and every person or organization legally responsible for her or his acts or omissions, is hereby exempted from tort liability for damages because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of such motor vehicle in this state to the extent that the benefits described in s. 627.736(1) are payable for such injury, or would be payable but for any exclusion authorized by ss. 627.730-627.7405, under any insurance policy or other method of security complying with the requirements of s. 627.733, or by an owner personally liable under s. 627.733 for the payment of such benefits, unless a person is entitled to maintain an action for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience for such injury under the provisions of subsection (2)."
This law is also known as "florida no fault" and was intended to create a liability exclusion for the first $10,000.00 in medical bills, essentially protecting the at fault driver against claims for your medical bills up to $10,000.00, and as such forms the basis for no required bodily injury coverage. In theory PIP or no fault provides an injured driver with up to $10,000.00 in accident benefits (80% of medical bils and up to 60% of lost wages). Some lawyers and lawyer referral services have run advertisements claiming that accident victims can get $10,000.00 if they hire them. Unfortunatrly this is a big misrepresentation by those lawyers and referral services, and the injured driver won't see any of that money (unless they have provable lost wages and then only up to 60% of actual provable lost wages). The rest of that benefit is intended for medical providers such as doctors, hospitals, and MRI facilities, and will not end up in the hands of the injured person despite what the lawyer advertisements claim.
Recently the Florida legislature made the insurance industry very happy by limiting most PIP benefits to $2,500.00 unless you have a diagnosis of an emergency medical condition.
Under the new PIP law, "Emergency medical condition" means a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity, which may include severe pain, such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in any of the following:
(a) Serious jeopardy to patient health.
(b) Serious impairment to bodily functions.
(c) Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
You still pay for $10,000 in benefits, and at fault drivers still have a $10,000.00 liability exclusion, however you may not receive the benefits you are required to pay for.
Third, insurance carriers and agents discourage uninsured motorist coverage or UM.
This is a fairly inexpensive coverage, that takes the place of bodily injury liability coverage when the at fault driver carrys only the minimum coverage as required by law, or worse, carries no insurance at all. Insurance carriers and agents selling policies discourage people from buying uninsured motorist coverage by telling them that it is not required and they dont need it. However, after an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured at fault driver, most people quickly appreciate the benefit of uninsured motorist coverage.
How did Florida get to this point where there is no requirement for Bodily Injury Liabilty coverage, where at fault drivers are protected against claims for the first $10,000.00 of your medical bills, and where the requried PIP insurance that is supposed to pay $10,000 in medical bills may only pay $2,500 in many cases?
The answer is the insurance company lobbies have had a significant influence on the law makers in Tallahassee and have lobbied for what coverages they want Floridians to carry and not carry, with the obvious intent to increase their bottom line and the expense of Floridians. Govenor Rick Scott strongly supported the reform of Florida's PIP law this year, and is apparently quite pleased about it.
For more information or for a free consultation, contact The Law Offices of Charles D. Scott, PLLC Injury and Family Law Attorneys, by calling 727-300-4878 or view our web site http://www.yourstpetelawyers.com