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Articles Posted in Insurance Issues

Florida’s controversial no-fault insurance laws have been at issue for several years. The no-fault framework mandates that motorists carry at least $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage was designed to cover the medical costs of car accident injury victims. The public policy behind this system was to ease the burden on the court system and promote efficient payment. The no-fault system presented several issues to Florida car accident victims, as it placed limitations on how much they could recover from their insurance company. Senate Bill 54 would change the state’s insurance laws, moving away from the no-fault system. Proponents of the bill argue that the no-fault system is antiquated and does not effectively meet the needs of accident victims.

Lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) in a bipartisan effort to address the no-fault system’s many flaws. The bill would address rising healthcare costs and impute liability on the party that caused the accident, instead of placing the burden on the accident victim. Under SB 54, motorists will no longer need to purchase PIP coverage, and instead will need to carry bodily injury (BI) protection. BI coverage provides critical coverage in situations where an accident results in serious injuries and hefty medical expenses. This coverage will allow claimants to pursue damages for medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, out-of-pocket losses, and most importantly, pain and suffering.

Critics of the no-fault system cite widespread fraud and inequities within the current system. They argue that the system forces older adults on Medicare and people with health insurance to purchase unnecessary costly insurance. Further, motorists who maintain bodily injury coverage are covering the costs to bail out irresponsible motorists. Finally, the coverage limit has not been updated in decades and rarely meets a victim’s needs. Many believe that the changes will reduce insurance costs and provide more options to meet a motorist’s specific needs.

Although waivers and terms of conditions are extremely long, people worry about signing their rights away if they do not read the waiver in its entirety. This is especially true in the context of insurance. Insurance companies may try to hide a waiver of coverage behind hyperlinks or in small font. However, when this is the case, customers in Florida can hold their insurance companies accountable and file a claim based on the ineffective waiver of coverage. An ineffective waiver of coverage claim argues that the insurance company failed to advise their clients about their coverage, as well as the coverage they were waiving by signing the form.

In a recent Florida appellate court case, the court was tasked with deciding whether an insurance company effectively informed customers they were waiving their right to uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. All of the plaintiffs rejected or lowered UM coverage through the insurance company’s online signature process; however, the process was hidden and made it nearly impossible to know what they were signing away. Because of this, the plaintiffs sued the insurance company, alleging the insurance company’s coverage rejection process failed to comply with Florida law and did not properly advise policyholders of UM coverage options.

Florida law requires insurance companies give customers the opportunity to purchase UM coverage that is at least equal to the amount of bodily injury coverage. If the customer wishes to lower their UM coverage limit or reject the coverage altogether, they must sign a form indicating they are rejecting UM coverage. This is called an M9 form. The heading of the form must state in bold and size twelve font: “You are electing not to purchase certain valuable coverage which protects you and your family or you are purchasing uninsured motorist limits less than your bodily injury liability limits when you sign this form. Please read carefully.”

While car insurance is required for every Florida driver, in reality, a frighteningly large number of Florida drivers are uninsured. This can cause significant problems when they get into accidents. In fact, other drivers’ lack of insurance is one of the reasons that all Florida drivers are encouraged to purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UIM).

If a Florida driver is seriously injured in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, they may be unable to recover fully for their injuries and the resulting medical bills, forcing them to pay out of pocket for an accident they did not cause. UIM protects drivers by providing coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, helping to make sure that a Florida car accident victim does not go bankrupt solely because they were hit by an uninsured motorist.

Despite its importance, UIM benefits can sometimes be difficult to actually obtain, since insurance companies may attempt to find ways to avoid paying the amount that they owe their clients. For example, take a recent Florida case where an injured driver had to take her insurance company, USAA, to court to try and recover UIM damages she believed she was owed. The plaintiff had suffered injuries to her left knee while attending the U.S. Naval Academy, and had even needed knee surgery in the past. She presented evidence to the jury, however, that her left knee was further injured in the car accident she was involved in, which was caused by an uninsured motorist. USAA attempted to escape liability by arguing that the plaintiff’s knee was already injured before the car accident and that she was not entitled to compensation from her insurance.

When someone is injured in a Florida car accident, determining their insurance coverage and potential recovery amount is essential. However, the process may be more complicated when the at-fault driver does not have insurance. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and insurance stacking can come into play and help pay for accident-related expenses when a person is hit by a driver without insurance. While Florida law allows for insurance stacking after an accident, there are limitations depending on the type of insurance issued and the specifics of the accident.

In Florida, insurance stacking is often used to increase a person’s uninsured motorist coverage by combining the limits of each policy on every car insured. For example, if a motorist has stackable UM coverage on a car for $30,000 and stackable UM coverage on a different car for $60,000, they can stack their coverage limits for a combined coverage of up to $90,000 in case of an accident with an uninsured driver. Stacked UM coverage can be helpful to ensure a person’s full expenses are met, as it provides protection whenever or wherever the insured person is injured by an uninsured motorist.

On the other hand, non-stacked UM coverage does not allow the combination of policies, and the UM coverage is solely for the amount listed on each policy. If a person has a non-stacked policy limit for $30,000 for one vehicle, that is the maximum amount the person could collect after an accident. Because of its limited scope, non-stacked UM coverage is often less expensive.

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