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The Ins and Outs of Florida Vehicle No-Fault Law

  • By:David Vitola

The Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault law requires a variety of different insurance benefits to people who are injured in auto accidents, regardless of who is at fault. All motor vehicle owners in Florida are required to carry car insurance securing the no-fault law benefits. This is what is known as personal injury protection, which is commonly referred to as PIP. An injured party in an auto accident may not sue to recover the losses that are covered by these PIP benefits.  However, the PIP benefits cover an ample amount of injured people involved in an auto accident including:

  1. The insureds named in the PIP policies;
  2. Relatives residing in the same households as the named insured;
  3. Persons operating the motor vehicles insured by the PIP policies;
  4. Passengers in the insured motor vehicles; and
  5. Persons who are struck by the insured motor vehicles and who, at the time they are struck, are not occupants of self-propelled vehicles.

As you can see from this list, an injured party and their passengers should be covered by PIP benefits. The injuries that are covered by the PIP benefits are bodily injury, sickness, disease, or death arising from the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle. This again covers a lot of possible damages that may result from an auto accident. Unfortunately, the amount of required benefits every motor vehicle owner carries in Florida is low, as it is only $10,000 in medical coverage, which does not cover a lot of medical bills in today’s world.

No-Fault Law: Mansfield v. Rivero Example

A good case that helps explain Florida Vehicle No-Fault Law is Mansfield v. Rivero. 620 So. 2d 987 (Fla. 1993). Here, the Mansfields and the Riveros were involved in a car accident. Rosa Rivero was afflicted with a non-permanent injury from this car accident. The Mansfields admitted that they were liable for the incident but they argued that Rosa suffered a non-permanent injury and “that the $3,405.30 of unpaid medical expenses were payable and should be reduced by 80%.” Id. at 988. While the trial court incorrectly ruled against the Mansfields, both the Third Distrct Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Mansfields. They stated that the unpaid medical expenses should be paid by Riveros’s PIP policy first before the Mansfields should have to pay anything.

This case reaffirmed Florida Vehicle No-Fault Law because the law effectively protected the Mansfields from paying out damages that could already be covered by the PIP benefits. If Rosa Rivero suffered from a permanent injury or the unpaid medical expenses amounted to more than the PIP coverage, then the case would likely have had a different conclusion. However, because neither of these determinative circumstances were present, the Mansfields avoided paying a hefty sum.

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Posted in: Personal Injury Law

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