Lawmakers vote to repeal no-fault system
Sen. Danny Burgess.

Organization Session 111720 TS 058
Only technical changes remain.

The House and Senate have agreed to repeal Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system.

By a 100-16 vote on Friday afternoon, the House approved the final version of the proposal (SB 54). That followed a 37-3 vote in the Senate in the morning, kicking it back to the House with a quick fix.

The bill now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his response.

The final version drew more opposition than when the House passed it 99-11 on Monday.

The bill, carried through the Senate by Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, would end the requirement that Floridians purchase $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and would instead require mandatory bodily injury (MBI) coverage that would pay out up to $25,000 for a crash-related injury or death.

The measure previously passed the Senate 38-1 earlier this month. But the House and Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall scrapped the Senate’s requirement for mandatory medical payment coverage. The Senate would have required motorists to carry $5,000 in med-pay coverage while Grall wanted to allow motorists to have an “opt out” choice on $5,000 to $10,000 in med-pay coverage.

Burgess told senators the provision is “still a good thing.”

“You have to have the choice to opt out of the med pay in order to not to have it, so that will help ensure that some folks are having the coverages that they need, but it will ensure that rates continue to go down,” Burgess said.

The Senate added back a mandatory “death benefit” amount of $5,000 that was accidentally removed in the House’s rewrite, making it go back to the House the final time.

In the bill is bad faith reform, an attempt to reduce Florida’s litigious environment. Burgess noted that Sen. Kathleen Passidomo has been working on bad faith reform for 10 years.

“This is the Holy Grail of litigation reform, and we’re doing it in our bill,” Burgess said. “That’s going to make an incredible impact here, folks.”

Grall is a lawyer who specializes in catastrophic injury and car collisions. This is her fifth year straight trying to get the bill passed.

“Obviously I have some unique knowledge and perspective in this area of law, and that’s why it’s been a passion for me to get this right for Floridians,” Grall said.

No-fault repeal is a perennial effort in the Legislature, and passing the bill was not effortless. In the Senate, Burgess joked about the several times the bill had been postponed on the floor this month before lawmakers finally considered it.

In the latest vote in the Senate, Democratic Sens. Lauren Book and Jason Pizzo voted against it, as did Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.

“We have now had this bill floating for two weeks over to the Florida House, and nobody could tell you what it costs,” Brandes said.

He argued the bill will increase the insurance rates on the poorest Floridians, possibly by half. He called for the Legislature to study the impacts of the proposal.

“Let’s take the summer, let’s do a deep-dive into the numbers, let’s look at what’s actually going to lower rates,” he continued. “Any business that you all have been involved in, any one of them, this is the responsible thing that you would’ve done.”

Those backing PIP repeal say the system is rife with fraud and that the $10,000 coverage limit, set in the 1970s, is woefully inadequate five decades later. A 2016 report by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation that projected drivers on average would see a 5.6% savings with a shift to a bodily-injury coverage requirement.

“We’re going to see so much reduction in rate because of that elimination of fraud,” Burgess said. “We’re taking out an entire process of litigation through the cottage industry of PIP lawyers.”

PIP coverage pays out regardless of which party is responsible for an accident and it does so quickly. MBI coverage, however, doesn’t pay out until a fault determination is made, which can leave health care providers or patients on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical bills while they wait for a claim to resolve.

Burgess has acknowledged the bill became a “Frankenstein bill” with inputs from several stakeholders to create what he called a balanced bill. One of the latest players was St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson.

“I think we finally have a win-win,” Rouson said. “In amending the House (bill), we have the exact right balance of benefits and decreased costs to Florida’s drivers.”

Florida has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country, and they are rising faster than every other state except Colorado, which pins the blame on repealing its own no-fault law.

Insurers and others warn that the PIP repeal and the ensuing rate increase would only drive more Floridians to ditch their insurance, which would further raise rates for insured Floridians.

