PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION (PIP) UPDATES
I read that the Florida Legislature was considering changes to our state’s “No Fault” automobile insurance laws. What happened?
Three decades ago, the Florida Legislature enacted the so-called “No Fault” automobile insurance law. That law required each Florida automobile owner to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits to pay for up to $10,000 of their own medical expenses and lost wages resulting from an automobile accident. It was known as the “No Fault” law because it prevented motorists from recovering damages from an at-fault driver unless their injuries were permanent, and economic damages (past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and lost ability to earn wages) exceeded $10,000.
The PIP law expired on October 1, 2007. Several weeks later, the Florida Legislature renewed PIP effective January 1, 2008 – leaving a 120 day period where PIP is not the law in Florida.
How will the Legislature’s changes to PIP affect my family and me?
If you have automobile insurance that covers bodily injury, check your insurance card to see if your policy renews between October 1, 2007 and December 31, 2007. If it does, then your insurance carrier may discontinue PIP benefits starting the date of renewal through December 31, 2007. Take this opportunity to call your insurance agent or company and insist on the following: (1) PIP must be added back to your policy effective January 1, 2008; and (2) You should be offered the opportunity to buy PIP or “Medical Payments (Med-Pay)” coverage for the period between your renewal date and December 31, 2007.
What should I do if I am in an automobile accident during the October 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007 “gap period”?
First, immediately contact family members or close friends so that they know you have been in a collision and can render assistance if necessary. Second, if you have been injured, seek immediate medical treatment from emergency medical personnel or at a hospital, urgent care center, or your primary care provider’s office. Third, if you believe that another driver carelessly caused your injuries and losses, contact a law firm like Terrell • Hogan so that highly trained attorneys with years of expertise can advise you on your legal rights and help you obtain justice.
Given the recent uncertainty regarding PIP, are there additional steps I can take to ensure that my family and I have sufficient coverage in the event of an accident?
Yes. First, do everything you can to make sure that you have adequate health insurance. Unfortunately, our nation’s health care crisis has left more than 45 million Americans without medical insurance, and many families simply can’t afford to purchase it. But if you can buy health insurance or obtain it through your job for a reasonable cost, it will give you a critical financial safety net if you are injured in an automobile accident.
Second, remember that Florida law mandates that drivers be financially responsible. You are required to buy property damage liability insurance and strongly encouraged to carry bodily injury liability coverage to protect other drivers in case you cause an accident. These forms of automobile coverage will also help to safeguard your personal financial assets.
Third, since Florida still has large numbers of drivers who either have inadequate automobile insurance or none at all, you would be wise to purchase a reasonable amount of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) coverage. In the all-too-frequent event that another driver negligently injures you, but does not have enough insurance to cover your losses, UM benefits will ensure that you have some source of coverage to compensate you for your medical expenses, lost wages, and various human losses. “Stacking” UM benefits are usually preferable. Consult your insurance agent or company for more information on this key coverage.