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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 5, 201809:53 AM EST

It’s time to replace the outdated PIP law

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Minimum personal injury protection of $10,000 doesn't keep up with today's medical costs.

by Jineane McMinn

In her commencement speech to the Harvard University graduating class of 2008, author J.K. Rowling said, “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.”

Likewise, the “expiry date” for Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law, mandated almost 40 years ago, is long overdue. Heedless drivers should take responsibility for their actions and carry bodily injury coverage. 

PIP allows for anyone involved in an auto collision to seek medical treatment, regardless of who is at fault, up to $10,000 if there is an emergency medical condition and up to $2,500 if there’s not an emergency medical condition.

While this may seem facially logical, these amounts only go so far. One trip to a hospital after a collision can easily eat up the $10,000. Then what’s left? 

PIP doesn’t protect the victim of a negligent driver, even if that driver had no intention of driving badly.

Yes, collisions happen. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, “I’m going to hit someone with my car today.”

But when it happens, the victim should be protected and should have the peace of mind that the person who caused the collision has enough insurance coverage to get the victim well on his or her way toward recovery. 

Recently, it was a sad day in our office when we had to tell a client that the person who hit her did not carry bodily injury coverage. It was a traumatic collision, the client’s medical bills exceeded her PIP coverage after one day in the hospital, and there was nothing we could do but tell her the truth about her situation and pray that she had decent health insurance with a manageable deductible. 

House Bill 19 would require all drivers to carry bodily injury coverage in the minimum of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per auto collision beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

Its counterpart, Senate Bill 150, would require all drivers to carry a minimum of $30,000 per person/$60,000 per auto collision with a no-fault emergency medical payments coverage component of $5,000 by 2023.

These two bills, or a combination/compromise of them, will ensure that bad drivers will take responsibility for unfortunate circumstances and that victims are compensated for medical expenses and the pain and the suffering they endure, even though the circumstances were not their fault. 

Opponents of the bills believe passage of mandatory bodily injury coverage would open the floodgates to lawsuits.

To them I say, “God forbid, but wait until it’s personal.” Just like no one wakes up intending to cause an auto collision, no one wakes up intending to be a victim of an auto collision. No one wakes up intending to get hit by car, go to the doctor, begin a seemingly endless, painstaking routine of physical therapy, and live in constant pain for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately for me, in 2013, it became personal. I was a brand new semi-employed lawyer driving my dad’s car during rush hour on San Jose Boulevard. I stopped for traffic; the person behind me didn’t.

The next day, I awoke in severe pain. I went to the hospital to get checked out, and the hospital physicians referred me to physical therapy. The medical bills quickly depleted my PIP.

Thankfully, the person who hit me had sufficient bodily injury coverage to cover my medical bills, paychecks missed when I couldn’t work, and provide compensation for my pain. Luckily for me, the person who irresponsibly hit me responsibly carried bodily injury coverage.

The current PIP law leaves too many people saddled with unpaid medical bills and lost wages. The solution is simple: All Florida drivers should be required to carry bodily injury coverage.

Jineane McMinn is an associate with The Law Offices of Glenn Warren focusing on plaintiff’s personal injury, maritime, family, and estate law. 

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