Maybe the bigger question on the mind of many a pundit is – should we have mandatory P.I.P. next year? Critics of Florida’s No-Fault Insurance system complain that P.I.P. (a 40- year old concept requiring car accident victims to first seek payment of basic medical expenses and lost wages through their own insurance before going after the person who hit you) has become obsolete and rife with fraud. P.I.P. supporters say it provides swift and fairly hasslefree coverage for basic necessities after an accident like medical expenses, lost wages and even household help.
However, this year, a major push is underway to eliminate mandatory P.I.P. and replace it with a pure tort system where just the at-fault person’s insurer pays. At first blush it all seems rather first-grade fair. You broke it — you fix it. Right? However, here are some hitches with scrapping P.I.P. and why we need to keep it:
1) Liability Cases Take Time (like Rip Van Winkle sort of time) to Get Settled: Anyone who has ever been through an accident case can tell you that getting an at-fault driver’s insurer to pay your claim is about as easy as yanking an 18-ounce T-Bone from the snarling jaw of a 120-pound Rottweiler. Enduring the insurance company merry-go-round takes time, patience and money – something injury victims often have in scarce supply. It’s also why insurers aren’t just asking to get rid of Florida’s No- Fault Law, they’re also asking to gut Florida’s Insurer Bad Faith Law – which penalizes insurers who wrongfully delay or deny claims.
2) Without Our Current Protections Against Insurer Bad Faith There Will Be Little to Stop Liability Insurers From Stonewalling Injury Victims. Accident victims currently rely on P.I.P. as their quick fix to cover: immediate medical expenses; lost wages, transportation expenses, etcetera. Take that away and consumers can’t weather the fight against the at-fault party. Worse yet, without a law that punishes insurers for unreasonable delay, the atfault party’s insurer can force nearly every case to trial with virtual impunity. Time is on their side.
So remember, while no fault might not be without fault, we all may want to consider what might replace it before we let insurers toss it.
Russel Lazega is an attorney and author of two of Florida’s most widely distributed legal textbooks on Florida Insurance Law. He has also served as chief general counsel to an auto insurer. Mr. Lazega currently represents accident victims and consumers at war with their insurance companies. He is based in Dania Beach, North Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Contact: Russ@lazegalaw.com.