Florida's No-Fault Car Accident Laws: How They Work and Why They May be Repealed

Anywhere, anytime, anyone. Traffic accidents don’t discriminate, and they remain a significant source of personal injury and death across the country. In Florida alone, there were over 373,600 traffic accidents last year, resulting in more than 2,850 fatalities and approximately 243,000 injuries. Even those that result only in property damage can cause major headaches. Every accident is unique in the chain of events that led to its occurrence, and the insurance companies spend a lot of resources trying to unravel the string of circumstances in order to figure out who pays.

The majority of states work under the principles of fault-based liability insurance coverage. Drivers in these states are required to carry minimum amounts of insurance, and when they are at fault in an accident, their insurer pays for the other driver’s expenses. In Florida and eleven other states, no-fault car insurance is offered instead. Also known as personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, it pays for the driver’s injuries after an accident regardless of who caused the accident. In exchange for limitations on the right to sue, each driver’s insurance company pays for its own policyholder’s expenses, including medical costs, property repair costs, lost wages and funeral expenses.

An accident victim’s bills often exceed the amount covered by their insurance policy. Because it’s unfair to make a victim pay for bills that are not their fault, the law allows for limited situations in which those who have been seriously injured can attempt to hold the at-fault driver accountable. A victim can pursue a personal injury action against the at-fault driver where there is significant and permanent loss of an important body function, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or permanent injury.

Several states pursued tort reform by enacting no-fault laws during the 1970s as a way to reduce car insurance rates, reduce lawsuits, and get claims paid quickly. Many of these laws were subsequently repealed. Current Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty is one of many voices who think fraud and high costs have made it time to end PIP in Florida. Senator Jeff Brandes has introduced a bill to terminate mandatory no-fault coverage by 2019.

While there are reforms on the table, there are just as many instances of prior reforms not working. A nationally televised documentary featured the recent bust of an organized car insurance fraud ring involving suspects from Palm Beach, Martin, and Miami-Dade counties; a major lawsuit has been filed claiming HCA hospitals around the state are using up the entire $10,000 in PIP benefits in as little as a single day; Florida drivers pay the nation’s fourth-highest car insurance premiums. With federal health law coverage, eliminating PIP could save drivers an average of 20 percent on their total bill.

As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski Law has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless traffic collision victims, and we are highly experienced in handling a wide range of auto and truck accident cases. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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