Changes in the Florida auto insurance system may happen soon, and Florida
drivers may be better off for it.
Last year, Florida lawmakers pondered ditching our state’s beleaguered
“no-fault” auto insurance system. That system, which requires
drivers to initially use their own insurance to pay for things like medical
bills and lost wages, has become increasingly unpopular. Lawmakers seriously
considered replacing it with a “mandatory bodily injury” system.
That system that would require drivers to buy coverage for injuries they
cause to other motorists instead.
The legislature basically ran out of time to make that major change at
the end of the last legislative session. However, the issue is likely
to come up again this year, and it may be on a fast track through the
lawmaking process. Just a few days ago, the Commerce Committee in the
Florida house approved legislation to require drivers to carry insurance
to protect others against injury. This paves the way for prompt consideration
of a bill in January 2018.
At Roman & Gaynor, we believe it’s time for this change to happen.
Florida’s no fault system has become an outlier; while 48 states
require drivers to carry coverage for injuries to others, Florida does
not. The no-fault system is also expensive: despite several efforts at
reform, increased premiums for no-fault benefits (referred to as personal
injury protection, or “PIP”) have continued to drive up total
auto insurance costs.
The no-fault system is counter-intuitive as well. Auto accident clients
are often bewildered and aggravated when they learn that they must use
their own auto insurance to pay for their injuries, even when another
driver is clearly at fault. But the confusion isn’t just limited
to clients. Many health care providers don’t know when they are
supposed to send bills to auto insurance, creating billing and “coordination
of benefits” headaches which have to be straightened out down the road.
Finally, and most fundamentally, changing to a fault-based system is more
consistent with our general accepted ideas about personal responsibility.
Our system of laws is based on the idea that a person who causes harm
should be the one who has to pay for it. Requiring negligent drivers to
financially protect others from the injuries they cause makes the most
legal and moral sense.
In short, changing to a fault-based system will put the financial risk
and responsibility squarely back where it belongs. It’s also likely
to lower auto insurance premiums for people who drive responsibly.
We encourage Florida drivers to support the proposed changes, and let their
lawmakers know that they do.
It’s time to junk the no-fault system in favor of something more
sensible and fair.