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No-Fault: How It Works Florida's Law Requiring the Coverage Expired, to Be Renewed in January.

Oct 8, 2007

By J. TAYLOR RUSHING

Florida lawmakers needed just three days and one lopsided vote last week to extend and revise the state's no-fault auto insurance law.

Although details were hashed out between top House and Senate negotiators, there was intense lobbying over whether personal injury protection should expire - and once it did, whether it should stay expired. Insurance companies and most Republicans wanted it gone, claiming that the system was riddled with fraud. Hospitals and most Democrats disagreed, saying the requirement was necessary to avoid a "surge" of uninsured drivers and higher health and auto insurance costs.

The final deal gave something to both sides. Florida's 36-year- old PIP law, which requires all drivers to buy $10,000 worth of medical coverage for costs resulting from an accident regardless of fault, will become law again on Jan. 1. But it will come with significant crackdown on potential fraud. Here are a few things to know:WHAT HAPPENS UNTIL JAN. 1?PIP coverage is voluntary until then, which means drivers are more exposed to lawsuits over medical costs from an accident. PIP coverage will apply only in accidents where both drivers have the coverage, so costs in such accidents will be covered regardless of fault. For wrecks that involve at least one driver without the coverage, any driver could be sued for medical costs, and the question of fault will be determined by police investigators and courts.CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF BETWEEN NOW AND JAN. 1?Drivers can simply keep their PIP coverage, or not drop it if it comes up for renewal, although not all insurers may offer that option. Drivers can also boost their coverage for uninsured motorists, medical payments or property damage.WHAT WILL THE NEW REQUIREMENTS BE?As before, all Florida drivers must have $10,000 worth of personal injury protection insurance, also known as no- fault coverage. The insurance goes to pay medical bills that result from an accident, regardless of fault.WHAT ARE THE NEW FRAUD CRACKDOWN MEASURES?The bill sets limits on medical costs that can be charged to insurers by doctors and hospitals, allocates more money for fraud investigations and sting operations, and requires that only licensed doctors can own or operate a PIP clinic. Legislators also considered limiting attorneys' fees but rejected the idea at the last minute.WHERE SHOULD I GO FOR MORE INFORMATION?The legislation is HB 13, and can be accessed directly online at www.flsenate.gov or www.myfloridahouse.gov. State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink also has a Web site with PIP information at www.myfloridacfo.com. For more specific questions, legislators say drivers should contact their insurance agents.jt.rushing@jacksonville.com, (850) 224-7515

(c) 2007 Florida Times Union. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.



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