“A bodily injury requirement with no personal injury protection like SB 54 proposes would hike up the cost of insurance and only lead to more drivers hitting Florida’s roads uninsured,” said Michael Feiner, a Florida-based personal injury lawyer and founding partner of Steinger, Greene & Feiner. “If there was no personal injury protection, a claimant would not need to meet a threshold of a ‘permanent injury’ to recover non-economic damages (pain and suffering) as is required now.”

Opponents say insured Floridians would pick up the slack, if not through their auto insurance, then through their health insurance premiums or higher taxes. Brandes warned the bill could raise rates on some of the poorest Floridians by more than half.

Following the 2016 OIR study, a 2018 study by the actuarial consulting firm Milliman showed a potential average increase in premiums of $67, or a 5.3% increase. Earlier this month, Doug Bell, a lobbyist for Progressive Insurance Co., estimated the changes could cause “significant” rate increases for people who have only PIP coverage or who have bodily-injury coverage amounts lower than proposed new minimums.

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association sent out a news release Friday that said nearly 12,000 letters have been sent to lawmakers this month opposing auto-insurance changes.

“Floridians already pay the highest premiums in the country for full auto insurance coverage, so they are understandably concerned about any public policy changes that would push costs even higher,” said Logan McFaddin, the association’s assistant vice president of state government relations.

The association contends the bill could increase the cost of an average auto insurance policy by 23%, or $344. The association also argues costs would increase 3% to 6% because of a “lack of meaningful bad faith reforms” in the legislation.

The repeal effort has the support of Senate President Wilton Simpson, who noted in a statement that every state except Florida and New Hampshire have mandatory bodily injury coverage.

“For everyone’s protection, drivers must be insured at sufficient levels,” Simpson said. “PIP coverage levels are clearly insufficient. It’s the right time for Florida to move to mandatory coverage for bodily injury liability.”

Whether it has the support to make it into law is another question, as other elected officials aren’t sold, including CFO Jimmy Patronis who said early on in the Legislative Session that all indications are it would raise rates for “those that can least afford it.”

___

Content from The News Service of Florida was used in this report with permission.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


14 comments

  • Jack

    April 30, 2021 at 9:04 pm

    If this bill isn’t vetoed, rates will increase like the insurance carriers have warned and DeSantis will be associated with increasing Florida insurance premiums during a state of emergency for Covid-19. That disconnect with Floridians will definitely cost a lot of votes next election. Only one study (2016) that was funded by trial attorneys shows a savings-and as mentioned in the study-requires hospitals, doctors, and injured claimants to carry the loss!
    EMC and 14day rule have addressed fraud appropriately-they is no study that shows it’s a current concern…but no matter, all that Floridians will see are increased insurance premiums and decreased benefits=DeSantis

  • Monica M

    April 30, 2021 at 9:27 pm

    Passing a bill to increase insurance premiums during a pandemic makes DeSantis look a lot worse than disconnected. It doesn’t matter how you try to spin it.
    Insurance carriers are already opposed to the bill, citing increased premiums and increased number of uninsured motorists.

  • martin

    May 1, 2021 at 7:48 am

    “Grall is a lawyer who specializes in car collisions”

    If that does not say it all! She is just another ambulance chasing hack.

    • brian

      May 3, 2021 at 3:22 pm

      Meaning she knows what she is talking about. If you get whacked by someone with no insurance and you are in the hospital with thousands in bills, good luck getting compensation for your life changing injuries.

  • John

    May 2, 2021 at 5:26 pm

    Repeal of no-fault will not eliminate fraud. Instead, it will shift it to the BI side, where limits are higher. And it will likely increase fraud. Lawyers drop injured clients like a hot potato if there is no BI coverage for them to sue over, which is why they want BI to be mandatory over PIP. Medical bills will never get paid, as attorneys will always claim the settlement was not enough to cover medical bills. That will leave the injured holding the bag for the medicals, or health inurance taking over, leading to higher health insurance rates. If the 10k PIP limit is not sufficient, as PIP opponents suggest, then increase the limits to 15k or 20k (New York carrries 50k). Either way, repeal of PIP is not the answer. Gov. DeSantis should veto this bill and encourage changes to the existing system, if necessary.

