On April 14, 2021, the Florida Senate passed bill SB54, which would eliminate personal injury protection (PIP) from Florida’s car insurance. If passed, the bill would instead require Floridians to pay for bodily injury coverage. This bill is fraught with controversy, with heated arguments for and against it. Let us look at the PIP system and how the new law could change it.
Florida is still under the PIP system. It is one of only ten states that still uses PIP. In Florida, personal injury protection covers people who were injured in an accident, regardless of fault. As long as you are insured, you can have medical expenses covered under this system. PIP covers 80% of your medical costs up to $10,000. In a non-emergency injury, PIP covers $2,500 of your medical expenses. It can help you with lost income, as well. If your injuries cause you to miss work, you can have 60% of your income covered. With these caps in PIP, you may not have all your expenses covered. When PIP has been exhausted, Floridians must turn to their healthcare providers for additional coverage.
Personal injury protection also provides benefits when an accident leads to death. Surviving loved ones can receive $5,000 to help with funeral and burial costs.
Republican lawmakers believe that PIP is outdated, and Florida should join the majority of the U.S.’s insurance system. Florida drivers would be required to carry bodily injury coverage, which is a fault-based system. Under these rules, the insurance company of the at-fault driver must cover medical costs.
The Senate believes that this new standard will help eliminate PIP fraud. Since there are no fault stipulations, some have easily collected PIP money, even when they were not injured. This new framework will help curb those problems. It can also help control people who illegally use PIP to defraud multiple insurance companies.
Bodily injury (BI) benefits are fairly straightforward. Insurance will pay up to $25,000 in benefits when one person is injured in an accident. If multiple people are injured, insurance will cover up to $55,000. It will also cover up to $10,000 in property damage.
People who file personal injury lawsuits can benefit from this BI system as well. Florida’s PIP puts limitations on damages for pain and suffering. These limitations would be removed if the new law is passed.
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) has spoken out against this reform. Florida, they say, already pays a high cost for its insurance. It has one of the highest populations of uninsured drivers, among the top ten states in the nation. APCIA estimates that if this law passes, Floridians’ insurance policies will go up an average of 23%, adding $344 to annual rates. Some could see their prices raised as much as $805 per year. With this price increase, the number of uninsured drivers would likely increase. If impoverished drivers already have a difficult time paying for car insurance, this price hike would include even more citizens who could not pay.
Proponents of the bill disagree. They cite a 2016 study that suggests insurance premiums will drop under the BI system.
The bill will now move to Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk, where many expect him to sign it into law.
Regardless of whether this bill is signed into law, there will still be a need for civil justice. No matter which system the state uses, its citizens have limited benefits. Once car insurance benefits are depleted, people must turn to their health insurance. When those benefits expire, problems can still remain. Medical bills and lost wages can seriously hinder one’s life. With nowhere else to turn, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver who caused you harm.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, please reach out for a free consultation. You can schedule by calling (850) 764-0383 or by filling out an online contact form.