Florida’s so-called “no-fault” law has been on the brink of repeal again. As recently as April 2, 2019, the news media were breathlessly reporting repeal’s progress. On that date, Florida Senate bill SB-1052 was approved by the Banking and Insurance Committee on a 5-3 vote. It passed from there to the Appropriations Committee for approval of the $83,651 it required for implementation. No-fault repeal looked like a sure thing to many observers.
It wasn’t. On May 3, 2019, the Appropriations Committee withdrew SB-1052 from consideration. That is, they killed it. The Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law is still the law of the land. We’re one of only 12 states with no-fault laws. Perhaps not coincidentally, Florida motorists’ insurance premiums are in the top 5 of the 50 states. The same bill, incidentally, had previously passed the Florida House 88-15.
Florida motorists, naturally, are scratching their heads. What’s going on here? Would no more no-fault be good for motorists, or bad?
FLORIDA NO-FAULT RECAP
At root, it’s actually pretty simple. Auto insurance policies pay compensation for injuries due to car crashes, without regard to whose fault the crash was. Hence, “no-fault”. The insurance that makes these payments is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). If a motorist is hurt in an accident, he can seek compensation for medical and rehab expenses, and 60% of wages lost due to the injury. The benefits cap at $10,000. The details, naturally, are quite complex. The point of no-fault and PIP is to speed delivery of payments to the injured, reduce court caseloads, and drive down premiums.
NO-FAULT REPEAL: PROS
Those in favor of repealing Florida’s no-fault law argue that this would, in fact, reduce insurance rates. They note that two of the twelve no-fault states, Michigan and Florida, have the highest and third-highest rates in the country. Colorado, Georgia, and Connecticut, in contrast, all saw rates go down after repealing their no-fault laws. In addition, proponents of repeal scoff at the idea that no-fault has eased the courts’ caseloads. They note than PIP lawsuits jumped 50% in one year, to a record 60,000 in 2017.
NO-FAULT REPEAL: CONS
Here’s where the confusion sets in. A lot of the State Senators opposing not-fault repeal say they are in favor of repeal! They voted to kill the repeal bill, they say, because it was in their view defective. In the details. Florida insurance companies have insisted that without prior lawsuit reform, this bill would drive rates up, not down. Other opponents of this bill argue that it won’t work as intended without some other changes in insurance regulations. Florida’s trial lawyers and the Florida Justice Reform Institute are working together to craft a better repeal bill.
HERE, FOR NOW
For now, Florida stays a no-fault state. The confusing debate over repeal, moreover, shows how complex this simple idea has become in reality. That’s why anybody hurt in a car crash needs to contact an experienced personal injury attorney ASAP.