Only days ago I posted a blog detailing the changes in Florida's motor vehicle insurance law which would go into effect on January 1, 2022 as a result of the Florida Legislature's passage of SB 54 in April 2021. All that was left to do was to obtain Gov. DeSantis' signature on the bottom line. Well, after two months of mulling over the pros and cons of the new law, and perhaps listening to the continuing lobbying efforts of the insurance industry, the Governor sent a veto letter to the legislature, effectively killing reform for another year. In his letter, Gov. DeSantis stated that "while the PIP system has flaws and Florida law regarding bad faith is deficient, SB 54 does not adequately address the current issues facing Florida drivers and may have unintended consequences that would negatively impact both the market and consumers".
Reading between the lines, it appears that the Governor was swayed by arguments that while the current PIP system may encourage fraud, making bodily injury liability mandatory for all drivers would most likely cause insurance rates to rise for the average Florida driver. Hmmmmmmm......I clearly remember auto industry representatives previously extolling the benefits of eliminating PIP as a way to reduce premiums. Apparently case studies from other states such as Colorado, ( where the elimination of PIP coverage resulted in increased premiums) convinced Gov. DeSantis to reconsider signing the legislation. It certainly wasn't a result of lukewarm support from the legislature, as the bill was approved in the House by a 100-16 margin, and in the Senate 37-3.
Of course, the proposed law was opposed by the first providers of treatment for accident victims ( ambulance companies, emergency clinics, chiropractors) who are paid almost immediately from PIP benefits, but would, under SB 54 have to potentially wait many months to get paid from the at-fault driver's liability coverage. If litigation ensued, the wait could take years. As I pointed out in my previous blog, private health insurance providers would no longer be insulated from paying the first $10,000.00 in medical bills. Those premiums would most likely increase as a result.
The push to eliminate PIP while making BI coverage mandatory did create interesting bedfellows. I cannot envision a time when chiropractors and auto insurers have worked from the same playbook. While first responders based their objections upon how the elimination of PIP coverage would impact their ability to stay in business, the insurance industry's stated concern was for its insured drivers who " can least afford ( additional insurance) and would increase the number of uninsured drivers on the road". ( quote from the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida). Please.
Lets be honest for a second. Making bodily injury liability coverage mandatory in Florida would increase premiums for those drivers who have chosen to not elect such coverage in the past. While some drivers would continue to do so, making BI coverage mandatory would decrease the number of uninsured drivers on the roadways. The flaw in SB 54 was the apparent compromise that converted " medical payment" coverage ( similar to PIP) from mandatory to elective in nature.
As a personal injury attorney, I am too often the person who has to inform my client that the driver whose negligence put him in the hospital and may have caused personal injuries has no bodily injury coverage. There's coverage to fix their car though !! Even worse are those instances where my client has not elected uninsured motorist coverage on his or her own policy. In those cases, once PIP benefits are exhausted, the well from which additional payments might come is literally dry. At those times, clients have told me "that's not fair" and they are right. While not a perfect bill, SB 54 was a step in the right direction. Instead, another year will pass with no reform whatsoever. Until a change in the law occurs, please make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are not sure of your rights and remedies, please contact me at my offices in St. Petersburg at 727-822-3700.