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No-Fault Auto Insurance Gains Legislative Support

Oct 3, 2007

By Josh Hafenbrack, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Oct. 4--Reviving mandatory personal-injury protection for Florida's drivers is gaining political steam in the Legislature, picking up the endorsement of a crucial Senate committee Thursday morning.

Bringing back no-fault auto insurance -- an effort supported by Gov. Charlie Crist -- appears headed to likely floor votes in both chambers during the special session that ends Oct. 12.

In a unanimous vote, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee advanced a bill (SB40C) to revive PIP, as it's known, with a few changes meant to ferret out fraud, such as staged auto accidents and inflated medical bills.

PIP expired Monday, and Crist asked legislators to consider emergency legislation to bring it back.

The bill, headed for a full Senate vote, would restore the requirement that every driver carry $10,000 in personal-injury protection, which would be used to cover 80 percent of medical costs, lost wages and a death benefit.

There's a caveat for consumers, however.

As amended, PIP actually will remain dead until the revised rules go on the books on Feb. 15. Between now and then, accidents may have to be settled by lawsuits to determine who was to blame.

Committee Chairman Bill Posey, the Senate's lead PIP negotiator, described the state's auto-insurance climate over the next four months this way: "If somebody stubs their toe on your legally parked car, you might expect a lawsuit for pain and suffering. That's the reality."

Posey and other senators agreed to look at ways to smooth the transition for consumers.

A state Office of Insurance Regulation official said the old PIP system -- the one in place until it expired Monday -- could be used temporarily until the new rules take effect.

A House committee is slated to take up the issue Thursday afternoon, in the bill's last stop before moving to a floor vote in that chamber.

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Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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