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How the New No-Fault Law Will Affect You

Oct 5, 2007

By Kathy Bushouse, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Oct. 6--The debate is done on what to do with the state's expired no-fault automobile insurance law.

On Friday, the Florida Legislature agreed on a new version of no-fault, similar to the old law that expired Monday. The new law still requires motorists carry $10,000 of personal-injury protection coverage and takes effect Jan. 1, 2008.

Until then, the state will operate as if there's not a no-fault law on the books. That means you could face a lawsuit, if you're involved in an automobile accident before next year.

Here's some help on what to do with your auto insurance policy in the coming months.

Will the new no-fault law change my existing coverage?

Not until your policy renews. Your current coverage will stay in effect until then, said Tara Klimek, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Financial Services. However, different auto insurance companies will have different rules for renewing customers' policies before the new no-fault law take effect Jan. 1. Customers with questions should call their agents or call the state's insurance consumer hotline at 1-800-342-2762.

Come Jan. 1, everyone will have to carry the new no-fault coverage on their auto policies.

My auto policy renews between now and the end of the year. What should I do to make sure I'm covered?

Contact your agent to go over your policy and add whatever coverage you might need to protect yourself, Klimek said. If you're in an accident before Jan. 1 and at fault, you might be liable for injuries to the other driver or passengers. Or, if you're in an accident and the other driver is at fault, that driver might not have enough insurance to cover your medical bills. It's important to know whether you have enough coverage to pay your medical expenses in either case, Klimek said.

Insurance companies on Friday were trying to work out what to do for their customers' policies. State Farm, Florida's largest auto insurer, is mulling whether to allow customers to buy all auto coverage except personal-injury protection, or keep the no-fault coverage on customers' existing policies and replace it with the new personal-injury protection coverage on Jan. 1, company spokesman Chris Neal said.

Allstate officials are trying to figure out what the new law means before sending instructions to their agents, company spokesman Adam Shores said. He urged customers to call their agents with questions.

What happens if I'm in an accident between now and January? What if you have no-fault coverage and you're hit by someone who doesn't have it?

Since the new law won't take effect for a few months, drivers involved in accidents could be sued to recover medical expenses, Klimek said. There are exceptions, though. If the two drivers involved in an accident both have no-fault coverage, then it's as if the law never changed -- everyone still pays their own medical bills, regardless of who's at fault. But if you're in an accident before Jan. 1 and you have no-fault coverage but the other driver doesn't, you could face a lawsuit.

Is this law different from the old law?

There are a few changes meant to fight fraud, such as a fee schedule for medical payments on injuries, but the required coverage -- a minimum $10,000 in personal-injury protection -- remains the same. "In the end ... many motorists will not notice a difference between the old and new [no-fault insurance law]," Klimek said.

The biggest difference will likely be for insurance companies and how they handle accident claims, Neal said.

Staff Writer Josh Hafenbrack contributed to this report.


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Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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