Over two years have gone by since the Florida legislature, with the shepherding of Gov. Rick Scott, passed amendments to the Florida PIP (No-Fault) auto insurance statute. Adding the “emergency medical condition” to the auto insurance-lexicon was perhaps the most noticeable change. Unless a Florida driver has a diagnosis of serious jeopardy to his or her health within 14 days of a crash, he or she is limited to $2,500 in PIP benefits as opposed to $10,000.
In an effort to curb PIP-fraud, and rather than more stringently enforcing existing laws, the legislature eliminated chiropractors from the list of doctors that could give that diagnosis. By “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” the Florida legislature has unwittingly given insurance companies the greenlight to take millions of dollars in PIP benefits from their insureds; who are not usually well-versed enough on the oft-changing law to know they need to rush in to see a doctor.
In 1971, Florida became the second state in the country to adopt no-fault insurance, doing so when the State’s contributory negligence law prohibited crash victims from recovery if they were even the least bit at fault. The objective was clarified by the Florida Supreme Court in Lasky v. State Farm Insurance Company in 1974: prompt payment of out-of-pocket losses, reducing court congestion, and eliminating the inequities created by contributory negligence. What it added to the mix was a requirement that crash victims could only recover for the pain and suffering of their injuries if they could prove that the injuries were permanent. No matter how long you suffer from a car crash, it won’t be enough unless you suffer forever.
A simple survey of the states shows that nearly the entire country, with the exception of Florida, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, requires drivers to carry bodily injury insurance. To be fair, all three states have financial responsibility laws that demand proof of bodily injury coverage for certain drivers, but typically those are only triggered if that driver is a repeat reckless driving offender or he after he has caused a crash with injuries. Unfortunately, to reach that point usually means that someone else must suffer and be left with little or no recourse. With an ever-increasing population that has now surpassed New York for third highest in the country; mandating bodily injury coverage would be seem obvious.
Even if the Florida legislature required the state’s drivers to obtain bodily injury coverage, in reality, it is no substitute for self-responsibility. The clearest way that drivers of our state can protect themselves is by ensuring that they have uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. UM coverage, as it’s called, protects individuals injured by someone who has no bodily injury insurance or not enough insurance to compensate the injured party. All too often we have found that our clients do not obtain this important coverage and usually it’s because they were told by their agents they didn’t need it.
In a state with about 3.2 million uninsured drivers, Florida citizens should hardly rely on others to have insurance coverage regardless of what the law requires. As mentioned earlier, Florida was on the forefront of adopting the no-fault concept. Let’s try not to be the last state to get on board with mandatory bodily injury coverage.