In 1971, Florida became the second state in the country to adopt a no-fault automobile insurance plan which took effect January 1, 1972. The preface from the report Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law released by the Florida Senate in 2006 states the following regarding the tradeoff of public policy benefits which caused the shift:
“From a policy perspective, the no-fault plan was offered as a viable replacement for the tort reparations system as a means to quickly and efficiently compensate injured parties in auto accidents regardless of fault. The principle underlying no-fault automobile insurance laws is a trade-off of one benefit for another, by assuring payment of medical, disability (wage loss) and death benefits, regardless of fault, in return for a limitation on the right to sue for non-economic damages (pain and suffering). Currently, twelve states, including Florida, have some form of no-fault provision.
If you are involved in a car accident in Florida, the most important thing to know is that Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. This means that if you’ve been injured in a car accident in Florida, you’ll need to first review your own policy to determine its coverage of the amount of your damages, which include injuries and other losses stemming from the accident, regardless of who was at fault. When an accident occurs, each person involved applies his or her own policy to pay the costs of medical care and other losses. These benefits are paid regardless of who was at fault in the accident.
By contrast, in an “at-fault” insurance state, also known as a “fault” or “tort liability” state, policyholders may choose whether to file claims with their own insurers, file claims with another driver’s insurer, or sue the other driver in legal proceedings to prove he or she was the one at fault, and therefore the one responsible for paying for the damages caused by the accident.
Only in certain cases can you alternatively seek compensation from the no-fault system to hold the other driver liable for your injuries. This means that you can file a liability claim with the other driver’s insurer or file a personal injury lawsuit. Florida drivers can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver directly — and step outside of the state’s no-fault system — only if the injuries resulting from the accident are considered “permanent,” if significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement occurs, or if significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function results from the crash.
In no-fault states like Florida, drivers are required to carry auto insurance that pays PIP, or personal injury protection, benefits. When the policyholder suffers an accident, the policy’s PIP benefits pay for any medical expenses and certain non-medical-related costs associated with the accident. The latter include lost wages and other costs known as “replacement benefits.” Florida drivers are required to carry minimum PIP and PDL protection of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) benefits. In contrast to most other states, Florida does not require drivers to have bodily injury liability (BIL) benefits, which cover the costs of other parties’ injuries in an accident. Florida drivers are also not required to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. UIM coverage pays additional PIP benefits if a policyholder is involved in an accident with a driver who does not have any insurance (uninsured) or who does not have enough insurance (underinsured) to cover the costs of the injured policyholder’s medical bills and other damages.
Florida is a no-fault state. That means injured persons are covered by their own auto insurance. However, personal injury protection benefits (which are available through no-fault coverage) will only cover so much. When damages exceed that available coverage, victims then have the option of pursuing the at-fault party for compensation. But how do you sort through all of the insurance policies of the drivers involved to determine if you are adequately covered for your injuries? If there is not enough coverage for all of your damages, how do proceed to make up the shortfall?