Update: June 30, 2021
Gov. DeSantis received SB 54 on June 28, 2021, and quickly vetoed it. Despite admitting that the current No-Fault insurance system is flawed, the Governor stated that:
[SB 54] does not adequately address the current issues facing Florida drivers and may have unintended consequences that would negatively impact both the market and consumers.
Florida is infamous for having one of the highest uninsured motorist rates in the country at around 20%. It also has the highest car insurance premiums as well. The cause and effect relationship between these two is the subject of countless debates between insurance providers and legislators.
Regardless of which came first, the chicken or the egg, Florida put in place a “No Fault Insurance” system some 50 years ago, which was intended to lower the number of uninsured drivers, reduce the burden on the courts, and get payments to injury victims more quickly. Under Florida’s current Personal Injury Protection (PIP) statute, drivers are legally required to carry a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and $10,000 Property Damage Liability coverage.
For years, though, advocates have been trying to get this system changed. A new bill heading to Gov. DeSantis’ desk may do just that.
Pro Tip: These existing minimums haven’t been updated in many years and, especially for the personal injury coverage, are woefully insufficient in 2021. According to Healthcare.gov, a broken leg can cost up to $7,500 (without surgery), and an average 3-day hospital stay is around $30,000!
Big Changes to Existing Car Insurance Laws
But a new bill, SB 54, which passed the Florida Senate in late April and has now headed to Gov. DeSantis’ desk, would repeal the existing Motor Vehicle No-Fault Act that requires drivers to carry PIP insurance coverage. If the law passes as written, drivers would now be required to carry bodily injury (BI) liability coverage with limits starting at $25,000 per person.
Per SB 54, Florida drivers would have to comply with these new insurance coverage requirements:
- $25,000 of bodily injury (BI) coverage for injury or death of one person and $50,000 for injury or death or two or more persons, and
- $10,000 property damage liability coverage for damage to, or destruction of, another’s property; or
- At least $60,000 of combined single-limit liability coverage, which includes both property damage and bodily injury liability coverage.
Basically, the $10,000 PIP coverage requirement has been replaced by a $25,000 bodily injury coverage requirement. The bill retains the existing $10,000 property damage liability requirement.
Earlier versions of the legislation required insurers to offer medical payments coverage (MedPay) in the amount of $5,000 or $10,000. But the version that has gone to Gov. DeSantis makes the offering optional. This provisions also includes an optional $5,000 MedPay death benefit.
One of the more impactful changes is the elimination of the restrictions on recovering pain and suffering damages from PIP insurers, which currently require bodily injury that causes death or significant and permanent injury.
Additionally, the bill also overhauls the framework for handling motor vehicle claims and addresses third-party bad faith insurance claims.
What Are the Implications of SB 54?
Unfortunately, no one can be 100% certain about what or how big of an impact the new auto insurance bill will have. There is the predictable back-and-forth between proponents and opponents of the bill; one side claims car insurance rates and uninsured motorist rates will skyrocket, the other claims they will both decrease.
One likely outcome of SB 54, however, is the disappearance of the so-called “PIP set off” for defendants in car accident lawsuits. Currently, the total compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit cannot include PIP benefits. In effect, the plaintiff’s total damages are set off (read: reduced) by $10,000. It remains to be seen how this will change given the new bodily injury coverage requirements.
Competent Legal Representation Is Critical
Given how fluid and unpredictable this situation is, and how fundamentally this new legislation could impact personal injury claims, it’s more critical than ever that you seek competent and experienced legal representation if you are injured in a car accident.
You shouldn’t need to read up on all new statutes and evolving case law while you are trying to recover from an injury. Hire a personal injury lawyer to take this burden off your shoulders.
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