  • Brian

    May 3, 2021 at 10:09 am

    Terrific news! Finally, people the own and drive cars, which are moving weapons, are required to carry insurance coverage to protect you if they hit you. PIP should have been repealed a long time ago. The only parties that benefit from this are the medical professionals, chiropractors mainly. The people of the State of Florida do not benefit from having PIP, but they will benefit when someone else injures you and they have insurance coverage to compensate you for your medical bills and injuries. PIP is rampant with fraud, always has been and always will be. A quick buck is what PIP is. This will surely lower insurance premiums over time and Desantis should clearly sign this necessary law. There are only 2 states that have PIP, and we are one of them. That says it all. Time to move forward and drop this old and outdated fraud riddled law.

  • John

    May 3, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Brian,
    Despite differences in opinion, your statement has some factual errors. I agree there is fraud in PIP, but there will also be fraud in BI- likely moreso. Unfortunately, no matter the coverage, fraud will never be completely eliminated. But your statement that Florida is one of only two PIP states is incorrect- there are 10: Florida, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Utah.

    • Brian

      May 3, 2021 at 1:21 pm

      Sorry John, however, PIP repeal is a great thing for Floridians. How are you allowed to operate a motor vehicle without liability coverage? It is a total joke and Florida needs to step up and protect its citizens from this outdated law. This law only helps chiros and the like.

      • John

        May 3, 2021 at 1:45 pm

        And you don’t think some attorneys will have their clients continue to run up chiro bills to get a larger BI settlement? The more the treatment, the higher the settlement. Then who’s going to pay all those chiro bills? Health insurance? Then watch your health insurance premiums rise. I agree with you that PIP may not be perfect, but simply scrapping it and replacing it with BI is not going to eliminate fraud, which I also agree is a problem. I think you’re going to see more fraud. And you don’t want to trust the insurance industry, but you do want to trust the injury attorneys/legislators sponsoring a bill that is obviously going to be of great benefit to them? I’m not saying there’s an easy answer to the problem, I’m just saying that this isn’t it.

        • Brian

          May 3, 2021 at 3:20 pm

          Totally disagree. Anything an insurance company says, you should do the opposite. If they want PIP, then mandatory BI is the way to go. Medical providers will not get paid what they want so medical bills will be a lot less. It is not the attorneys John, it is the medical providers that ruined PIP and that is why PIP is now gone for good. Time to start over. PIP has been around since 1972 and is completely antiquated.

          • John

            May 3, 2021 at 4:19 pm

            Well, it’s not totally gone yet. It has not been signed- and hopefully will not be signed. I agree that a lot of medical providers are the problem, but insurance companies are not the problem- they get stuck paying fraudulant claims no matter if it’s PIP or BI. And what happens when companies have to pay fraudulant claims? Everyone’s premiums go up.

  • Paul R

    May 3, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    Please do not blame the ambulance chaser when you are severely injured in an automobile crash by a distracted driver, or like one of those idiots driving 100 mph on the interstate, and the ambulance chaser informs you there is nothing he/she can assist you with because the at fault driver has PIP and property damage only, which is the Florida requirement currently. Why would anyone trust the insurance industry’s opinion on anything. Finally, the rates in Florida are one of the highest in the land because the industry is barely regulated. Do you really think they want to change that?

    • Brian

      May 3, 2021 at 1:24 pm

      Totally agree! We are supposed to trust the insurance industry?

  • brian

    May 3, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    PIP has been tweaked and tweaked and tweaked, and it still does not work. Time for an overhaul!!!

Comments are closed.


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