Florida’s Legislature Considers the Most Dramatic Changes to the State’s Automobile Liability Insurance Laws in More Than 40 Years

Florida’s Legislature is currently considering the first major changes to the state’s motor vehicle insurance scheme in more than 40 years. These changes could have a significant impact upon personal injury cases related to motor vehicle accidents. The changes follow in the wake of reform efforts made in 2012 by Florida Governor Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater that tried but have been unsuccessful for the most part in reducing the costs of automobile liability insurance for Floridians. The recent Florida House bill includes reforms such as scrapping the state’s current no-fault automobile liability insurance plan in favor of higher mandatory liability coverage amounts that would apply to cover whichever party is deemed to be legally at fault in a motor vehicle accident.

Required Automobile Liability Insurance Under Florida’s Current Law

Under Florida’s current no-fault system for automobile liability insurance, motorists are required to carry $10,000 in personal-injury protection (also known as PIP) coverage. PIP coverage applies to cover a motorist’s medical expenses up to $10,000 for injuries suffered in accidents, no matter whether the accident was caused by the motorist him or herself or by another motorist. Critics of this system contend it results in drivers who are injured by someone else’s negligence having to pay more for insurance coverage because the system is designed not to apportion fault below the $10,000 threshold and because the driver is required to use his or her own benefits even though his injuries from an accident were caused by another driver.

The 2012 Reform Efforts

The 2012 automobile liability insurance reform law championed by Governor Scott required those involved in accidents to seek medical treatment within 14 days of an accident or else their medical expenses would not be covered by their PIP insurance.   The reforms also allowed up to $10,000 in benefits for treatment related to emergency medical conditions caused by a motor vehicle accident, while putting a $2,500 cap for payments on treatment related to non-emergency conditions associated with a motor vehicle accident. A study performed in September 2016 by an Illinois-based actuarial firm determined these reforms resulted in an estimated statewide average savings in PIP premiums of 15.1 percent. However, the study also found that, since 2015, those same premium rates have increased 25.7 percent. The increases are attributed to general increases in the costs of medical care, vehicle repairs, an increase in driving across Florida, and an increase in distracted drivers throughout the Sunshine State.

The 2017 Reforms

The current proposed reforms to Florida PIP law are being debated in the Florida House and have passed at least one committee in their progress through the Legislature. According to a news report of the proposed bill by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, the proposed legislation, which appears in House Bill 1063, would completely eliminate the existing requirement that Florida motorists carry $10,000 in PIP no-fault coverage in 2018. In its place, the legislation would require Florida motorists to carry automobile liability insurance providing at least $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death and $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more people. This would be at-fault insurance, meaning that it would operate to cover injuries caused by that motorist’s negligence to someone else. The proposed legislation would save each Florida motorist an estimated $80 in automobile liability insurance premiums compared with what consumers are paying on average for the existing PIP coverage currently required under Florida law. It also would see an increased role for Florida courts in determining fault for accidents, as injured parties would need to seek the costs of their medical bills and other damages from the driver who caused their injuries. The proposal passed the Florida House’s Insurance and Banking Subcommittee by a 12-2 vote, but even the bill’s proponents expect that further changes will need to be made in order for the bill to pass the full House.

Contact Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley, P.A. if You Have Been Injured in a Florida Motor Vehicle Accident

Regardless of the future of automobile liability insurance in Florida, rest assured that the experienced motor vehicle accident and personal injury attorneys of Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley, P.A. will be here to represent you if you are the victim of another driver’s negligence in a motor vehicle accident. Together they have more than 150 years of combined legal experience representing Floridians who have suffered injuries in car accidents caused through no fault of their own. If you have been injured in a Florida motor vehicle accident, contact us today for a free consultation regarding your legal rights at contact@schwedlaw.com or (877) 694-6079.